[Detangling Our Roots] Stop the co-opt. In a new series exploring Black hair origins, we trace this form of braiding back thousands of years to the Nile Valley
Do you remember when syndicated radio host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes” back in 2007? Sure, this happened nearly a decade ago, but derogatory statements like these are exactly thr reason why the phrase “it’s just hair” is often dismissed by many Black women.
For us, it’s never been just hair mainly because our hair has never solely been ours to begin with. Black women have been told our natural kinks, coils, curls, waves and everything in between aren’t beautiful and should be changed to meet European beauty standards. Yet, when the Kardashian-Jenner clan or anyone non-Black wears hairstyles that first appeared on Black women, such as cornrows, Bantu knots or a Yaki-textured ponytail, it’s considered “new” and “chic” in the mainstream media and renamed in many instances. However, these same hairstyles are often deemed as “ghetto” and “unprofessional” when the person is Black.
From strangers wanting to pet our heads to the cultural appropriation and “columbusing” of some of our most beloved styles, the hair that sits on Black women’s heads has always evoked plenty of fascination and conversation.
Recently, I came across this tweet:
Are Black women notorious for switching up our ‘dos constantly? Absolutely, but that’s part of what makes us us. Let’s own it.
From bountiful afros to bold cornrows and Bantu knots, Black women have rocked some dope hairstyles over the years. Many came and went, but a popular ‘90s hairstyle reemerged a few years ago when Beyoncé and Solange started rocking it again.
We’re talking about box braids, and though Bey may have revived the hairstyle for the masses, Janet Jackson first set the trend in 1993 with her film debut, Poetic Justice. The minute the credits started rolling, nearly every Black woman and girl in America wanted box braids, so they could throw them in a high ponytail, dress them up with a white turban, or simply rock them under a floppy newsboy hat just like Janet.
Read more of my latest piece for EBONY.com [here].