Author: waustin3

Permed/Relaxed? Natural? What’s the Solution? The Critique of Black Hair

I Am Not My Hair by India Arie

The texture of hair is a commonly discussed topic within the Black community, especially for women. Most Black women see hair as their crown and glory; something that is worthy of pride, however there’s much critique. This critique of appearance is readily seen within the community, and even in the Black Arts and Post Soul eras.

In the song, I Am Not My Hair by India Arie, there is a portrayal of this common theme surrounding hair and its texture. The song opens open up with women laughing at Indie Arie because of what she had done to her hair. The song develops with Arie’s journey of her different hair styles, eventually going into the choir which simples states “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations no” her response to the fact that hair is such a determinant. The women talking and laughing continues with some women agreeing with her hair choices, while other criticizing. The second verse describes how the writer feels about society’s view of hair and about a woman who has lost all of her hair because of chemotherapy, but performing in front of the camera confidently.

Growing up with my mom and grandma owning a hair salon, I can really say that I understand the views of women regarding their hair. Hair within the African-American (especially Black Women) community can also be linked with privilege. Regarding Arie’s song, women are very critical about their hair, no matter how it looks. Being nappy or natural to some is very unappealing to many because of the amount of work it takes to maintain.  India Arie’s own journey travels not only through time but also through hairstyles and stages in a female’s life. Within the transitioning of this song the author realizes that it is not the importance of the way the hair looks, but about what is beneath; what lies within. She speaks of a woman who has lost all of her hair, yet performing in front of thousands on television. This type of confidence deters from physical appearance, and moves to the whole individuals.

Within John Killens’ book, The Cotillion, the main character Yoruba is seen being put through very crazy practices in order for her to be the perfect black woman in her mother’s eyes. Her mother is very infatuated with not only “keeping up with the Jones’” but being better than many of her “lower” counterparts. Yoruba’s mother portrays this societal view that appearance is everything, which is true to an extent. Her mother leaves no room for Yoruba to actually embrace the fact that she is black, and to embrace all of being black, and being one with her people, which at times she struggles with.

From hearing India Arie’s I Am Not My Hair, it can be noticed that black women can wear their hair in an array of fashions: straight, curly, an afro, or natural. There’re varying views regarding hair and exactly what “Good hair” is. There are individuals who feel that those who use perms to straighten their hair have “good hair.” Others also think that individuals who wear their hair in its natural state have “good hair.” Having naturally good hair within the Black community is something that most want; hair free of tangles and nappyness. Urban Dictionary states that good hair is “A popular term in the African-American community, used to describe a black person’s hair that closely resembles the hair of a typical white person (i.e. soft, manageable, long, as opposed to “nappy” or “bad” hair). The closer your hair is to a white person’s, the “better” your hair is.”

In 2009, model Tyra Banks aired an episode called “What is Good Hair?” on the Tyra Banks Show. This episode featured many different Black women and children and their differing views on what it means to have “good hair.” She episode shows the critique that African-American women have for their own hair. Along with the critique, there seems to be so much controversy within the African-American community about women wearing their natural hair, as previously stated. View the videos below as they show some very important facts and startling information behind children’s perception of their own hair and the history of black hair within the African-American community.

Video clip from the Tyra Banks Show, episode: What is Good Hair?

The history relating to African-Americans texture of hair is actually quite startling. Not only were the roots of the situation regarding heritage, but it was about survival and opportunity for many African-Americans with the 19th and early to mid 20th century. Tyra Banks also invited the Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps, the authors of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair, who gave some historical insight on the way that African-American men and women.

The term “good hair” did not originate as a term of beauty, contrary to popular belief; it was a term that was derived as hope for survival. This term, good hair, evolved out of slavery, women and men who had silkier hair, like that of the master’s were more likely to end up in better situations. These individuals were more likely to be freed upon their master dying or being a house slave, which gave them more opportunities to better resources and things that they weren’t permitted to do such as education. Byrd and Tharps remark in their closing that once slavery ended, these terms and behaviors were still embedded within our cultural psyches and reason there is a lot of controversy today.

Video clip from the Tyra Banks Show, episode: What is Good Hair?

In this link above, we hear some startling information. Tyra brought children and their mothers which proved to be very interesting conversation. (For the whole episode, click HERE) All of these children were beautiful and arguably have “good hair” however there was once child who preferred to wear here Hannah Montana wig because she felt as though people liked her better with it on. Prior to this clip, the mother’s were on the stage, and her mother talked about how she tells her daughter that she is beautiful, and that she does not need to get her hair relaxed. She has a tighter curl in her hair, though when straightened is very long.

Video clip from the Tyra Banks Show, episode: What is Good Hair?

This issue of hair may seem very simple and unimportant to people that are not of cover, but like aforementioned, it is something that is embedded into our psyches, and passed down through many generations. It appears that this, the struggle of black hair, and the critique that African-Americans specifically women, are affecting them psychologically from early ages.

