Commentary: The Whitewashing of Black Hair

10 Sep 2014, New York City, New York State, USA --- New York fashion show SS 15 Marc by Marc Jacobs. Pictured: Model (Photo: Rinaldo Veronelli/Splash News/Corbis)

Commentary: The Whitewashing of Black Hair

One site got it all wrong.

Published May 29, 2015

There’s a site called Mane Addicts. It describes itself as a “one stop destination for all things related to hair. Whether you need inspiration for a new style, want to learn how to do a runway look or want to learn more about the experts, we’ve got you covered.”

Except they don’t — they have white women covered. Black women, they’re not so concerned with us.

Exhibit A: In a post from this month that has since been deleted, the site showed two straight-haired white women with their hair in various knots atop their head. And then, to caption it, they wrote: “Twisted Mini Buns Inspired by Marc Jacobs Spring 15 Show. As the weather warms up we have to think of creative ways to get our hair up and off our faces while we still looking cool and chic!” 

| SEE PHOTOS: CELEBRITY HAIR INSPIRATION FOR SPRING |

That is true — white women, just like all women, should not have to suffer through uncool, unchic ways to bear the misery of hair falling all over their neck and back in a heatwave. Yet what Mane Addicts has done with this post is not pass along a Marc Jacobs inspired idea, they have shown what all Black women know are Bantu knots. The style, which dates way further back than a Spring 2015 fashion show, is a hairstyle that was inspired by African women, not a designer. And if you want to culturally appropriate a style, at least give it some credit and know the history. Which brings us to…

Exhibit B: Also in May, in a post that is still on the site, Mane Addicts wrote this caption about the Afro: “The beauty of the ‘fro is unique and sacred — the wildness, the untamed, the natural, and free." And then, to illustrate all of this “untamed” sacredness, they added a photo of FKA Twigs where the singer had straight hair blown out all over her head, styled to look like it was in a circle, but definitely not an Afro. At all. 

If websites want to feature Black hairstyles and discuss how beautiful they are, great! But, first, they should not pretend that they are Marc Jacobs inspired. And in addition, they should not use words like “wild” and “untamed” to describe what grows out of Black women’s heads — those are adjectives better suited to animals in a zoo. Also, they should know their Black hair history, know what is an Afro and know what is a straight weave arranged around a woman’s head. Today, thanks to things like all of the Black hair websites, it would not take Mane Addicts longer than a 30-second Google search to learn how to properly identify what they see. Then they could turn their addiction into something a little less offensive. 

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



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(Photo: Rinaldo Veronelli/Splash News/Corbis)

Written by Ayana Byrd

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