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. “If someone did a blog post about chicken soup and related it to Jewish culture, I would not be offended.”

    Hear that sound? That’s the sound of the entire point going over your head. I could honestly reduce all of your babble to this above sentence – YOU STILL DON’T GET IT. And as a matter of fact, I don’t think you ever, ever will.

    Go ahead gurl, wrap yourself up in that nice warm privilege blanket, protect yourself from the reality that this whole blog was a major mistake.

  2. Here is the issue. You have not given the public the amount of understanding necessary to justify your means.

    You have many ideas and prejudices stacked against you. You are white, you are privileged. In many people’s eyes, this is a state from which no one should seek to divert. Yet you have chosen to. Why? Enlightenment? Freedom?

    Yet freedom is a tricky thing. Freedom is not the ability to inhabit the roles and rights of your oppressors, it is the ability to be yourself and face NO adversity within your environment. The truth is that for anyone to call a white person “privileged” is to call that idea of privilege the paramount. This privilege, at its most basic level, is the ability to succeed in a christian capitalist patriarchal white america.

    Most consider this “privilege” the ultimate freedom and a justification in naysaying anyone predisposed to succeed in a patriarchal white america. Yet this “privilege” is not enough for many White people. It is not satisfactory for many because in essence, this privilege isn’t even White. White identity doesn’t exist. It is only a capitalist benchmark. The privilege’s associated with inherent whiteness are not a white person’ qualities, they are the qualities of a capitalist hero. Should this be a precedent? Must an African American succeed by the white and male standards of the United States? No. That is not freedom, that is envy of status. We are not post-racism. We are not even close in the United States. To be FREE of racism is to be successful by standards WITHIN YOU.

    I am a white male. I was born into this so-called “privilege.” Yet this broken idea of success is not my freedom. And it shouldn’t be anyone else’s.

    Keep trying to subvert the status quo of what “freedom” should be. Keep doing your thing Michelle. But try explaining it a little better next time.

    • You didn’t have to say you’re a white male: only a white male could put that spin on the issue of white privilege–attempting to strip it of “white” to replace it with “capitalist”.

  3. My God, you are the most clueless twat. Get off my planet with your post-racial bullshit which stems from your own REFUSAL to examine your own incredible privilege.
    I, like you, am a white woman.
    I, like you, find afros to be beautiful and powerful.
    However, I have the cultural awareness (and, indeed, self-awareness) to recognise that, as a white woman, I belong to a culture which has purposfully and continuously worked to disenfranchise minority populations for centuries. You are contirbuting to this pattern by co-opting the afro.

    Just like a white person to think that they are entitled to have whatever they want, particularly if it belongs to a different culture. It’s a cycle that’s been going on for centuries! “Oh, look at that cool thing that this other group has- I think I’ll claim it for myself.”

  4. You need to just stop. You have been told that what you’re doing is offensive, you have admitted that you are aware of it and just chalked it up to you being “misunderstood” and now instead of just taking that damn wig off and admitting that this whole gimmick of yours was a mistake, you’re going to sit here and try to make jokes about it by posting those ridiculous photos of yourself in a blonde afro as if this is all just so silly.

    It’s not.

  5. Hello, you clearly don’t understand the historical and cultural implications of the afro, and you have no right to claim it (and specifically wear it as if it were some sort of party accessory). Black womens’ hair is NOT a specialty accoutrement that enables you to meet people — it’s an integral part of African heritage. You seem to not understand this. I’d advise you to have paid better attention in history class and/or educate yourself on the politics of hair and cultural identity before you venture to do something like this — white “afro” or no.

    • “Black womens’ hair is NOT a specialty accoutrement that enables you to meet people — it’s an integral part of African heritage.”
      It goes both ways… will black women stop straightening and coloring their hair to resemble that of white women? I’m guessing not. Our hair is part of our heritage too. One hair type is not owned by a culture or race. Hair is hair, and should be free to we worn any way an individual desires it to be worn.

      • FALSE EQUIVALENCY IS FALSE.

        Your hair’s heritage is based on oppression and normalization, the erasing of other cultures in favor of your own. Don’t try to compare apples and oranges.

      • Uhh…unfortunately there’s a lot of societal pressure for people of all ethnicities to make their hair look as much like white people’s (and more specifically, whites with straight, blonde hair). We (white people) do not have societal pressure to make our hair meet the standards of African American beauty. That’s not a thing. So, it doesn’t “go both ways” in the way you say.

      • There is a difference you choose not to see. While white womens hair is seen as the “ideal” hair type. The afro has never been seen as the “ideal” anything. From our past to the present our hair has been a form of mockery, and an attempt used by others to shame, divide, and discourage a race of women. An attempt to make them feel less than. When someone wants to mock or caricaturize black people out trots the afro wig.

        So, no Amelia black women straightening or perming their hair straight is not and never will be held in the same vein as people using the afro to mock and shame. if you don’t see this huge difference, then you’re choosing not to see it. And your comment of colouring our hair in an attempt to resemble white women is truly amazing. Didn’t realize colouring hair was a “thing” that made white women white. How presumptious.

      • “will black women stop straightening and coloring their hair to resemble that of white women?”

        that’s not racism, sweetie. that’s the product of a white supremacist society that says white is right and by doing this she’s perpetuating the idea of being “black” underneath her own parameters. why don’t you take all of the blackness? take the racial profiling and fetishzation, take the people telling you to perm your hair and then stick your head into a tub full of chemicals that can give you uterine fibroids in order to feel a little bit more normal. take everything if you’re going to do this. don’t half ass it.

        also, there’s more than one way to be subversive and without hurting people. there’s more than one way to open up a dialogue on racism without being racist.

      • Wrong sweetie! Mainstream America makes it very difficult for black women to go without modifying their hair to fit white standards. Through media, we have been made to feel inferior and as though we must straighten our hair to be accepted and to get ahead. It has been ingrained in our community in order to survive in a white dominated society. When we wear our natural hair, we are acknowledging the difficulties/opposition we may face, but the beauty and significance of our natural hair. When black women wear their afros, they are criticized and looked down upon. How dare you, Joni, and others think you’re going to wear a fake/cheap fro (knowing zilch about the importance) then not only dodge criticism but be praised??

      • The difference as I understand it – I’m neither white nor black – is that women who straighten or process their hair do so to assimilate not appropriate. An Afro or natural hairis also seen as a
        hindrance to employment (google glamour and natural hair for an abundance of material from when a Glamour staffer told people to get rid of their natural hair). I’m guessing Michelle takes off the Afro for work.

      • “It goes both ways… will black women stop straightening and coloring their hair to resemble that of white women? ”

        because white women are the only ones with that kind of hair?