One of the children, Malia (who is half African-American and half Latino), said that when she sees someone with hair like that (pointing to an afro wig) it makes her think of someone of lower class. This is extremely startling, no child that is 5 years old should hear anything like that! It indeed has a great psychological contribution because her mother made up at the age of 11 that she would have a child with a man of another race, due to hair. Her reasoning behind this was the fact that she was teased, picked on and called names such as “bald headed” and “nappy headed.”

Though we see that there is a lot of critique regarding natural hair, having “good hair” is not always a great thing. Kalayshia, age 5, appeared saying that she wants her mother to cut her hair off so that the children at school will stop teasing her. By just looking at her hair, you can notice that it is very long, to her waist and not seemingly course. Her mother even professed the fact that not only does her daughter come home from school crying because of being picked on, but she has also had other students to pull out handfuls of her hair.

In Danzy Senna’s, Caucasia, the two sisters, Birdie and Cole are completely different. Cole is of a brown complexion with courser in comparison to Birdie’s light complexion and “good hair.” Birdie and Cole were of mixed race, and due to complications the family split up, with each parent taking the child that looked like themselves. The mother had no knowledge of black hair and the daughter walked around looking like a mockery because of the mother’s lack of knowledge. However, there is an emphasis that is put on the connection between hair and race. Hair is also a form of identity, as can be determined through my various resources, even Caucasia. Birdie resents her father because of having to pass as a Jewish girl with her mother. She strongly embraced her roots, both White and Black, because they were apart of whom she was holistically.

When typing in the term “African-American hair” there are many results that come up. Some individuals with straightened hair, some chemically others heat, there are individuals who have natural hair exposed. All of these women are smiling or have a fierce countenance. The pride of being African-American and black exhumes from them, also the freedom of choice. These women look happy that they are able to take pride within themselves. As seen in the previous media, we are now in an age where African-American women are allowed to express their own unique beauty, instead of conforming to the Eurocentric hairstyles.

Trailer for Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair

There is no way that I can begin to even speak on the topic of hair, without mentioning Chris Rock’s famous documentary, Good Hair. Chris Rock travels all over the United States interviews individuals about what it means to have “good hair.” An interesting thing about this trailer is that not only does Rock interview everyday people, but also celebrities. Famous individuals such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Maya Angelou, Raven Symone, and others help him along his journey of discovery regarding hair. This document speaks of the many processes that African-American women undergo in order to get “good hair.” There is also critique within this documentary as Rock goes around California trying to sell individuals natural, African-American hair with no success. There were even beauty supply storeowners that mentioned how no one wants nappy hair; it is all about the straightened, processed hair.

Throughout history and time, the Black Arts Movement and Post-Soul, there is a steady critique of African-American regarding their hair. It seems to be very questionable whether or not this natural hair is the glory of a crown or worthy of a perm.

 

Works Cited

Killens, John Oliver. The Cotillion; Or, One Good Bull Is Half the Herd. New York: Trident, 1971. Print.

Larsen, Nella. Quicksand. New York: Negro Universities, 1969. Print.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g13u0w2oP4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0DgVijM7Z8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0we6oB3MhU

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Should we all really be who we really are?

Image

Individual identity is something that is often emphasized within the United States, however more and more individuals are changing themselves in order to match a certain expectation or stereotype. Even within Paul Beatty’sWhite Boy Shuffle there is a struggle between individuals assimilating and their later struggle with identity.

The first thing that I notice when I see this image is that there are four different individuals that seem to be hiding themselves behind the United States flag. They all look very similar, and the top portion of their faces is covered as if the flag is a mask; a method of concealment. I also noticed that they all are holding flags, presumably from their different countries of origin. These flags are extremely small in comparison with the United States’ flag, and represent 3 different countries. These four individuals all appear to be white or European males. Also, the United States flag is also in the middle of the picture and it seems to be the focus of the picture. The flag is also very bold in comparison to the other flags that are seen within the image. The U.S. flag is visible, the others mistakable.

This image is very relevant to assimilation because of the images of the men all hiding their faces. Also, the four different men also seem to be the same, under the American flag. This makes me believe that this translates to the United States as a place of assimilation, not a melting pot. This melting pot belief is that all cultures come together to make the United States what it is. Though this is partially true, this depiction makes me feel as though there are some individuals that have to give up who they are, whether it’s their cultural beliefs or their national identity. This image is very interesting to me because many individuals come to the United States because we are the “land of the free” and have the many different freedoms of speech, religion, petition, assembly, and press. However, conformation is emphasized.

Assimilation and the idea of identity and conforming can be very related to Paul Beatty’s main character, Gunnar. Gunnar’s start in Santa Monica, California was in a predominately white neighborhood. He and his sisters all felt as though they did not fit in or identify with being with the white people they were surrounded by. Their mother decided to move their family to predominately black neighborhood in West Los Angeles, which made them identify with the black community. Gunnar faced some hesitation regarding who he was as an African-American and his community of identification. A specific example, Gunnar’s coach separated the team by lip color, but Gunnar’s top lip was brown and lower was pink so he was allowed to play both sides. Because of his identification with two communities, he was not able to identify with neither team because he played both sides.

