Cultural appropriation, ever heard of it? People use the term all the time yet most mainly use it out of context. There’s a clear definition that could help folks truly understand but when has anyone not distort definitions to benefit themselves?

cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion

Dictionary definition of cultural appropriation

noun: cultural appropriation; plural noun: cultural appropriations

1. The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.

2. It’s an inadequate citation, acknowledgement and or credit given to an original source or group attempting to pass off the work as ones own without acknowledging the originator. Some profit and benefit from the borrowing of another culture without the intention of equitably sharing in said profit or benefit or giving due credit. When those fail to consult or research the borrowed culture they end up misrepresenting that culture.

3. It’s failure to seek out input or approval from the originators or community.

Hair Raising Examples
  • having dreadlocks yet not understanding the cultural history of them
  • criticizing a person of color’s hair texture
  • asking to touch another person’s hair because you’re curious
  • discriminating against someone because they don’t fit into European beauty standards
  • mocking another hairstyle that may have cultural significance
  • creating laws and societal rules that limit expression of a particular cultural group through hairstyles within professional and academic environments
  • imitating a hairstyle of another yet taking credit for it

The reason I chose hair as my topic of interest is because most don’t know that hairstyles are an important topic among people of color. It’s a very deep cultural thing that most treat less than due to lacking a true understanding of it. As a black woman with a very diverse family hair is spoken about quite often. I have naturally curly hair as most black people do to varying degrees. People treat natural hair like it’s new and unique. But its been around for decades yet never really accepted or respected even by those who have it. Being that it’s full of versatility, it creates huge opportunity for those in the natural hair business with products, salons, hair shows, YouTube tutorials and of course the envy of other cultures.

Unattainable and unacceptable hair are discussed the most. Those with one particular hair type so desperately manipulates their hair to be like another type. No one is satisfied with what God gave them. Some may even suffer from Texturism which is very similar to Colorism. Texturism has a way of dividing people more than bringing them together. It falls under the good hair vs bad hair category whose origins stem around the time of slavery and gradually got worse over time. Good hair was a looser texture that could pass for the texture of a white person and bad hair was anything that was far from it. If a black person wasn’t getting judged by their complexion they were by the texture of their hair. Some went as far as to say that if someone’s hair was less African looking then they had to be mixed with some other ethnicity. Black hair is beautiful because it can be thick, thin, fine, curly, kinky, nappy, straight, wavy, synthetic, natural, permed, relaxed, texturized, long, short, manageable, unmanageable, porous, dyed, oily, dry, moisturized and the list goes on. Just like the multitude of shades we come in, our hair is just as versatile.

Sometimes people get what I like to call, scissor happy and cut their hair off multiple times. I tend to get an itch to chop my hair like every Summer even after I lost all of it to chemo. I had no hair on me head to toe for about a year during my cancer treatments. Having curly hair was my signature, what I was known for so being bald felt weird. The funny part is that it growing back from baldness was an interesting experience and I honestly loved how the water felt running on my very short hair in the shower. Unfortunately I still wanted and did cut my hair 2 years after it grew back. I feel bad that many people aren’t able to get their hair to grow back once treatments are complete. For some reason hair just became nothing more than an accessory to me. I really don’t care as much about my hair because when your life is in question, your priorities most likely will change. But I can definitely sympathize with someone who would like to change up their hairstyle yet lost their hair permanently. It’s because some people identify only by their hair with their whole existence revolving around it.

I recently read this article about jobs not hiring people with certain hairstyles and it being legal. So not only did this melting pot of a country make racism the norm but now the hiring process is using hair as a way to further discriminate against prospective employees. Who is to say something like an afro, dreads or braids aren’t professional when that’s what our hair does? Has anyone ever looked into the religious history or cultural significance of these hairstyles? It’s not just some weird thing that should invoke curiosity and criticism.

It reminds me when people ask to touch someone’s hair. That is ridiculous! This isn’t a petting zoo and we aren’t on display. More and more a ditching perms, weaves, and anything that makes curly kinky hair look more Eurocentric. I still hate when I’m asked to straighten my hair because someone wants to know what it would look like. I’m ‘Team Curly’ for life! I really wish they used their imaginations instead of having someone damage their hair for their ignorance. I had to painfully watch a referee cut a young black wrestler’s hair at a match with scissors because it wasn’t acceptable in order for him to perform. I’ve seen children on the news getting suspended, reprimanded and detention for having braids, natural kinky hair or locs. Why is the world so scared of hairstyles? Pay attention to the fact that if a person who isn’t of color decides to wear braids or dreads etc. it’s regarded as a cool new trendy hairstyle. Lots of hypocrisy going on if you ask me!

It’s enough that black women are very hard on other black women when it comes to how well kept their children’s hair is. Trust me when I say you will never catch a child of mine with hair that isn’t done. It’s a reflection on me and I have no time for anyone’s judgment of my parenting okay. I feel for the mother’s of mixed, biracial or adopted children of African decent that have hair unfamiliar to the mother to manage properly. Hair is a big deal whether anyone wants to admit it or not. You want the children to feel confident in their appearance and have identifiable images to relate to but a lot of times mothers struggle to find any support from other mothers and society’s beauty standard doesn’t support the children either.

Even if hair wasn’t an important factor in your life it does have an impact on your life whether you care to admit it or not. I suggest watching the documentary “Good Hair” by Chris Rock. It really illustrates the cultural, economical, historical, and psychological affects that the topic of hair has especially in the black community. When I see people shaving their heads or rocking it bald after cancer, I think how brave they are. Having a crown of glory usually equals beauty in this society. But to not care what anyone thinks and the riddance of all the unnecessary maintenance is so liberating. Making a statement, expressing oneself and standing out is really what it’s all about. I am not my hair…….wake up…….neither are you!