      • Amelia. To reverse the situation is just not that simple. As much as I, as an African American person, would like for all things to be equal they frankly are not. It is important for young people to make greater strides toward equality. One step in that direction is to acknowledge others’ experiences and not challenge them at every turn. The reasons why so many women of African descent throughout the globe (it happens globally because globally people of darker complexion and more African features have been and are still oppressed) adopt “White” standards of beauty like straight hair or blonde hair (and yes there are African descendants who naturally have straighter or even blonde hair) is due to the prevailing ideology that White people are superior. This has been our standard of beauty in America. No, it is not as explicit as it once was. Yes, it is changing and there are exceptions. However, the number of African women who are declared as beautiful and even allowed to be in the celebrity sphere are generally lighter in complexion, change their “ethnic” (the fact that people use ethnic to describe non-whites is an example of White being the standard and norm) facial features with plastic surgery, and don wigs and weaves. Some of these women even wear natural hair in their normal lives- Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard. Their careers depend on them “blending in”, on adhering to that standard of beauty. I know that celebrities enhance and exaggerate their appearance. I know that European American female celebrities wear wigs and weaves and dye their hair, too. It still is all in service of this White Anglo Saxon standard of beauty. If all things were equal and African beauty were more accepted, African American female celebrities would be wearing exaggerated versions of African hairstyles instead.

        Fortunately, many African American women are actively changing this standard. Many African American women are choosing to stop putting chemicals jn their hair and to wear their hair styles that show off and are conducive to their natural textures. I, fortunately, have never put straightening chemicals in my hair. As a child, I used to have my hair straighter with heat (its called getting my hair pressed) from time to time. Sadly, my Grandfather, who grew up in a time when racism was more overt, loved my hair when it was straight and criticized me when I wore braids or a fro.

        There is no way that I can adequately explain the breadth and depth of the “Black experience”. What I have shared so far is a start. Please educate yourselves. Also, if you did y already, reread what I have to say with an open mind and not a defensive ego. Racism does not have to be purposeful for it still to be the case. It is fully engrained in our society and it comes out despite the best of intentions. Growth and progress comes from humility. Humble yourself and take in what is being said to you. Peace.

      • “One hair type is not owned by a culture or race.”

        If this were true you wouldn’t feel the need to make the comparison as follows:

        “It goes both ways… will black women stop straightening and coloring their hair to resemble that of white women?”

        Simple as that.

      • Man, people totally take things out of context in this blog… or need to explained to them with clarity that is commonly reserved for a toddler.
        Funny note on that… There was clip on Sesame Street today (I have children, I am not watching it. Just to nip that possible comeback in the bud) about hair and fir. There were clips of boys and girls of all ethnicities who were brushing their hair and smiling. The commentator was taking about how nice hair is, how nice everyones hair is. This show for children, simplistic, but on point. Again… hair is hair.
        First of all.. It does “go both ways”. The reason that it does is because we are all individuals, with unique reactions to every circumstance. Just as a black woman might be offended by a white womans desire to emulate a black woman, a white woman might be offended by a black womans desire to emulate them. And I say emulate, as in societal standards of what each ethnic set “should” look like. Societal standards that no one can live up to.
        I love how black women on this thread are quick to blame society for their need to straighten their hair, suffer for it, even become physically ill for it. But no one mentions having pride on their natural hair. No one mentions that change will only come when people stop trying to conform to societal expectations.

      • To Amelia – I found it interesting that you chose Sesame Street as an example in your second post. Sesame Street is a show designed for poor and minority children, and that was always the point of the show. The reason you see such skits as “everybody’s hair is great” is to help to foster positive attitudes towards all hair types, because hair for minority children has historically been such a polarizing issue. I’m certainly not going to judge any adult for watching Sesame Street, but I think it’s important that adults know what the show is trying to teach because every episode can be a great conversation starter for parents and their kids, and you can appreciate all of the little life lessons, like that one, that the show instills. At the same time, however, I do find it troubling that you didn’t get the actual message of such a skit, and the fact that you used the skit for your own misguided argument sort of proved that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. For that reason, I simply ask that you consider that your point may not be as valid as you think and try to listen to what people here are saying. That’s kind of the point of this conversation, after all, isn’t it?

      • Amelia,

        You clearly are the type who like—no, LOVES to stick your head in the sand and not listen to what you are being told. After all these responses to your original post, you are still insisting that it goes both ways and “a white woman can be just as offended as a black woman and hair is hair.” NO NO NO NO. First, you show me how man white women are offended by black women straightening their hair. Second, hair is NOT just hair. Not for many black women such as myself who decided to stop getting perms in college and got a ton of shit, from friends and family for it. Hair is not just hair when people walk up to me an ask to put their stranger ass fingers in my hair like I’m a freakin’ zoo animal. Tell me, how many times has that happened to you or the white women you know? I’ll wait.

        You say people need to stop trying to conform to societal standards and that’s when things will improve. That’s easy to say for someone who has always fit societal standards. What about those who have NEVER conformed in the first place? In this society white is right. White women in multiple different hair colors are all over tv, but how many black women or women of color have you seen with afros, weave, braids, twists, and the whole other assortment of styles we often wear? Again, I’ll wait.

    • I’ve read enough of this blog to know that no matter how many well-written reasonable, intelligent, and logical explanations Michelle Joni and her supporters are given as to why this afro/Jew-fro experiment is wrong, myopic, and offensive, they will keep on in their “good” fight. And don’t forget: the most dangerous outcome of all of this is the amplification of all the attention Michelle has sought and has successfully received, first from all of us concerned Black women taking the time to comment, then from her sympathizes, and pretty soon from the media–if we let that happen.

      So, as hard as it may be to ignore such harmful behavior, PLEASE STOP COMMENTING.

      Ignore her–the blog and on Twitter. She’s gotten more than enough intro classes on why she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing, BUT SHE’LL NEVER ACCEPT OR UNDERSTAND ANY OF IT BECAUSE SHE’S INCAPABLE OF PROCESSING THE INFORMATION. She’s got a different operating system from us “haters” and so her hard drive can’t read the data. She needs to reformat her drive, but she’d rather hold on to her firmly established white-perception-filtered data.

      SO STOP COMMENTING. Why help her profit from doing wrong?

      (Apologies for all the caps.)

  6. Your meager attempt to make amends leads me to only ask one question: What makes you think you deserve to have all of those same people you offended trust you with their stories of hardship and discrimination?

  7. No.

    The correct response to the 100% justified backlash is “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize how insensitive I’d been, and I welcome all your insight”. Not “I’m not really ignorant, you just don’t get it!”

    Lady, an Afro is not a beret. It is not an accessory. In this country alone it has political, social and cultural implications that go back decades if not centuries. It is part of a shared racial identity. What you have done is grabbed a caricature of an Afro and acted like it’s a spiritual experience WHILE ALSO insisting it’s just like a new hat or piece of jewelry. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have it any way, actually. This is just wrong. And now you pick up a blonde Afro because that’s what you meant, just something silly and outrageous, and why would anyone think your other Afro was associated with black people just because of fried chicken and “thug” poses and pictures with probably mortified black people?

    You’re probably not a racist (although those “thug” pics make me wonder). But you’re ignorant, and someone of your education and background has no excuse for being so ignorant.

    Stop making excuses. Just stop. And read the all-too-restrained words from people far nicer than I:

    http://www.postbourgie.com/2012/10/16/white-woman-wears-afro-life-changes-or-something/

  8. Isn’t the very fact that you must constantly defend yourself against a score of negative responses not inform you in the slightest that what you are doing might not be okay, even if you honestly, with all your fucking heart, believe it is? Allow me to make a very exaggerated example. If a murderer is so sure that his actions are somehow justified, even if he can “see how others might be offended” and stands by his decisions because he think he must be “true to himself” should this man be allowed to continue killing for his own self expression?

    I realize you are not killing, but you are hurting, and so many have tried to tell you that. The blonde wig, seriously? Get the fuck off the internet, it doesn’t want you anymore.

