Dear Human Beings…

I’ve read them all. All your blog posts, your tweets, your comments and the articles you have sent me – and wow. I was completely unprepared for this. The fact that people feel I have been dressing as a caricature of a race is not acceptable to me. An act of genuine hair admiration turned into a vicious act of “white privilege” in the eyes of many, and that is a terrible feeling.

I was born into this life a white blonde woman. I look at black women and see powerful equals. I see friends,  colleagues, people I admire and care about. It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much resentment still. That gestures and faces I make would be interpreted as mocking. And frankly, I’m saddened to learn that an afro – a statement of natural beauty shared by so many cultures – isn’t put on the same pedestal as the long, shiny, bullshit hair you see in the Pantene commercials. There is so much pride associated with the afro – why does the comparison have to be so stark?

There is so much to say on the topic, but when it comes down to it, there is one thing above all: I’m deeply upset that I have offended people. Human beings have felt hurt because of something I did. With all sincerity, I apologize if one of these people was you. I want to make it better.

So I’m making some changes around here.

Firstly… I’m an wildly unlikely person to be spearheading a conversation like this… but hey, it landed on my blog. I could easily shut the blog down with an apology note and start blogging over at michellejoni.com. But a poignant conversation that is MUCH larger than me and my actions has surfaced here. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of insight – into the way people feel they are viewed and treated – and it has opened my eyes. Progressive and liberal mean entirely different things to different people. I’m certain I’m not the only one who is reading and gaining from all this – so I’d like to open the conversation up to people of all ethnicities – let’s bring on the stereotypes! But first…

Racist (Noun) – A person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.

Racism not welcomed here. Just because a person points out differences between their race and another race does NOT indicate that person feels superior. Let’s be constructive, open and honest with each other. It’s 2012. Fried chicken is an American food. It’s a Korean food. I think it’s one of the most delicious foods on earth. By pointing out that it’s also something very much embraced by black culture, which just happens to be associated with my afro, I am not mocking! If I felt I was mocking, I’d stay far away from it. If someone did a blog post about chicken soup and related it to Jewish culture, I would not be offended. It’s true, we think chicken soup can heal illnesses, and it’s kind of weird. And I’ll embrace it. I know there is more to the story because of black history and the discrimination that is tied to all of it, but Jews have been through their fair share, and it’s time to live in the now. If we talk about all this openly, my hope is that we don’t have to dance around the issues and the obvious. That we can learn communicate it in a way that perhaps next time won’t make someone feel belittled – and won’t make the person who said it seem like they had ill intentions.

So let’s throw it out there on the table. I open up the conversation for ALL races to share their frustrations. Are you discriminated against in the workplace? Is there a certain stereotype that haunts you? What would you like people to know about your culture and upbringing that can help us better understand you? What is ultra sensitive to you – and why?

Secondly… many of you asked why I chose a black afro, and not something more my coloring. And although there was no racial implication – simply a choice in aesthetic – you know what? That’s damn good idea!

I’m going blonde, baby!!!

Michelle Joni blonde afroBlonde froMichelle Joni BlondeMichelle Joni blonde

Peace, love, and let’s do this!

270 thoughts on “Dear Human Beings…

  1. The honest truth is that the vast majority of black women prefer your hair to their own. That is the dirty little secret. There is a lot of pain associated with that mentality. And you are resented because you like our hair better than most of us do.

      • sure, just ask the Beauty Shop Koreans (laughing their way to the bank) to show you their tax returns. I am an African immigrant born in 1990. I have NEVER seen an American black hair commercial supporting products that will enhance our NATURAL afro. The majority of Black women have a disturbingly misconstrued view of natural beauty don’t be blind to it.

      • “I have NEVER seen an American black hair commercial supporting products that will enhance our NATURAL afro. ”

        EXACTLY MIMI! EXACTLY!!! HELLO??? YOU JUST SAID IT!!! THERE IS NO OUTLET, NO INFORMATION, NOTHING IN AMERICA THAT TELLS BLACK WOMEN HOW TO CARE FOR THEIR HAIR.

        You have bs companies like the Dr. Miracles out there perpetuating the supremacist fallacy that black hair does not grow meanwhile from the moment you are of an age of understanding you are expected to match a standard of beauty that is unfair! Go into any CVS any Rite Aid and drugstore and you have a billion and one different products for any non-black woman. BUT when you go to the isle regulated to “women of color” all you see if a bunch of brands telling you your hair doesn’t grow and you need to buy this one miracle concoction to make it!!! IF YOU THINK YOU CAN’T grow hair AND YOU DON’T KNOW HOW to take care of the hair you DO GROW and it breaks OF COURSE YOU’LL DO WHATEVER IT IS GET HAIR ON YOUR HEAD!!

