Commentary: The Afro Heard 'Round the Web

Wanna know what's so liberating about natural hair? Just ask a white woman.

Posted: 10/18/2012 02:48 PM EDT
Filed Under National News

Blogger Michelle Joni of Before and Afro

With the week of Halloween and its usual onslaught of inappropriate costumes almost upon us, a character from everyday life has emerged, and she’s on a mission to tell you all she knows about Black hair.

Blogger Michelle Joni of Before and Afro says she is determined to “help people all over the world look deeper within themselves so they can master their consciousness and fall madly in love with every detail of their lives.”

And she’s planned to do this by wearing an afro wig to conspicuous locations and events around New York City, like fried chicken festivals.

Quite naturally, Joni has caught some flack for her afro antics. Unfortunately, her attempt to set the record straight just puts her further into the vat of denial that comes with such race-charged stunts.

“I was born into this life a white blonde woman,” she writes. “I look at black women and see powerful equals. I see friends, colleagues, people I admire and care about. It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much resentment still.”

And that’s the problem.

“It never occurred” to her because she feels its OK to “experiment” with someone else’s racial identity. If this afro quest was really one of exploration, her apology would have consisted of a somber recognition that she was being offensive followed by an inquiry into some of the comments that were being made regarding her white privilege. But instead, she hit us with the tired, “I couldn’t possibly be racist because I didn’t mean it that way” excuse.

Further than that, I just don’t buy her feigned naiveté. In her post about the fried chicken festival she attended, she writes,  “So, I’m on the dance floor, doing my usual flaily thang, and if you haven’t guessed… this was obviously an occasion to wear the fro.”

Obviously, she knows what's up.

Whether she wants to come to terms with it or not, Joni’s little walk on the black side is part of an underlying cultural acceptance among the white majority that Black culture is free for everyone to misappropriate and “experience,” as if it were a sideshow act. And that level of boldness can only be achieved when you possess the inherited arrogance that comes with being on the laughing end of over 200 years of degradation.

So maybe this Halloween we should all dress up like Joni, the real, blonde-haired version. And perhaps then Joni and those of her caricaturizing ilk can truly experience what it feels like to be a minority.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Michelle Joni via beforeandafro.com)

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