  9. Psst…you have been dressing up as a racial caricature. It appears you’re too experience deprived an ignorant to comprehend that.

  10. Peace to you,

    First off, I don’t think that you are a racist at all. Racism is a SYSTEM of oppression and suppression. YOU, my friend, are not a system. I do think that you are…confused? Misinformed? Selfish?

    I have yet to read about SPECIFIC examples of what has changed WITHIN you as a result of this little experiment. Not just the flowery rhetoric. Not just the attention and publicity that you are receiving. Not just the tweeted pics of Amir “?Love” Thompson of the Legendary Roots Crew and ONE of the creators of Okayplayer.com.

    In my humble and quite unprofessional opinion, you have some black-woman envy…or maybe black culture envy. I don’t blame you. We are stylish and fly and have overcome hella obstacles (historically and personally) to be this way. But we are the most misrepresented, under-represented, downtrodden, last-picked, most despised and misunderstood. Our hair, along with all the rest of is, is a testament to that experience…as a cultural group and as individuals.

    We don’t OWN the afro. Its not so much a symbol as a hairstyle. I’ve worn one since 2001…long before it was trendy and in a place far less diverse than NY.

    You are more than welcome to rock a black or white or pink and purple polka dotted one. But why do you think that your experience is interesting enough for anyone to want to read about it if you don’t delve deeper? And if it IS just about the attention, wouldn’t that mean that you are just exploiting what the hairstyle represents, same as any other entity?

  11. Oh, and just FYI, another white woman rocking an afro is not any more hurtful or original than Bo Derek rocking her cornrows and beads.

    • Except that people are telling us that this is hurting them. You don’t get to determine what hurts other people. That is not for you to say. If someone hits you and you say that it hurts, it’s not for them to say, “Well, that wouldn’t hurt me, so it can’t possibly hurt you.”

      • If we all stopped doing things that other people found hurtful or offensive what would we do? Just stay home and sleep but dont dream because you might dream something hurtful to someone else. Being politically correct has gone way over board when you have to tell someone you cant wear your hair like that because its hurting someone else’s feelings.

  12. Alright guys, I think it’s time to relax. If you want to link to a detailed explanation of the political/historical/social ramifications of “black hair,” fine (or even write your own!) – let’s do it! But to compare her to a murderer? C’mon. Yes, she offended people, but I think we can all see she didn’t mean it. Educate her, don’t berate her. Thousands of people are going to see these comments – wouldn’t you rather they come away with some knowledge, rather than another “damn, black people sure like to get mad!” datapoint?

    • http://www.derailingfordummies.com/education.html#educate

      First of all, you’re placing responsibility for your education back onto the Marginalised Person™. As they are obviously engaged with these issues, and care about them, they are hopeful that Privileged People® may one day start listening and taking onboard what they have to say. By placing responsibility to educate in their hands, you tug at this yearning. You may even successfully make many question themselves and their selfish expectations that you utilise the hundreds upon hundreds of resources on the subject available to you as a Privileged Person®! After all, anyone who expects you to be able to research a topic by yourself also clearly expects you to be far more of a functioning adult than you’re acting!
      By insisting you can only learn if they right then and there sacrifice further hours of time going over the same ground they have so often in the past, you may also make them give up and go away altogether, enabling you to win by default.

    • She has had all of it explained to her numerous times already on almost all of her previous posts. She is STILL trying to justify herself. She deserves no such mercy any longer.

      Fuck her and fuck this blog.

  13. Michelle, you’re GREAT.

    The reaction to your blog is a sad state of affairs for America. You’re reaching out and people want to see racism. You’re trying to embrace people and other people want to see hate. It’s sad. I hope you continue to BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER!

    • No one wants to see racism, especially not those of us that it hurts. No one here is deliberately trying to be a hate-monger. The problem is that she’s clearly ignorant about what the Afro means, and unaware of the fact that treating it as she does demeans the black experience. It doesn’t matter what her intentions are, she is simply misguided. And so are you if you believe that black people just need to suck it up. We are far too often made to believe that America is a race neutral country, and sadly, this is only among the least offensive, insensitive examples of that tragic misperception.

  14. Michelle, you inspire me. I am so sorry for all of the negativity that has been cast on you solely because you are self confident enough to step outside of your comfort zone and embrace yourself in new surroundings, new hairstyles, and new experiences. I do not think you are shoving your privelege in anyones face, but in fact are encouraging people to get out of their confort zones, cast aside prejudices and live a life full of love and happiness. People need to wake up and realize that if they are offened by this girls’ posts that you have larger issues to deal with in society, not with Michelle. Maybe to you this could symbolize something bigger and more hateful, but that is not the intention so why blow it out of proportion? She is merely trying to inspire, and for the tens of thousands of people who read this blog daily, it seems she is doing a pretty great job. Michelle, I am sure you thought this world may be filled with some haters but never so much hate. I hope this does not deter you from inspiring people to try new things, follow their hearts and their dreams and break down the cultural, racial, and any and every other barrier that stands between humanity as a whole, because to many you are doing just that. As a homosexual female I cannot really relate to the issues of the african american, but I can and will say that I appreciate your will to spread happiness, as happiness is something I strive for every day, and I am always looking for new ways to embrace my life and love myself. I commend you for your strength, your honesty and your journey towards growth and enlightenment. Keep it up and best of luck!

    • If you realize that you could not relate to the issues of African Americans, then why try to undermine them? I would not begin to try and tell a homosexual person that feels wronged that their feelings aren’t valid. Just because a person has good intentions, doesn’t mean that everything they do is positive or beneficial.

    • EZ,
      You’re absolutely right; Michelle is inspiring women everywhere! Just to show how much I agree with you, I’ve decided to take on my own inspirational journey. Following Michelle’s example, I’ve decided to honor homosexual women everywhere by adopting lesbian practices at parties and social events. Although I’m a straight woman, It’ll be cool to make out with random girls at bars and clubs. Oh, and I gotta perfect that “lesbian look”… flannel over shirt, combat boots, mom jeans… check! It’ll be fun to embody everything that makes Lesbians so cool.

      Of course… I’ll have to limit my lesbian alter ego to parties and bars… it wouldn’t be appropriate at work, at church, or with my family. Thank God I’m straight in real life.

      • Well said. Because this is exactly what Michelle is doing. I personally am not offended by what she’s doing. This is America, and we do have freedom of speech and expression. If she wants to make herself seem ignorant, she has every right to do that. Continue to educate her with your comments, and if she still doesn’t get it, simply ignore her! Attention will only continue to fuel the fire. Without an audience, maybe the show will be over.

    • “As a homosexual female, I cannot relate to the issues of the African American…”

      I’m sure you’re aware that there are Black lesbians, right?

    • “People need to wake up and realize that if they are offended by this girls’ posts that you have larger issues to deal with in society, not with Michelle.” If we don’t hold people accountable for their insensitive actions, how does that help society? In many ways, I’m glad Michelle has decided to let the world know about what she’s doing, because otherwise, the occasion to use this as a teaching moment would have not existed. This reminds me of this incident:

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/students-alumni-defend-pep-rallys-chris-brown-ri

      Different scenarios, but basically the same story. Same defenses. Same claims that they’re “not racist.”