        I am only happy that we are in an age of information where more natural sisters are sharing their wealth of knowledge and black women are embracing the wildly sexy, feminine curls they already possess!! BUT NOW we are learning how to care for it so we retain our length!! WHAT LOOKS BETTER TO YOU A HEAD OF LONG CURLS or straight lifeless hair? Black hair is BEAUTIFUL in all of it’s glory and this white woman can’t DENY IT! LONG HAIR HYPER FEMININE and THAT!!!! IS WHY BLACK WOMEN WEAR WEAVES not BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!! To look like white women.

    • A “vast majority”? Really? I’m sorry that you are painfully unaware of the legions of black women (and women of other ethnicities with textured hair) that are embracing their natural hair. Although I admit that there still are many black women still fighting against their tresses, there are indicators everywhere of women seeking to understand their naturally beautiful coily, wavy, curly and kinky hair types. Companies known for pumping out relaxer to be sold in the “ethnic” hair care sections are now releasing product lines for natural hair, not to mention tons of other companies that make products for natural hair ONLY. Forget about people who have become natural hair blog/youtube celebrities for helping women to embrace and understand their hair such as CurlyNikki and more and more celebrities embracing and showing off their hair in its natural state such as Raven Symone, Solange Knowles and Dominique Dawes. Even in my close circle of friends I’ve had 8 friends transition out of relaxers/texturizers to natural hair and going out 6 degrees, a lot of them have professional black friends doing the same exact thing. Lastly, I do get your point but to stereotype black women in that fashion is doing us a disservice as well. Also, if you think that a lot of women aren’t wearing their natural hair, be aware that it’s VERY versatile. I can wear my hair at many different lengths and many different textures depending on what I do with it but it’s 100% mine and all natural (for 8.5 years and counting this time around).

  2. Everybody needs to just chill. Seriously! In the grand scheme of things, there is so much to be REALLY bothered by in the daily lives of the average Black person. That people are so freakin’ offended by the silly antics of this girl is baffling! So everything hangs on whether or not she offers a sincere apology or takes the site down? Wow people, you are giving this girl way too much power over your “hurt feelings”. I offer you Black privilege. Yes, some of us Afro wearing Black folks are indeed quite privileged, or we would not have time to sit around being hot and bothered by this NONSENSE. First world problems indeed.

    I love my hair and am secure enough with myself to not find this to be much of an issue. Yes, I admit she is a bit on the clueless side, i.e. Afro + fried chicken + black people = obvious hilarity. But in her defense, she is, after all, BLONDE. It’s just white folks being white folks. It’s frankly quite comical. Besides, everyone knows that yelling at a petulant child is unlikely to make her calm down. EVERYBODY is racist to some degree or another. Choose your battles.

  3. Everybody needs to just chill. Seriously! In the grand scheme of things, there is so much to be REALLY bothered by in the daily lives of the average Black person. That people are so freakin’ offended by the silly antics of this girl is baffling! So everything hangs on whether or not she offers a sincere apology or takes the site down? Wow people, you are giving this girl way too much power over your “hurt feelings”. I offer you Black privilege. Yes, some of us Afro wearing Black folks are indeed quite privileged, or we would not have time to sit around being hot and bothered by this NONSENSE. First world problems indeed.

    I love my hair and am secure enough with myself to not find this to be much of an issue. Yes, I admit she is a bit on the clueless side, i.e. Afro + fried chicken + black people = obvious hilarity. But in her defense, she is, after all, BLONDE. It’s just white folks being white folks. It’s frankly quite comical. Besides, everyone knows that yelling at a petulant child is unlikely to make her calm down. EVERYBODY is racist to some degree or another. Choose your battles.

  4. White privilege? Hmmmm. Many years ago, my husband and I began working in government jobs. I have lost track of the jobs we have lost to African American people. My husband lost job after job to African American women until after twenty years one African American woman promoted him. He was given tremendous responsibility and paid $40,000. The African American woman who was hired on the same day in the same agency was making 67,000. (government jobs salaries are published).

    I was hired by a multi racial group too do a job that I loved. Ten years later an African American with one year of experience was hired as a vice president over white males and females who had been working at this place of employment for twenty, thirty years. My white male immediate supervisor quit and the vice president hired an African American woman as my direct supervisor. I had 15 years of experience at the time. When things started to get tight because of the economy I was ordered to retire. The African American woman is happily employed and doing the job I earned and deserved.

    Then the other day I took my teenage kids shopping. They went in one of those stores catering to teenagers. They were ignored, and then I saw an African American family come in and the were instantly surrounded by store personnel. They selected about $200 worth of clothing and purchased it. Since I am only making 1/3 of my original salary we left the store because I could not afford to purchase anything for them.

