Good hair refers to hair that is perceived as meeting societal beauty standards, often characterized by being straight or loosely curled, easily manageable, and conforming to Eurocentric norms. It is essential to note that the concept of good hair is deeply influenced by historical and systemic racism, and its impact extends beyond personal preference or beauty ideals.
History of Good Hair and Systemic Racism
The concept of good hair has its roots in the historical legacy of slavery and colonization. During slavery, Eurocentric beauty standards were imposed on black individuals, equating straight hair with beauty and superiority, while devaluing natural black hair textures. This devaluation of black cultural identity and promotion of Eurocentric beauty ideals laid the foundation for the notion of good hair.
Impact on the Black Community
The concept of good hair has significant implications for the black community. It perpetuates internalized racism and colorism, where individuals may feel pressure to alter their natural hair textures to conform to Eurocentric standards. This pressure can lead to low self-esteem, self-rejection, and a constant pursuit of unattainable beauty ideals. It also perpetuates a cycle of systemic racism by reinforcing white-centric norms and marginalizing natural black hair.
Impact on the White Community
The concept of good hair also impacts the white community by upholding white beauty standards as the norm and perpetuating racial hierarchies. Eurocentric beauty ideals, including straight hair, have been glorified and promoted in mainstream media and society, influencing perceptions of attractiveness. This bias can lead to cultural appropriation of black hairstyles without proper understanding or acknowledgment, further reinforcing racial stereotypes and erasing the cultural significance of black hair.
Laws Supporting Black Hair
The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) aims to prohibit hair discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Several U.S. states, including California, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, have enacted this legislation to protect individuals from discrimination based on their natural hair or hairstyles.
How to be an Ally
To be an ally in the fight against hair discrimination and systemic racism, consider the following actions:
- Educate Yourself: Learn about the history, experiences, and cultural significance of black hair. Listen to and amplify the voices of black individuals sharing their experiences and perspectives.
- Challenge Beauty Standards: Question and challenge Eurocentric beauty ideals. Celebrate the diversity of black hair textures and styles, recognizing and appreciating their natural beauty and cultural significance.
- Speak Up: Speak out against hair discrimination and racism. Challenge biased policies or practices that perpetuate discrimination based on hair texture or style. Use your voice and privilege to advocate for change.
- Support the CROWN Act: Support legislation like the CROWN Act that aims to protect individuals from hair discrimination. Advocate for its passage in your local community and engage in conversations to raise awareness about the issue.
- Create Inclusive Spaces: Foster inclusive environments where natural black hair is accepted and celebrated. Encourage organizations and institutions to implement inclusive policies that embrace diversity and prohibit hair discrimination.
- “Good Hair” (2009) – Documentary by Chris Rock. Available on Amazon Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Hair-Chris-Rock/dp/B002VECMZ2
- Larronde, J., & Washington, N. (2011). Black Hair Politics in White Academia: With Reference to Deborah Willis’ “Black Venus 2010.” The Black Scholar, 41(1), 38-47. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5816/blackscholar.41.1.0038
- Tharps, L. L., & Byrd, A. F. (2014). Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. St. Martin’s Griffin. https://www.amazon.com/Hair-Story-Untangling-Roots-America/dp/1250046579
- Rogers, N. (2014). Hair, an African-American Woman’s Journey. Journal of African American Studies, 18(2), 210-225. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12111-013-9256-6
- The CROWN Coalition. (n.d.). About the CROWN Coalition. Retrieved from The CROWN Coalition website: https://www.thecrownact.com/about
- Scafidi, S. (2007). Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law. Rutgers University Press. https://www.amazon.com/Who-Owns-Culture-Appropriation-Authenticity/dp/0813539847
- “Black Hair Discrimination: The Struggles and Triumphs of Black Hairstyles” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929555/