  15. See, I might be more inclined to take you seriously (or as seriously as one can take such a totally clueless, self-absorbed person) if it wasn’t 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.”
    That right there? That is what is known as a FAUXpology. Not an apology, a fauxpology. Why? You are apparently apologizing-but really, you’re not. Look at your wording: “the fact THAT PEOPLE FEEL”…”turned into a vicious act of ‘white privilege’ [NICE SCARE QUOTES, BTW] IN THE EYES OF MANY.” Could you BE any more blatantly self-justifying? You refuse to acknowledge even the idea that what you did MIGHT actually have been offensive and hurtful. That your actions may have been out of line. No, instead you took the most completely immature route, and put the onus on the people who are hurt, rather than yourself for your hurtful actions.

    You claim that this blog is about finding yourself, about taking a personal journey. You know what? Part of that “personal journey” needs to be learning how to accept criticism from others and learn about points of view beyond your own. If you really wanted to learn and grow from this “project”, you would listen to the people of color and fellow white people who are explaining to you why, precisely, what you are doing is incredibly problematic. You would hear their stories, and the stories of their friends, and say “Oh, wow, I wasn’t aware of that. I see now that what I was doing was wrong, and I hope that in the future I will be able to act as an ally in a better way. Thank you for educating me.” But you are not mature and reasonable enough to do that. Instead, it’s all about the big meanies who are hurting your feelings by pointing out your project is full of appropriation, when golly gee whillikers, you didn’t MEAN to be racist! So you totally aren’t! And anyway, them calling you racist or someone thinking you’re racist is TOTALLY worse than the fact that you are belittling and trivializing the experiences of thousands of Black women and the struggle they face in society due to their hair-something we, as white women, will never have to worry about.

    It’s when you say things like this: “It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much resentment still” that I think you are either exceptionally naive or incredibly clueless. You know why it never would have occured to you? Because it isn’t a reality for you! I have a mixed-race friend who was recently followed around a store and accused of shoplifting, for no other reason than she was in the store while being non-white. She is far from alone in that experience. Yes, in 2012. Institutionalized racism is still entirely a thing, and you know why it “never would have occurred to you” to think of it? Because it doesn’t affect you personally, so you can pretend it doesn’t exist, and be shocked and angry when POC say “Hey, racism is totally still a thing, and you are in fact perpetuating it with your afro blog.” Again, it comes down to YOUR experiences and what YOU wouldn’t have thought of being more important than the lived experiences of people who your choices might be (and judging from Internet commentary, ARE) hurting. If you really want to learn and grow from this blog, why don’t you actually LISTEN to their stories and feelings instead of making it all about you? Racial discrimination in the U.S. is very much a real and present thing. Just look at any of the rhetoric around President and Mrs. Obama for an example. Or, talk to your P.O.C. friends.

    On to the next point: your chicken soup/fried chicken comparison is patently ridiculous. There are, sadly, many negative Jewish stereotypes. Chicken soup is not one of them, though! African Americans eating fried chicken and watermelon is an image heavily associated with racial stereotypes dating back to Jim Crow days, that are VERY negative and demeaning to African Americans, often portraying them as ignorant, servile, and stupid. For more information, read here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2011/11/obama_fried_chicken_incident_explaining_racist_food_stereotypes.html. Also, the fact that Jews have faced discrimination in the past (and still do, in a lot of places)? Does not excuse you exercising discrimination against black people in the present. If I was to chop off your hand, and then say “Oh, well, someone else chopped off my foot! Besides, why are you upset about me chopping off your hand? IT WAS A WHOLE FIVE MINUTES AGO. WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE NOW!”, I would be a jerk. Just as you, in your false equivalency and hand-waving of three hundred years of systematic oppression in this country, are being a jerk with your completely ridiculous analogy and utter dismissiveness towards P.O.C’s anger and resentment about a culture that is still heavily biased against them.

    I am just in awe of your cluelessness, honestly. To say “It’s time to live in the now!” and then say this: “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.” two sentences later, without realizing the irony of your words, is absolutely stunning. And seriously, again-here you are more worried about the feelings of the person who said/did the offensive thing (in this case, YOU) than you are about the hurt feelings of the person who was offended. No one here is “dancing around the issues and the obvious” except for you. You have had a brilliant opportunity here. You started something that you thought (from a place of ignorance) could be interesting/progressive. People informed you that it was actually racist and demeaning, with thorough explanations as to why. And rather than actually reading these complaints, rather than attempting to expand yourself beyond your white, blonde experience and giving respect to the viewpoints of others, rather than saying “Hey, you’re right. I’m sorry. I had no ill intentions but what I did was harmful, and I hope that we can work together to move forward from this” you came up with this defensive, hippy-dippy bullshit that manages to make you sound like some poor innocent victim of the mean black people who are just picking on you, waaaahhh. You know what? Fuck that.

    I doubt you will actually read this comment. Or if you do, I doubt you will get past the first three sentences without blowing me off as someone who needs to “live in the now” and “just get over it” or getting all defensive about how not racist you are. But if you do, I hope you reach this. Because I actually don’t think you are unintelligent. But I do think you are incredibly, PROFOUNDLY ignorant. And that when people attempted to help you remedy that ignorance, you decided to be self-righteous and defensive about it instead of learning from them. And I think that makes you worse than unintelligent; it makes you foolish. What a shame your foolishness manifests itself in a way that is so profoundly, deeply hurtful to so many people. I am glad you can justify your cultural appropriation to yourself by switching to a blonde Afro from a black one. It must be nice to be able to wallow in your own idiocy so thoroughly and come out feeling perfectly self-justified in doing it.
    As a postscript: You mention your intent a lot on this blog. You seem to think that makes everything ok. I would like to direct you to this. I think it’s very appropriate. http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucking-magic/ Good luck with your future endeavors. I can only hope that some day you will learn to grow up and see the world outside your bubble.

  16. See, I might be more inclined to take you seriously (or as seriously as one can take such a totally clueless, self-absorbed person) if it wasn’t 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.”
    That right there? That is what is known as a FAUXpology. Not an apology, a fauxpology. Why? You are apparently apologizing-but really, you’re not. Look at your wording: “the fact THAT PEOPLE FEEL”…”turned into a vicious act of ‘white privilege’ [NICE SCARE QUOTES, BTW] IN THE EYES OF MANY.” Could you BE any more blatantly self-justifying? You refuse to acknowledge even the idea that what you did MIGHT actually have been offensive and hurtful. That your actions may have been out of line. No, instead you took the most completely immature route, and put the onus on the people who are hurt, rather than yourself for your hurtful actions.

    You claim that this blog is about finding yourself, about taking a personal journey. You know what? Part of that “personal journey” needs to be learning how to accept criticism from others and learn about points of view beyond your own. If you really wanted to learn and grow from this “project”, you would listen to the people of color and fellow white people who are explaining to you why, precisely, what you are doing is incredibly problematic. You would hear their stories, and the stories of their friends, and say “Oh, wow, I wasn’t aware of that. I see now that what I was doing was wrong, and I hope that in the future I will be able to act as an ally in a better way. Thank you for educating me.” But you are not mature and reasonable enough to do that. Instead, it’s all about the big meanies who are hurting your feelings by pointing out your project is full of appropriation, when golly gee whillikers, you didn’t MEAN to be racist! So you totally aren’t! And anyway, them calling you racist or someone thinking you’re racist is TOTALLY worse than the fact that you are belittling and trivializing the experiences of thousands of Black women and the struggle they face in society due to their hair-something we, as white women, will never have to worry about.

