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Cultural Assimilation vs. Cultural Appropriation

Black Girl and Her Hair Struggles (Part 1)

By PHILLY THE AFRICANAPublished 7 years ago 4 min read

Alright children (especially white girls and coon black men)!

Gather round.

Mama has something to say!

First thing is first, black girls? you can do whatever you want with your hair. You can wear weaves, wigs, braids, cornrows, dreadlocks or go natural. Don't let the constant shaming of your hair influence you (easier said than done, believe me girl, I know). Black girls, you have the right to do whatever you want with your hair. Yes! go ahead and wear blonde, blue, green, red, pink, ombre, grey, white hair colors! Even though we live in a Eurocentric society where African hair is seen as ugly, your hair is NOT ugly. It is gorgeous in every single way. Only queens like you are blessed with African hair.

Now that I am done worshipping black girls (which I liked by the way), let's get to the real tea. I have heard a lot of people, including celebrities like Marc Jacobs, come for black women's hair. When comparing white girls wearing braids to black girls wearing straight hair, people always seem to confuse cultural assimilation with cultural appropriation (see the video below for further explanation). So allow me to explain the difference between the two (in respect to black women) and why that comparison is pure bullshit.

Cultural assimilation is VERY different from Cultural appropriation.

Cultural assimilation entails that black women who are constantly bombarded with negative images and messaging about their African hair, are forced to resemble the majority (white women) to be accepted in society. This means that black women are constantly told that their natural hair (curly or nappy) or the hairstyles they create/wear (braids, dreadlocks, cornrows, bantu knots etc.) are ugly, ratchet, unprofessional and/or ghetto. Black women are (almost) always fired from their jobs (or never hired), expelled from schools or punished because they wear their African hairstyles or their hair in its natural state. So what do black women have to do? Straighten their hair to look more Eurocentric, which is the beauty standard in today's society (not just in America, but around the world). Black women often have no choice but to assimilate to the Eurocentric/Anti-African beauty standards just so they can pay their mortgage, send their kids to school, pay the bills or slightly reduce the chances of micro-aggressions. Black women are forced to assimilate to the dominant group's culture as a survival tactic, not as an optional fashion trend to abide by.

Cultural appropriation means that the dominant/privileged group (white women) can wear the same hairstyles (that black women created and are shamed for) and be praised for it. It means that white women can wear these hairstyles and be credited as the creators (i.e Imaginary hairstyles like "mini buns" or "Boxer braids"). White women are not exposed to the same discrimination and micro aggressions that black women are exposed to for doing the exact same thing black women do. White women are not constantly referred to as ghetto or ratchet for wearing cornrows or dreadlocks, rather there are praised as trendsetters and exotic for stealing, I mean... stepping outside of their race... I mean "box." Let me give you a better picture, imagine that you created a project in school from scratch. You turn it in and your teacher gives you an F right on the spot. The teacher goes ahead to insult your project and tells you how horrible it is. Now imagine another student copying your project to the last detail and turning it in (You already mad right? Good). Now imagine the same teacher giving them an A+ and telling them they are very creative for the project YOU made (Now you're pissed the fuck off aren't ya?).

You see now why black women get pissed off when white women wear hairstyles (and fashions) that they created? It's because white girls have the privilege to steal, exploit, and benefit from the culture of black women without ever having to go through the racism that black women face every day for their culture. So the next time you wanna be like like Marc Jacobs and say black women wearing straight hair is cultural appropriation, NOW you know better.

I'm Out!



About the Creator



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