Commentary: When Will We Stop Hating Blackness?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 16:  Actress Sheryl Underwood attends the BET Celebration of Gospel 2013 at Orpheum Theatre on March 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET)

Commentary: When Will We Stop Hating Blackness?

Sheryl Underwood’s recent disparaging comments about “nappy afros” prove we have more work to do.

Published September 4, 2013

Black Twitter went berserk when CBS re-aired an episode of The Talk, where one of the hosts, Sheryl Underwood, went in on “nappy hair,” “huge Afros” and why “beads” are “nasty.”

Her comments were sparked by a conversation about how supermodel Heidi Klum, who has biracial children, saves their hair. Now the practice of saving your child’s hair, especially after their first haircut, isn’t completely unheard of. Yet Underwood just couldn’t wrap her head around why any mother would want to save “afro hair.”

“You can’t weave Afro hair….you never see us at the hair place going, ‘Look, here, what I need here is, I need those curly, nappy beads…That just seems nasty.”

Oh, but it gets worse.

After co-host and former Roseanne star Sarah Gilbert defended Klum saying that she has saved her children’s hair before, Underwood responded that Gilbert’s kids’ hair is “probably some beautiful, long, silky stuff.” Translation: Only “coveted” white hair is worth saving and cherishing. Sadly, most of the hosts, including comedian Aisha Tyler, who is also Black, laughed along with the audience.

These outrageous comments are really telling about Underwood’s own mentality and perhaps her own self-esteem. To add insult to injury, when called out on her comments, she at first skirted around the issue, then claimed to be misunderstood and issued no real apology until the September 4 edition of the Tom Joyner show, where she finally said she was sorry.

Too little, too late. Given that the original air date of this episode was a week ago, it’s obvious to me that this apology is more about damage control than it is genuine remorse for perpetuating self-hate on national television.

Now in fairness, it’s not like Underwood is the only Black celebrity to speak out against natural hair. (Remember Wendy Williams called Viola Davis’ short Oscar 'fro “not formal" last year.)Nor did Underwood create this cultural disdain for our hair in its natural state. Since slavery, there has been a battle between “good and bad hair” and dark and light skin in our community.

I guess for me Underwood’s inflammatory comments were just the last straw.

We are still waging this war against ourselves and losing terribly. And it's important to emphasize that this conversation about pain and rage transcends our hair. his is about the devaluation of Black people, especially women, at the hands of both white and Black America.

So when will it stop?

I’m tired of hearing darker skinned sista’s referred to as “dark butts” or men who prefer light-skinned women not acknowledge that their “preference” is really problematic.

I’m tired of Black women being blamed for poverty and the ills of society because we have children out of wedlock.

I’m tired of magazines and ads constantly lightening up Black celebrities and then acting brand new about it.

I’m tired of Lee Daniels, who in a recent interview, said that a group of Black women congregating at an AIDS event reminded him of a “welfare office.”

I’m tired of Black celebrities like Russell Simmons disrespecting Harriet Tubman’s memory for the sake of satire.

I’m tired of being told by “journalists” that if I acted more like a white woman, and was less loud, aggressive and emasculating, I would have a husband.

And while I support whatever type of hairstyle a Black woman rocks, I’m tired of our beauty being wrapped up in weaves and wigs that flow in the wind.

Most important, I am tired of having worked so hard to build my self-esteem up only to be constantly broken down by others' self-hate.

We have work to do folks. And if anything “good” can come out of this Underwood spectacle is that the overdue work starts happening now.

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

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(Photo: Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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