    It’s when you say things like this: “It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much resentment still” that I think you are either exceptionally naive or incredibly clueless. You know why it never would have occured to you? Because it isn’t a reality for you! I have a mixed-race friend who was recently followed around a store and accused of shoplifting, for no other reason than she was in the store while being non-white. She is far from alone in that experience. Yes, in 2012. Institutionalized racism is still entirely a thing, and you know why it “never would have occurred to you” to think of it? Because it doesn’t affect you personally, so you can pretend it doesn’t exist, and be shocked and angry when POC say “Hey, racism is totally still a thing, and you are in fact perpetuating it with your afro blog.” Again, it comes down to YOUR experiences and what YOU wouldn’t have thought of being more important than the lived experiences of people who your choices might be (and judging from Internet commentary, ARE) hurting. If you really want to learn and grow from this blog, why don’t you actually LISTEN to their stories and feelings instead of making it all about you? Racial discrimination in the U.S. is very much a real and present thing. Just look at any of the rhetoric around President and Mrs. Obama for an example. Or, talk to your P.O.C. friends.

    On to the next point: your chicken soup/fried chicken comparison is patently ridiculous. There are, sadly, many negative Jewish stereotypes. Chicken soup is not one of them, though! African Americans eating fried chicken and watermelon is an image heavily associated with racial stereotypes dating back to Jim Crow days, that are VERY negative and demeaning to African Americans, often portraying them as ignorant, servile, and stupid. For more information, read here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2011/11/obama_fried_chicken_incident_explaining_racist_food_stereotypes.html. Also, the fact that Jews have faced discrimination in the past (and still do, in a lot of places)? Does not excuse you exercising discrimination against black people in the present. If I was to chop off your hand, and then say “Oh, well, someone else chopped off my foot! Besides, why are you upset about me chopping off your hand? IT WAS A WHOLE FIVE MINUTES AGO. WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE NOW!”, I would be a jerk. Just as you, in your false equivalency and hand-waving of three hundred years of systematic oppression in this country, are being a jerk with your completely ridiculous analogy and utter dismissiveness towards P.O.C’s anger and resentment about a culture that is still heavily biased against them.

    I am just in awe of your cluelessness, honestly. To say “It’s time to live in the now!” and then say this: “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.” two sentences later, without realizing the irony of your words, is absolutely stunning. And seriously, again-here you are more worried about the feelings of the person who said/did the offensive thing (in this case, YOU) than you are about the hurt feelings of the person who was offended. No one here is “dancing around the issues and the obvious” except for you. You have had a brilliant opportunity here. You started something that you thought (from a place of ignorance) could be interesting/progressive. People informed you that it was actually racist and demeaning, with thorough explanations as to why. And rather than actually reading these complaints, rather than attempting to expand yourself beyond your white, blonde experience and giving respect to the viewpoints of others, rather than saying “Hey, you’re right. I’m sorry. I had no ill intentions but what I did was harmful, and I hope that we can work together to move forward from this” you came up with this defensive, hippy-dippy bullshit that manages to make you sound like some poor innocent victim of the mean black people who are just picking on you, waaaahhh. You know what? Fuck that.

    I doubt you will actually read this comment. Or if you do, I doubt you will get past the first three sentences without blowing me off as someone who needs to “live in the now” and “just get over it” or getting all defensive about how not racist you are. But if you do, I hope you reach this. Because I actually don’t think you are unintelligent. But I do think you are incredibly, PROFOUNDLY ignorant. And that when people attempted to help you remedy that ignorance, you decided to be self-righteous and defensive about it instead of learning from them. And I think that makes you worse than unintelligent; it makes you foolish. What a shame your foolishness manifests itself in a way that is so profoundly, deeply hurtful to so many people. I am glad you can justify your cultural appropriation to yourself by switching to a blonde Afro from a black one. It must be nice to be able to wallow in your own idiocy so thoroughly and come out feeling perfectly self-justified in doing it.
    As a postscript: You mention your intent a lot on this blog. You seem to think that makes everything ok. I would like to direct you to this. I think it’s very appropriate. http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucking-magic/ Good luck with your future endeavors. I can only hope that some day you will learn to grow up and see the world outside your bubble.

      • Why, thank you. The fact that people are defending her behavior (and that she herself defended it) just confuses me. Because the nicest explanation I can come up with for that is ignorance, and honestly? In this day and age, not much of an excuse. I’m a white girl too. I don’t even know that many black people “IRL”, as it were-I come from a very non-diverse small town, and go to a moderately non-diverse college. But through the feminist community, I have become acquainted with many remarkable WOC, and I have learned so much from them. Why? BECAUSE I SHUT THE FUCK UP. AND I LISTENED TO WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY. Without judgment, without defensiveness, without doing things like saying “But white people are ok to do that because X!” or “Racism is bad. Let me, a white person, who has never experienced it, tell you why.” Because combating racism in modern America is about being an ally, not a Mighty Whitey; standing with POC, not speaking for them. And I still listen. I am still learning, growing, and evolving. You know in the post where Michelle says “I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of insight – into the way people feel they are viewed and treated – and it has opened my eyes.”? Well, that happened to me too. Except I ACTUALLY opened my eyes-and my heart, and my mind-whereas Michelle pays lip service to the idea but in reality she has only opened her eyes enough to see that all the people pointing out her racism are just meanies with hurt feelings.

    • You, my dear, are awesome sauce. That was a fine (and deserved) bitch-slapping indeed. The phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is one that is never said often enough, nor taken seriously enough. Thank Jebus someone had the time and energy to actually walk through her bullshit step by step and highlight WHAT SHE WAS ACTUALLY SAYING. Because everyone with a lick of sense picked up on her intentions (avoidance! denial! blaming others!), but it seems that by reiterating her “good” intentions, she managed to fool a few. Fuck that shit. Kudos to you and everyone else trying do educate this defensive and sheltered soul. Sadly she seems to have dug in in lieu of listening and genuinely reflecting and reassessing – perhaps someday she’ll learn this tactic is not the way to resolve differences of opinion or to build consensus as she proports to want……. though I’m inclined to believe that what she really wants is to be a “blogger” with a “cool” “new” “novel” take on “beauty”. But what do I know? Maybe there’s a surprise better response/apology lurking around the corner on this one.

  17. It is clear you are trying to understand how racism is still in effect in this country, as a white womyn it doesn’t touch you as often as it does people of color.

    Cutural appropriation IS a form a racism, what you are doing is cultural appropriation. Just because you LIKE something, doesn’t mean it is yours to have. In this case, having an afro isn’t appropriate for you. It doesn’t actually give you the true experience of being a persyn of color. The reality is that as a white persyn you are getting so many privileges that slapping on a wig isn’t going to erase them and allow you the opportunity to gain true perspective on what is feels like to be discriminated against for integral aspects of your culture/body/family/life.

    I ask you: what are you TRULY trying to gain from this?

    If you seek to work on your internalized racism, white privilege, and internalized white supremacy i suggest you do more reading on the subject. Also, read books by people of color, it helps with perspective that is hard to reach because you have been taught that your experience is normalized.