    • UWW,

      Could it be that these Black women were actually more qualified than you were, because I’m sure you’d have given that same explanation if roles were a bit reversed and a white woman was the one “taking those jobs” from you.

      Also, could it be that the Black family at the store were frequent patrons of the store? I guess not; they should have been treated more like me when I go into a store–having white women (and white women only) come up to me asking for assistance while I’m shopping with my kid.

    • I’m truly sorry for the financial hardships your family is going through. With that being said, what makes you think that the “African American woman…happily employed and doing the job I earned and deserved” did not earn and deserve it as well? I’m sure it wasn’t only because of her race.

      Also, let’s say she did earn it only because of her race. For every white person that has your experience, tens, hundreds (thousands?) of POC have lived that experience simply because of their skin colour and the racial prejudices (however unintentional or unaware) still permeating in our society. Which is why if you are a white, educated male with a 4.0 GPA, you may (MAY being a big maybe here) apply for a job or to a school and be rejected because an educated, Aboriginal woman applied with a 3.5 GPA instead. People take into the difficulty of privilege and underrepresentation for minorities in job positions, education, and other areas because to combat this underrepresentation, people from these minorities need role-models in these positions. Role-models who can help educate those of privilege, so that those in positions of privilege can self-check and learn to share this power and help make things more equal for everyone. So sometimes race/gender/sexual minority/any minority DOES make you more highly qualified for something. But that doesn’t mean it was earned in a less significant way – not by any means.

    • I had to read your comment three times, to make sure I was reading it right! First off, you are a little anger but it is blowing my mind is your comment. I don’t want to be nasty and say now you see how African American people feel!!! But, I will say this you don’t know what kind of EDUCATION that African American woman had, but you quick to get upset because she took the job you wanted! I want a lot of things but guess what A WHITE person usually gets it before me, no matter how hard I have worked. I am sorry you don’t make that much money to buy your kids the clothes they want but join the club. I have been in many store were I was ignored or a white woman bumps into my daughter instead of saying excused me. So I all I can say its LIFE! Make it work!!

    • You seem to be able to identify many cases where African Americans received something you wanted or felt you deserved. The question is, do you recall the instances where you were given something, deservedly or not, that an African American also felt they deserved? That job you had for 10 years – do you know the people interviewed for it? Have you ever got service at a store before a person of color who might have been standing there before you? Did you even notice?
      It’s easy to think that the things we want in life we cannot attain because of some factor beyond our control. Some folks might disengage from trying or let bitterness cloud their thoughts. Others, however, try harder and work smarter and eventually prevail. I think I can guess which camp you fall in.

  5. Hey, your bigger problem may be rosacea. You should look into that before your cobra health insurance runs out. Because your blog probably won’t pay the bills. Unless you can come up with some other shit to get attention.

  6. Switching to the blonde afro was a good idea. It looks much better on you.

    As for the black afro, I think the main reason people were offended was because of the costumes/goofy poses that went along with it. Whether you realized it or not, you were playing into stereotypes of black women, and nobody likes to be mocked. Just dress and act like yourself! Not the way you think a black woman “should” act.

    • I agree with this. I think what you’re attempting to do is noteable, but perhaps without the tad bit of mockery it would be perceived much better.

      Personally, if I can go around rockin’ my long, straight Indi Remy weave and be happy with myself I 100% support your wish to rock an afro and feel happy with yourself. Don’t see it as “being or understanding Blackness” just see it as being and understanding yourself.

  7. White privilege at its finest. You do not understand the history associated with the afro. Why are people so upset with your blog? Perhaps it is the silly poses you strike when you don that afro. You are white. You are not black. You have not been subjected to the social and cultural institutional violence that black men and women have endured in the United States. You can take off that afro and walk down the street as a white, privileged blonde woman. An afro is not a fashion accessory. Please don’t treat it as such.

    • your color does not!!! identify ur personality! anyone can pose as they please…u my friend are prejudging this woman and asking her to play a “white role” history of an afro? it is a frackin hairstyle worn by all cultures? there are all ethniticities with kinky hair. Asking someone to act their race is so stereotypical, its sickning! Do u know the stugles Jewish people have gone through??? do u know what the germans did to them??? clearly not. white people are not just white…they are german,italian,irish, polish,greek, and so on. learn ur history they have all had stuggles in the past and its fine frickn time we all live in 2012. the sooner we do this the sooner the cycle of godforsaken racism will STOP!! my poor mixed kids in this petty ass world!!!!!

