Throughout my life, I have been told "You should do something with your hair.” This has been said by fellow black people and even non-black people who don’t have my hair texture. I’ve been told numerous times that I would look so much better if I had a haircut. Why is that? As a black male, I feel like it’s never okay for me to walk around with hair on my head. But, I still do it because I love my hair texture so much. I get questions like: “Are you growing it?”. And I’m always like: “No, this is just my hair.” And I literally got asked that question today! Do white men get that question? Surely, that’s just how their hair naturally grows out. It’s annoying that people feel the need to comment on my hair, something that should never affect their lives.
I’m writing this blog post because I was inspired by a conversation that I had with someone on my Facebook. They (a white male) made a comment about JAY Z, he said "Can someone shave JAY Z’s hair? He’s starting to look like Blue Ivy.” And then I was curious as to why he thought JAY Z should shave his head. And why does Jay look like Blue Ivy when he’s Blue’s father? Surely she looks like him. I thought he needed to think about what he was saying. To him, it didn’t need to be unpacked. It was just a joke, a throwaway comment. It’s interesting that it was just a ‘joke’, therefore it should get a pass and shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, I found it troubling that a white man was commenting on what a black man should do with his hair.
He said he wasn’t speaking on black men’s hair in general but a public figure. Yes, a public figure who is a black man. Duh! There’s lots of black men who have similar hair to JAY Z, therefore, it came across like he was speaking about black men more generally. And yes, JAY Z had a certain style for a while, but is he not allowed to change his look? He said that JAY Z’s current look is surprising, new and different. He also then said it was cringe because he’s an older man growing his hair. Yet, there’s plenty of older black men who have similar looks. Are these looks not okay? And if these looks aren’t okay, why not?
This guy that I’m talking about is not a horrible person. But, it was just evident that he didn’t think through what he was saying. He felt that I was accusing him of something but, I really wanted to understand his logic. I then asked “Would you say this about a black woman’s hair?” And then he went slightly speechless. Because it’s not okay to say anything about black women’s hair, but it’s okay to say shit about black men and their hair. And of course, people will continue to say problematic things about afro hair regardless of one’s gender. That’s just the society we live in.
In my experience, I have had people grab my hair without my consent. This white woman on a night out said “I want to spend time with you and your hair.” She said this whilst grabbing onto my hair like her life depended on it. There are times that I’ve told people ‘no’ and they don’t get what the big deal is. And there are times where I can’t be bothered because, I’ve either told them to not touch my hair before or I don’t want to spoil anyone’s day or evening. Yes, I understand that people are fascinated by afro hair, but that doesn’t give them the right to touch it. I have even witnessed a black man telling my friend, a black woman, that “One of the reasons she wears her hair out naturally is because she’s trying to make a ‘political statement’.” But yet, that’s just how her hair naturally is. Sigh.
White girls in high school tried to tell me how I should comb my hair and that it’s too moisturised. A random mixed race man walked into McDonald’s and then told me that I needed a haircut. An Asian man, outside of a pub told me that I needed to do something with my hair because it makes me look much older than I am. Hopefully, you get the point by now.
I personally believe that when afro hair is on display, it can be overwhelming ‘black’ for some non-black individuals. Their gut instinct is to cut it off, or for something to be done to it, that way it can be more ‘presentable’ or less natural looking. This brings me back to what some non-black men have said to me in the past. They’ve said that if I shaved my hair, then that would make me more attractive, that I would look so much better. It’s like if l cut off that one layer of my blackness, I will then appeal to them more. What other reason would they want me to cut off my afro hair? The less black I am, the better in their eyes.
These men may not understand what they’re saying until their called out on it. Because of the society we live in, a lot of black people will never truly embrace the beauty of their natural hair. I may seem sensitive and that’s because I am. Black people are told by non-black people and even their own people what they should or shouldn’t do with their hair. That’s because of how whiteness is so ingrained within our society, which then puts a lot of internalised anti-blackness into black people. This leads to a lot of black people trying to unlearn all the things society has taught them.
I personally love seeing black men embracing their hair. And it’s great to see that JAY Z, a black man, letting his hair grow out just like it’s meant to. If you ever find yourself commenting on a black person’s hair in a negative manner, just stop and think about what you’re saying, and why you’re saying it.