    I highly recommend reading Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Racial Justice by: Paul Kivel

    here’s the address: http://www.amazon.com/Uprooting-Racism-People-Racial-Justice/dp/0865714592

    You can buy it on Amazon for $4.80, probably cheaper than those busted wigs you’re buying.

    Keep trying, you haven’t succeeded yet. You’re really just at the stage where you are being offensive.

    sincerely,
    another persyn with white privilege

  18. Writing from europe, I’m an afro natural girl not african, and I cannot believe to what Im reading. do u know how many turkish, italians, spanish have a natural afro? Wtf all this discussion and comments sounds incredibly racist, how can someone can state that just afro americans can have an afro? Seriously?! So you girls if you see a natural white afro on the street in Europe you would spite on them for not being black?!! ! All this racist stuff I’ve read sounds just typical USA-privilege not matter the colour, stop hating and have a look to other parts of the world. Honestly I find this blog ridicolous but you can’t say to the owner that is ignorant when a lot of you is even worse! to the owner of the blog, c’mon girl you cannot wear afro as party costume then state it’s empowering hairstyle! Bye usa! still the most privileged country in the world

    • Exactly!!! I can’t tell you how many WHITE people with natural BLACK afro I know! I’m from Europe as well…. This would have never happened here.

      • While this may have never happened in Europe, she and most of the commenters are blogging from America. As such, you have to look at this situation in its cultural context. The USA has a history of race relations (particularly because of the impact of slavery here) unlike that of any European country. In the United States, afros are seen as a uniquely African American thing. You can even conclude from her posts and her insistence on only wearing the afro at majority black events, that the author sees afros as something to be associated with Black people. If the US had a larger population of Caucasian men and women with natural afro hair, then maybe this issue wouldn’t be so black and white. But, because in the US afros are a “black thing” this was undoubtedly going to be a racially charged discussion. It’s all about context.

      • If you’re talking about the much-discussed white privilege…

        Yes, it would have: it was in London, 1992, that an older white woman on the tube complimented me, a 15-year-old, on my adorable son and asked how old he was. “4, and he’s my brother,” I replied. She’d assumed any young black girl with a small child must be that child’s mother. That’s white privilege.

        Yes, it would have: I still have white women come up to me when I’m shopping in the UK and ask me for assistance or if I work there, when I’m clearly shopping with my child visibly at my side. That’s white privilege.

        Yes, it would have: I’m a West African woman who lived in the US for a decade and frequents the UK and US; many whites in the UK have the same “white privilege” approach to society and POC still face the same issues in the UK as they do in the US. Black women are and always have been marginalized in Europe and natural black hair is generally frowned upon. Example: a natural-haired black female friend of mine who lives in the UK always wears a straight-haired wig to her senior-analyst job at a conservative financial institution because she doesn’t want to to deal with the drama. (Translation: she doesn’t want her hair to be the topic of conversation every morning or over the water fountain, and she doesn’t want to jeopardize her advancement prospects.) There are still too many places in Europe that ooze lily-white privilege and institutionalized racism. It’s just not called that, but a rose by any other name, etc.

        Yes, it would have: in the Olympics 2012 special of the hilarious Absolutely Fabulous TV show, Edina’s daughter scared Edina and Patty with her “African” outfit made from every swatch of ankara fabric the costume designer could find in East London, as the character had just returned from a “spiritual journey” to “Africa” where she was one of 9 or so wives of “the village chief”.

        Yes, it would have: and it happens in the former colonies that “gained independence”. Institutionalized racism is well-developed in my country. Examples:

        – When a white American, Indian, Chinese, or Italian man/woman jumps the line at the grocery store and is attended to with obsequious smiles, it’s white privilege. (Yes, it also applies to brown people in Africa because many of them believe they’re superior to indigenous Africans.)

        – When your nephew tells you that the Irish history teacher at his ridiculously expensive private school told them she mixes up dates because she’s dyslexic and shows no further concern, it’s white privilege.

        – When some white couple takes your seats at the movie theater when you get up to let them pass, it’s white privilege. (When the man in said couple calls you a black bitch because you pointed out that they were your seats, that’s racism.)

        – When the oil companies exploiting and polluting your land build (in 2012) walled residential estates in which only their white expatriates can live, excluding even their black expatriates, that’s institutionalized racism.

        – And let’s not even reference the well-publicized and documented ethnic cleansings that plagued Eastern Europe in recent decades. Unless you don’t consider Eastern Europe a part of Europe (like some Western Europeans do).

        If you’re talking about people being offended by a privileged white woman putting her ignorance on display and by her blindly defending it against all reason…

        Yes, it would have: The reason some POC may not take immediate offense is that they suffer from what Nigerian music legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti described as “colo mentality” i.e., the colonialism-brainwashed psyche that most colonized POC have. But hey, maybe you’re right and it wouldn’t happen in Europe. Maybe it wouldn’t happen because the evolved social consciousness of some Caucasians might stop them from pulling this Jew-fro shit in the first place.

        So in conclusion, please don’t try to give the impression that race issues exist only in America–they exist everywhere.

    • Yeah and all the people you described Turkish, Italians, Spanish all have one thing in common you deny your PAST. You have your traits because of mixing with Africans especially with the Moors you may not be first hand African but I guarantee you have a great ancestor who was. That entire Mediterranean region is not pure Caucasian most of you are decendants of mixed people so deal with it and stop acting like its an isolated trait you all have without the influence of other nationality specifically The Africans and Moors

  19. Full disclosure, I am a black male.

    Good Point B. Irvine about freedom being the ability to exist as you see fit and not to “inhabit the [roles] of the oppressor”. I think that this is a progressive way of looking at freedom. However, I think a portion of what African-Americans desire along with freedom is justice for atrocities (with implications lasting for generations) that will help reverse the social-economical cycle that we were placed in, after we were set free.

    Miss Joni dressing up in an Afro may make her feel as if she is being enlightened, but to the people she emulates she is mostly seen as ignorant. The moment she walked out the wig shop she was “instantly cooler”, and I’m not sure with all that hair on her head she meant temperature-wise. She winds down the post with Afro-fro-yo Yo!. It would almost seem that she felt included into a culture with the slip on of a hat. A culture that isn’t so temporary or removable.

    What we’ve seen through her blog is a cultural experiment that is heavily biased by the observer effect. Regardless of how hard she attempts to be organic and earnest in her approach, the Afro-can American experience cannot be summed up by a white girl in a wig. I didn’t come straight to this blog to be honest, I first learned of it through (http://ht.ly/ewigv) so I know that I have some bias of my own, but I agree with the sentiment that if she is truly earnest then yes, commit. African-Americans’ “envy of status” is anger that you can take off your wig and be Michelle Joni and smile; that you can get looks or nods of approval from the same people who look at the color of our skin and our hair and limit our opportunities (not that opportunities are made available to us for that same reason) or have a preconceived fear of us. We know that You, Michelle Joni, will NEVER know first hand what it feels like to be black. So to us, we can only see this as caricature, as another one of our white friends who feels that if they screw their face up a little, speak a little Ebonics then they’re down.

    Whatever you have learned with that wig on is only a small, external part of the experience of those who grow Afros from their heads. Our hair doesn’t define us, but it categorizes us. You simply picked some up and decided you wanted to be different. Well putting it on doesn’t mean you share in the experience or can be placed in the category “Afro”.