  8. Okay here’s the deal. I understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However most of us are a bit disturbed to upset when we see people imitating ourselves. Now I hear people thinking “dumb blondes have been made of thoroughly but they don’t lash out. ” It has taken a long time in this country for black women to be acknowledged by others and themselves as beautiful. It has taken longer to acknowledge that dark skin and curly hair is beautiful. Most Black Americans with curly hair have had to fight with family members, friends, and even spouses to be who we are. Is it that serious, yes it is. Yes there are many other important problems in Black American women’s lives; however our hair is one we literally face and deal with on a daily basis. I am glad that Ms Joni is picking a wig that is closer to her own hair color. I am also glad she realizes that she stepped into an issue she does not understand. I hope she continues to listen.

  9. The truth is that you can take the wig off and go back to white privilege. My hair is natural and more textured than any of the wigs in your pictures. I know that I have to wear a wig or straighten my hair for job interviews and in some corporate settings. I am judged negatively by society still in 2012 when I wear my God given natural hair. It’s a serious struggle for black women to deal with which is why the majority of us straighten our hair. What’s worst are the stereotypical poses you do with the wig on. It makes it a mockery of what you think people who have this grade of hair do, and shows how ignorant you are about black women in general. It’s no different than black-face, or dressing up as a Native American and doing a rain dance or something else ignorant. Maybe next time you’ll be a Geisha, or pretend to be Hindu and wear a dot on your forehead. It would all be a mockery and ultimately disrespectful.

    • your color does not!!! identify ur personality! anyone can pose as they please…u my friend are prejudging this woman and asking her to play a “white role” history of an afro? it is a frackin hairstyle worn by all cultures? there are all ethniticities with kinky hair. Asking someone to act their race is so stereotypical, its sickning! Do u know the stugles Jewish people have gone through??? do u know what the germans did to them??? clearly not. white people are not just white…they are german,italian,irish, polish,greek, and so on. learn ur history they have all had stuggles in the past and its fine frickn time we all live in 2012. the sooner we do this the sooner the cycle of godforsaken racism will STOP!! my poor mixed kids in this petty ass world!!!!!

  10. Pingback: Before and after I got over it. | As I Go

  11. “If someone did a blog post about chicken soup and related it to Jewish culture, I would not be offended. It’s true, we think chicken soup can heal illnesses, and it’s kind of weird. And I’ll embrace it. I know there is more to the story because of black history and the discrimination that is tied to all of it, but Jews have been through their fair share, and it’s time to live in the now.”

    Speaking as a Jew, I just want to say that I have never heard of “chicken soup” being related to Jewish culture at all. Staying hydrated while ill will help you get better more quickly, and eating any kind of soup with broth can help with that—hot liquids especially will help during a cold—but that has nothing to do with Judaism, everyone knows that. I don’t know if you were thinking of matzo ball soup or what, but maybe you should learn more about your own culture before you start intruding upon the cultures of others.

  12. “If someone did a blog post about chicken soup and related it to Jewish culture, I would not be offended. It’s true, we think chicken soup can heal illnesses, and it’s kind of weird. And I’ll embrace it. I know there is more to the story because of black history and the discrimination that is tied to all of it, but Jews have been through their fair share, and it’s time to live in the now.”

    Speaking as a Jew, I just want to say that I have never heard of “chicken soup” being related to Jewish culture at all. Staying hydrated while ill will help you get better more quickly, and eating any kind of soup with broth can help with that—hot liquids especially will help during a cold—but that has nothing to do with Judaism, everyone knows that. I don’t know if you were thinking of matzo ball soup or what, but maybe you should learn more about your own culture before you start intruding upon the cultures of others.

  13. From what ive read. I can tell u this
    I am African American
    I am in my 20s
    I have locs
    You are AWESOME and BRAVE keep on!!!

  14. This entire piece from “dear human” to”its time to live in the now” proves you still do not get it. You’ve defined racism and stereotypes in a way which serves to make you a victim. You do not get it. You do not get to tell WoC and PoC in a broader discussion, what is and isn’t racism based on what your white intentions and experience are. You do not get it. You do not get to neutralize the implications of the fried chicken stereotype, you do not get to erase history simply because you think its time to move on. People do live in the now, the now of our still extremely racist and white supremacist culture.Your little stunt and obvious lack of any remorse or understanding (as proven by this blog post) PROVES every opinion pushing back against your so-called aesthetic choices is correct. You don’t get it, you had a nation of people attempt to explain to you WHY what you did was WRONG and all you could do was tell them your white perspective is in fact right. I would say that’s evidence that the now we ARE living in, is the very “now” you attempt to erase. This is about way more than hair, but you don’t even get the how’s or the why’s behind why hair is so culturally significant, and painful in the black american culture. I will give you one clue: white supremacy. Go watch “Girls” and continue w/ your poor misunderstood existence, being white in america is so hard and misunderstood.

  15. Pingback: Today in post-racial racism: white women experimenting with afros | New Black Woman

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