I’ve gone through countless, cultural lessons in light of the 20 years I’ve lived. It’s only right to share. You know, so we’ll all be culturally versed together.
Lesson Number 1: Black people don’t have long hair.
This lesson was first taught to me in no other than the institute of learning. In my elementary years, my classmates challenged the legitimacy of the hair coming from my very own follicles. Because my hair reached past my shoulder blades, it was fake. Duh.
As I grew up, people have always wanted (and even attempted) to touch my roots, checking for extensions. I’m not mixed so all this hair couldn’t possibly be mine.
Lesson Number 2: Black people should hate their hair. Oh, and Black people should perm their hair, too.
As a child, I didn’t like wearing weave because I was afraid people would think I didn’t have any hair. Saddening, huh? But once prom came around, I fell in love with extensions and couldn’t see myself without it anymore. To be beautiful meant to have bundles of hair flowing down my back.
Part two of lesson two:
Due to the fact that our hair is untamable and wild, we must permanently straighten it to look acceptable in society. If we don’t do so, we may miss possible job opportunities that we probably could’ve gotten if our hair was straight.
Lesson Number 3: Darker skin + big hair = more problems.
I’ll never forget my senior year of high school. My sister and I were two of the very few Black people casted in our school’s huge production: 42nd Street. Our excitement was quickly squashed when we noticed we weren’t included in our favorite scene. As we sat out and watch them rehearse, we noticed something. Every girl lightly dancing around in tutus were fair skinned with silky, long tresses. I couldn’t help but tear up at our “misfortune.”
Asides from that scene, along with everyone else, we had to wear wigs. It was easy for the directors to find one for me because I had a perm but it was difficult to find one for my sister because she was natural. Again, yet another problem with us.
Lesson Number 4: “Ethnic hairstyles” on us looks…trashy. (So basically, we should stray away from not just wearing our hair out, but from braids and dreads, too!)
We’ve seen this when Kendall Jenner was accredited for an “epic”, new look: cornrolls. And now we see it with Giuliana Rancic saying that because Zendaya wore dreads, she must have smelled of “patchouli” and “weed.”
Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely, positively love Zendaya. She’s a poised, stylish and reputable young woman. And so her response to Giuliana Rancic made me adore her even more. It moved me to the point where I had to create this post, to shed light on the expectations America has on African-Americans.
Lesson Number 5: Black people, America says: “Contrary to your belief and India Arie, you are your hair…and you are your skin, too.”
When you consider hair, you consider color. We deal with the color of our skin, and within the color, we deal with the shade. We deal with the texture and we deal with the length of our hair. Our hair represents who we are to society, as stereotypical and racial it may be.
I do not consider Giuliana Rancic a racist. That comment was ignorant, yes. And we will hear a lot more of degrading remarks in this life, but do not confuse racism with ignorance and do not allow negativity to cause you to seep low with ignorant comments of your own. Handle with regality, with grace, with poise.
Heck, handle it like Zendaya.
* Photo Credit: Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com