    I’m glad that you’re not doing this with malice, but the ignorance needs to stop. Yes it is 2012 and yes whatever justifications for racism being dead may be true. But as Mr. Irvine said, racism is not dead. Institutional racism has been put to rest a while back, but again, those long lasting implications are still here. I don’t ask that you be sensitive to these issues, but try to gain an understanding of why some people are offended. Understand that the race issue is bigger than you and that your intentions and sentiments are but a drop in the bucket of our day-to-day interracial interactions.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing if you must. But always strive for a greater understanding. The response of so many people to what you’re doing is only helpful to your enlightenment.

  20. First; let me say that I’m not a young woman, I’m 60 years old and proud of it. But, I am surprised and saddened by the racial slurs being hurled around this blog. Yes, I am aware that we have freedom of speech….but alot of you seem to have “overlooked” that right on Michelle’s part. She put herself out there, honestly; for all of you to see…….how many of you would do the same?

    I’m a “flower child” of the ’60’s, who protested against a war, dressed in a way that people made fun of; played the “demon” rock and roll music; danced in a way our parents thought was frenzied and sinful….preached the message of John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy…PEACE by non-violent actions, RACIAL ACCEPTANCE….meaning black, white, red, yellow,hell; even polka pot…GENDER EQUALITY….accepting that women where on an equal standing with men….chipping away at that “glass ceiling”…..RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE….freedom to practice and believe ( or not believe) in whatever realm you wanted. My generation fought HARD AND LONG to make what we preached a reality. I thought we had come so far, done so well at opening up the older and younger generation’s eyes……..but I can see that such bitterness is as strong as it was then.

    I read so much prejudice against Michelle wearing an afro wig; trying to understand and embrace a new and different culture than her own….to get a better feel of what that culture is all about. I applaud her for her courage and her intellegence and her curiosity to LEARN. How many of you that are not Jewish celebrated Yom Kipper? Would you have the stamina to fast from sundown to sundown? Would you even READ what Yom Kipper represented in the Jewish faith…to better understand Michelle? Or; would you sit in ignorance…….like so many of our “white christian” ancestors did; back in the time when blacks and whites couldn’t even drink out of the same water fountain; or use the same restrooms?? I do not speak from just seeing pictures in a history book; I speak from seeing those things with my own eyes…..and as a child; being horrified. Now, I see you who have replied, forcing Michelle to see two water fountains again…and implying that she must choose which one she belongs to.

    We all bleed red blood, no matter what color our skin is. We all laugh, we all cry, we all rejoice, we all mourn……there is no “being born into priviledge” to feel. Jimi Hendrix once said; “that until we learned to make peace with ourselves, there would never be peace in this world”. John Lennon said….”Imagine no countries, no religion, no hell, no poverty; nothing to kill or die for….and he said he was a dreamer and hoped we would join him one day, the world living as one. Well Michelle “gets it”, she undstands what John is saying……..and you may call her a dreamer, but she’s not the only one; I stand by her side; support her, believe in her, join her…….and love her unconditionally.

    • nothing is wrong with trying to learn about a new/different culture. she chose to do it in a very shallow, offensive way. putting on a wig doesn’t teach you a thing about black women. putting on a wig is not the same as fasting for yom kipper. this is the equivalent of me putting on a big prosthetic nose from a ‘jewish woman’ costume and going to bar mitzvahs.

      if i do that, i learn nothing from it, and a lot of people would be offended. and VERY rightly so.

      now, if this isn’t about race and culture at all, if all she wanted was a new, edgy, eye-catching accessory, there’s a plethora of hats, scarves, glasses, shoes, and ACTUAL accessories. my hair isn’t a costume. i’m not a cartoon. i’m not magical; i’m a human being, and this is ridiculous.

      you’re right about one thing though. michelle is certainly not the only one.. you’re just as privileged and oblivious as she.

    • So Michelle wearing a blonde wig= one of us learning about Yom Kippur (why are you spelling it with an e)? It is apparent that she hasn’t learned anything about Black culture, she’s just wearing a wig. If a Black man wore a Yarmulke to “understand” something new, but doesn’t study it, I don’t think people would be quick to defend him. I worked at a JCC for a few years (and attended programs there as a child), I learned a bit about Jewish culture. I did not start a website called “Jew and Fro.” I did not have a late term Bat Mizvah. I didn’t get a 3-month-pass into Judaism. I was simply someone who learned a few thing about someone else’s culture. You can do that on the internet for free. Michelle is behaving like an opportunist provocateur with no cause and it is sad.

    • I’ve attended seders for Passover. I’ve watched as over a dozen friends read haftorah portions at their Bar & Bat Mitzvahs. I speak an impressive amount of Yiddish & Hebrew. I know the kiddish from the kaddish. And I am an agnostic black woman of Caribbean descent. In other words, anything but Jewish.

      But I learned these things by listening to the stories & experiences of my friends who are Jewish, by being a guest in their homes, sharing in their rituals, & from films, books, study, & other proactive methods of intellectual curiosity. I did not learn these things by donning a fake costume nose & ordering a pastrami on rye at Katz’s Delicatessen, & it would never occur to me that I could derive a true understanding of the Jewish culture from doing such a thing. It wouldn’t occur to me to do such a thing at all because I know, without needing anyone to explicitly tell me, that to do so would be offensive & hurtful to a great many people.

      No one here is criticizing Michelle’s desire to learn about another culture. What is being criticized is the method by which she chose to do. so.

      With all due respect,

    • [27-year-old, white Southern female here]

      Cheryl, what you seem to not grasp here is that antiracism has evolved since your youth. And it has evolved due to white activists standing down and LISTENING to people of color, something you and Michele both seem unwilling to do. I understand that the “everyone’s equal” mantra was considered progressive and even radical in your time, and I’m not trying to take away from what your generation has done. But. Things are different now. The colorblindness that your generation forced on my generation in the 80s and 90s has been thoroughly discredited. It doesn’t work. All it does is allow white people to continue pretending everything’s fine and turning a blind eye to the real-world struggles of people of color in a society that’s still largely white supremacist in nature. And it allows conservative blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Ron Paul to say that they “don’t see race” (as deftly parodied by Stephen Colbert) while continuing to support white supremacist policies. Even the rhetoric of “equality” itself is starting to be seen as problematic and outdated, because it still assumes a white (and male, cisgender, heterosexual, abled, theistic, etc.) default that everyone else must strive to “equal”.

      Again, I’m not trying to dismiss the work that your generation did, but you need to understand that if you’re going to be an ally to people of color, or any other marginalized group, you simply can’t rest on your laurels.

    • [27-year-old, white Southern female here]

      Cheryl, what you seem to not grasp here is that antiracism has evolved since your youth. And it has evolved due to white activists standing down and LISTENING to people of color, something you and Michele both seem unwilling to do. I understand that the “everyone’s equal” mantra was considered progressive and even radical in your time, and I’m not trying to take away from what your generation has done. But. Things are different now. The colorblindness that your generation forced on my generation in the 80s and 90s has been thoroughly discredited. It doesn’t work. All it does is allow white people to continue pretending everything’s fine and turning a blind eye to the real-world struggles of people of color in a society that’s still largely white supremacist in nature. And it allows conservative blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Ron Paul to say that they “don’t see race” (as deftly parodied by Stephen Colbert) while continuing to support white supremacist policies. Even the rhetoric of “equality” itself is starting to be seen as problematic and outdated, because it still assumes a white (and male, cisgender, heterosexual, abled, theistic, etc.) default that everyone else must strive to “equal”.

