They’re at it again! “They” being white people and “it” being taking something Black people have been doing for decades and suddenly deeming it trendy. So what’s the latest cultural appropriation offense? White girls being taught how to wear afros.
You can thank Allure for this latest stunt, which at this point is almost comical – almost. In the August issue of the mag is a tutorial on how straight-haired, i.e., white women, can get afros using a racially nondescript model who obviously has a little color in her but could easily pass for an Anglo-Saxon with a blowout. If you’re feeling a sensation of déjà vu reading this, there’s good reason. Just last month Teen Vogue felt the wrath of every Black woman with a Twitter account when they ran a story on Senagalese Twists and chose, for reasons beyond me, to showcase the style on a model of Fijan, French, American, Tongan, and English descent who could be the sister of Allure’s afro model, all of which begs the question: Are white people that dense or do they just not care?
The issue with the Allure feature goes beyond the routine criticism for not using an obviously Black woman and the missed opportunity to reach beyond what clearly must be a predominately lily-white readership and offer tips to Black women on how to style their afros rather than steal a style not meant for them. When it comes to the afro, the offensiveness of this suggestive cultural appropriation is far greater than others in recent memory because the origin and popularity of the hairstyle runs far deeper than anything that belongs on a beauty or style page. Black women didn’t start wearing afros to be cute. Afros were an extension of the Black power movement of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The hairstyle was a way for Black men and women to tell America they didn’t care what caricatures they put out about them in society, Black was beautiful and that included the thick, coarse, kinky, curly hair that naturally grew from their heads and was combed out into an afro that, big or small, couldn’t be ignored. It took another 40 years or so for that idea of beauty to re-infiltrate Black women’s psyche with the natural hair movement that flourishes today and it’s for that reason and the others outlined above that white women simply have no business rocking “the natural,” which was another name for an afro back in the day, or being told how to – unless, of course, they’re Jewish. That part was a joke.
What’s not funny though is how white America continues its history of taking from a people from which it does not belong nor respect enough to credit its influence on pop culture. We’ve given folks a pass on putting white models on runways with baby hair and offering explanations for Rihanna’s 2013 AMA hairstyle, which, if you were actually a part of the culture, would know was just a doobie wrap, and in some ways we’ve even said OK to cornrows, depending on the wearer of non-color. At some point though, enough is enough and given the increasing frequency of these events against our current racial climate, I’d wager that point is now. White women out there, don’t let Allure get you caught up in these streets. No You (Yes You) May Not Wear An Afro, even if you were born into white privilege and told there’s nothing you can’t do, have, or take as a result.
Image Credits: Allure/Twitter