Friday, March 16, 2012

Hair Madness

I'm trying to imagine a scenario where a European or Asian student attending school in an African nation is sent home from school because she is wearing her hair in an "ethnic" European or Asian style. Somehow, I just don't see it happening. So why is the converse possible? Why is it possible for a Brazilian university administrator to send a black student home because she is wearing her hair in a "'Black Power' natural hairstyle"?

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. First things first, what on earth is a "'Black Power' natural hairstyle"? When I first saw the term, I thought it was referring to a tall afro: one that stood so high that it scraped the ceiling. I figured that it would be reasonable to send home a student with a hairstyle that outrageous, after all, it would otherwise be a distraction to her fellow students. And then I saw the picture of the student with the offending hairstyle.

Sure enough, the student, Ana Carolina Bastos was black: she had chocolate-complexioned skin. As for her hair, it did not look anything remotely like an Afro, let alone a ceiling-scraping one. Her curls were large. In other words, her hair did not scream "Black Power." Clearly, something was getting lost in translation.

I do not pretend to understand what exactly is going on in the Brazilian story, but I think it is safe to say that it is just one instance of the global affliction that I call hair madness: the irrational fear of curly hair especially (but not only) when it occurs in tandem with dark skin.

This work is licensed to Rose Kahendi under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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