The songwriter India Arie, in 2005, attempted to explain that “I am not my hair”. In other words, my hair is a part of who I am, yet it is not all I am inside. However, lately across America, our young African American boys are being targeted for their haircuts. Not to mention, young African American girls are also being singled out because of their braids and natural hairstyles. School districts are using unethical practices of making these young boys of color fill in their parts with markers. Another school district taking the time to make an “appropriate verse inappropriate” hairstyle poster at meet the teacher.
Yet, all of the above is not equitable to culture or individual expression. In addition, the focus on this does not even have an effect on academic success. Instead, it is a practice that Perpetuates the stereotype of breaking down the self-esteem of young people of color.
So, who sets the appropriate or inappropriate bar when it comes to hair?
See, history shows that “In early African civilizations, hairstyles could indicate a person's family background, tribe and social status” (Horne, 2018). Even a journalist Lori Tharps, who Co-wrote a book about the history of black hair stated, “Just about everything about a person's identity could be learned by looking at the hair” (Byrd & Tharps, 2014)
Yet, the first sign of the mindset shift was when 12.5 million Africans were sent to the “new world” during the slave trade (PBS, 2013). The second mindset shift happened 246 plus years later when slavery was abolished. At this time, African Americans felt the pressure to conform to the white society, in order to be accepted. Smoothing and Straightening, and cutting their hair and culture, just to fit. Again, another act of oppression and mental enslavement.
Even 154 years after the abolishment of slavery, in 2019 society is still continuing in the same practices that tore an ethnic group away from culture, history, and identity. Have we made any progress? Some would say, NO. African Americans still being judged by their hair, in schools and that same Ideologies are also affecting the workplace. As a result, from the age of 4 to the time African Americans decided to retire, they can’t even be themselves. Instead, this oppressed group of people has to adjust and blend, while their foundation and history is left behind.
At what point is a person of color going to be allowed to be proud of their dialect, their unique style of clothing, and their beautiful HAIR. From the Afro, braids, locs, wash n’ go, burst face mohawk, twist out, curly top, and even high top fade with the design on the side, it is ALL BEAUTIFUL!
If society would see that this is beyond a hair conversation, and recognize that this is an abuse of power, and another poly to strip identity, to make an oppressed ethnic group “blend in” to the dominant society.
It is psychologically unjust, historically disproportionate, emotionally deflating. If this world, took the same energy to build up our young African American boys and girls, then I wonder what positive impact would be in another 154 years.
This is a charge for change because THEY ARE NOT JUST THEIR HAIR...THEY ARE SO MUCH MORE!
Byrd, A. D., & Tharps, L. L. (2014). Hair story: Untangling the roots of black hair in America.
New York: St. Martins Griffin.
Horne, M. (2018, February 28). A Visual History of Iconic Black Hairstyles. Retrieved from
PBS. (2013, September 19). How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.? Retrieved from