The use of assimilation within the United States is very interesting seeing as how we are the “land of the free,” however identity is a very important part of an individual’s overall being and assimilation complicates the life of an individual.

Sources

Beatty, Paul. The White Boy Shuffle. 2nd. Picador, 2001. Print

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_GaQ4pxaggc0/TPVrxI28d5I/AAAAAAAAAC8/qcTwc3l34nU/s1600/Assimilation_i.jpg.” Blogger. N.p., 30 Nov 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

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Nappy? Natural? Straight? Locks?

I Am Not My Hair by India Arie

 

The argument of hair is a commonly discussed topic within the African-American community, especially for women. Most Black women see hair as their crown and glory; something that is worthy of pride.  This pride of appearance is readily seen within the community, and even in John Killens’ book, The Cotillion.

 

In the song, “I Am Not My Hair” by India Arie, there is a portrayal of this common theme surrounding hair and its texture. The song opens open up with women laughing at Indie Arie because of what she had done to her hair. The song develops with Arie’s journey of her different hair styles, eventually going into the choir which simples states “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations no” her response to the fact that hair is such a determinant. The women talking and laughing continues with some women agreeing with her hair choices, while other criticizing. The second verse describes how the writer feels about society’s view of hair and about a woman who has lost all of her hair because of chemotherapy, but performing in front of the camera confidently.

 

Growing up with my mom and grandma owning a hair salon, I can really say that I understand the views of women regarding their hair. Hair within the African-American (especially Black Women) community can also be linked with privilege. Regarding Arie’s song, women are very critical about their hair, no matter how it looks. Being nappy or natural to some is very unappealing to many because of the amount of work it takes to maintain.  India Arie’s own journey travels not only through time but also through hairstyles and stages in a female’s life. Within the transitioning of this song the author realizes that it is not the importance of the way the hair looks, but about what is beneath; what lies within. She speaks of a woman who has lost all of her hair, yet performing in front of thousands on television. This type of confidence deters from physical appearance, and moves to the whole individual.

 

Within John Killens’ book, The Cotillion, the main character Yoruba is seen being put through very crazy practices in order for her to be the perfect black woman in her mother’s eyes. Her mother is very infatuated with not only “keeping up with the Jones’” but being better than many of her “lower” counterparts. Yoruba’s mother portrays this societal view that appearance is everything, which is true to an extent. Her mother leaves no room for Yoruba to actually embrace the fact that she is black, and to embrace all of being black, and being one with her people, which at times she struggles with.

 

India Arie’s, “I Am Not My Hair,” is one of many songs that mentions the importance of being true to one’s self.  She also helps many Black women realize that it is very important to embrace yourself, and not just your outward appearance!

 

Sources:

Killens, John. The Cotillion. Saint Paul: Coffee House Press, 2002. Print.

 

 

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Masks: Beauty or Deception?

Antonio Austin picture

In Ralph Ellison’s, The Invisible Man, there is an overarching theme of masks. When I think of a mask, I often think of it as an accessory for a special event. Within the context of this book masks are used to hide shocking facts or characteristics about individuals whom are being portrayed.

In this picture, from “The Masks” episode of “Twilight Zone” you see this screenshot of four individuals with disconcerting countenances upon their faces. Their faces are seen as depressing, jovial, serious, and unentertained, yet each one of these individuals are all holding a mask. The masks that each individual is holding seem to actually be different from the emotion that they are expressing upon their face. However, most of these masks are noticeably angry and very serious. The masks are not only just angry, but are also very distorted in comparison to the human face. All of the individuals are also wearing nice clothing, which leads me to believe that they may be a well off or affluent members in society. These people also look as though they are lifeless, functioning in a robotic and in a habitual manner.

The masks that are seen within this picture can be related to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, most distinctly regarding the character Dr. Bledsoe. Dr. Bledsoe puts up a façade of being a very prestigious, dedicated, and helpful president of the Narrator’s college, however he proves to be like the individuals that I saw within this image; fake, lifeless and wearing masks. Dr. Bledsoe had many different masks during is tenure within the book, such a loyal servant for the white community. This masks is seen when Dr. Bledsoe is rebuking the Narrator for taking Mr. Norton into the black community that and visiting the likes of people such as Trueblood. He ridicules the author because he should have should have shown him the things that he should be seeing. His constantly made sure that he was a serving and appeasing the white community by using the role of being a “good nigger.” Bledsoe also mentioned how he would not let anyone take his title or status away from him no matter other individual’s costs.

Another memorable mask that is seen in Invisible Man was when Dr. Bledsoe tricked the young and naïve Narrator into thinking that he was reprimanding him by sending him to work, with the goal of returning to school. Dr. Bledsoe showed this mask of betrayal by writing the author letters to members of the Board of Trustees of the University in order to help him find a job. However, this was not the case, and sent the Narrator on long journey within the book.

The use of masks is seen not only in this image, but also throughout Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, as a form of manipulation and arguably as a means of adaptation for some characters.

Source

2006. Friday Child’s JournalWeb. 25 Feb 2013.            <http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v35/PeaceDiva/twilightzone  pope.jpg>.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1980. Print.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.