      Again, I’m not trying to dismiss the work that your generation did, but you need to understand that if you’re going to be an ally to people of color, or any other marginalized group, you simply can’t rest on your laurels.

      • I realized after hitting “post” that my comment made it sound like white people are still the driving force in antiracist dialogue… that isn’t the case, just poor wording on my part. I apologize.

    • Jesus H. Christ, Cheryl. As a middle aged white woman who was also from the “flower child” generation, I swear to god your post has to be the biggest most disingenuous fucking straw(woman) I have ever seen. Keep digging into the pearl-clutching, narcissistic, racist shit hole dug by this site with your white hippy platitudes and trite new-ageisms and actually fucking blaming the posters here for forcing poor Michelle to drink from only one water fountain. And what the hell with this contemptible and RACIST analogy???

      I think most people here are being way too polite to you and white Afro-girl Michelle (is she vying to be a racist new superhero or something with her outfit?) and Amelia and your other cheerleaders. All of you really need to just stop embarrassing yourselves and get your fucking Racism 101 on, STAT, or just embrace your inner patronizing contempt of everybody different from you, especially Black people (because I am pretty damn positive you wouldn’t be spouting this verbal vomit and then keep defending yourselves when called on it – there’s that digging a shit hole again! – if it weren’t in reference to Black people). I would have more respect, if you can call it that, for you all if you were just fucking honest for one minute about this clusterfuck you have all caused by trying to “find yourselves” (or defending it) at the expense of others, and the whole goddamn sordid history of this country, which you have magically erased, I don’t fucking care how often you site Martin Luther King and John Lennon, or peace, love and rock ‘n roll. This does not give you a pass on hurting other human beings with your ignorance and blithe bigotry.

      You are all at best laughingstocks and at worst vile and very painful reminders of how fucked up and pervasive white supremacy is among even so-called liberal and progressive and feminist communities. (Oh, god – I just had another horrible thought. Perhaps Michelle identifies as part of the hipster scene. That would fucking explain a lot of her totally phony cluelessness after being repeatedly told to STOP AND READ.) In that sense, I suppose, you are doing the rest of us clueless white people who consider themselves “good, decent so-totally-post-racial people” a favor by showing us in all your un-splendid glory how far we have to go. Thanks a fucking lot.

      And thank god I have white privilege so I am not expected to patiently “educate” you, or restrain my tone with you or give you any benefit of the doubt or fucking respect at all when you have shown none to your critics.

      You are all uninterested in educating yourselves, because you know damn well, deep down in your shriveled hearts and souls, what you are doing or defending is wrong, period. And I see exactly what Michelle did here, donning that clown blond wig with garish makeup. She is deliberately making a mockery of all her faux intentions from the beginning and shitting on her detractors, but she actually exposes herself as the fraud she is. I see right through you, Michelle, and fellow defenders, because as someone with white privilege I have lived it in a million different ways for more than 50 years. No matter what you say, how much you justify or excuse it or put on a self-serving, melodramatic show of how “misunderstood” and “sincere” you all are (aka “we are the TRUE victims here!!!” WAH!), you cannot hide it, especially with that VERY cynical crowning of the blond wig. Congratulations! You are a fucking racist.

  21. hi. i don’t think you’re racist.

    i do think that you are oblivious and ignorant of a lot of things concerning this whole afro stuff. i think the fact that your answer to all this seems to be to just buy a blonde wig and have people tell you stories of their discrimination is telling of your willfulness to STAY ignorant, and that makes you seem very callous and narcissistic. you still don’t get it, and you won’t if you continue to point yourself as the misunderstood victim here.

    you shouldn’t be inviting people of color to come and tell you their stories of racism and discrimination. me telling you about the time someone called my mother a nigger as i stood and watched doesn’t help you to see how or why what you’re doing is offensive and made possible by your privilege.

    as a friend of mine said, when someone criticizes you, it’s not always because you’re misunderstood. sometimes it’s because you’re flat out wrong. talk less and listen more to the people who are trying to explain that to you. and if you still see this whole thing as harmless, then you have more listening to do because you *still* don’t get it.

    there’s nothing wrong with being ignorant. people who have hair like the hair you’re emulating live a reality that you have not and cannot live, so of course there will be things that you dont understand about it. but it becomes a problem when you actively choose not to listen to those who are trying to tell you what it’s like to live the reality that you are trivializing.

  22. ps. can you please stop and educate yourself before you hurt/offend/annoy more people? Why do you think it’s okay to post about “Fro’d Chicken”?

    pps. Jewish people aren’t the only people to think chicken soup heals illnesses and it isn’t weird to make that correlation. It is very harmful to try and weigh experiences like you are doing. The oppression faced by Jewish people in america looks nothing like the oppression that Black americans face.

    ppps. if you invite all of us to share our frustrations here’s mine: YOUR IGNORANCE and your perpetuation of white supremacy by doing what you are doing. However, the beauty of ignorance is that whomever is ignorant can make the conscious choice to use their privilege and resources to educate themselves on that which they do not understand. Conversely, if a persyn is ignorant and DOESN’T choose to educate themself they are then merely an oppressive asshole perpetuating the status quo. Don’t be that persyn. DO the work.

    sincerely,
    another persyn with white privilege

  23. It is clear you are trying to understand how racism is still in effect in this country, as a white womyn it doesn’t touch you as often as it does people of color.

    Cutural appropriation IS a form a racism, what you are doing is cultural appropriation. Just because you LIKE something, doesn’t mean it is yours to have. In this case, having an afro isn’t appropriate for you. It doesn’t actually give you the true experience of being a persyn of color. The reality is that as a white persyn you are getting so many privileges that slapping on a wig isn’t going to erase them and allow you the opportunity to gain true perspective on what is feels like to be discriminated against for integral aspects of your culture/body/family/life.

    I ask you: what are you TRULY trying to gain from this?

    If you seek to work on your internalized racism, white privilege, and internalized white supremacy i suggest you do more reading on the subject. Also, read books by people of color, it helps with perspective that is hard to reach because you have been taught that your experience is normalized.

    I highly recommend reading Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Racial Justice by: Paul Kivel

    here’s the address: http://www.amazon.com/Uprooting-Racism-People-Racial-Justice/dp/0865714592

    You can buy it on Amazon for $4.80, probably cheaper than those busted wigs you’re buying.

    Keep trying, you haven’t succeeded yet. You’re really just at the stage where you are being offensive.

    sincerely,
    another persyn with white privilege

  24. maybe you’re just too stupid to understand what people are telling you.

    when people pointed out that you were wearing a black afro, they didn’t mean the *color* black. wearing an afro in a different color doesn’t make it all better.

    where are the rap hands with the blond fro? the snarl and scowl? the clawed hands?
    now that you’ve got a blond fro, you’re no longer an animal-like rapper?

    you try to make excuses and say your attire doesn’t change, when that’s clearly a lie based on the pictures you’ve posted.
    you say you feel magical in blond, straight wigs and pink wigs. where are the blogs dedicated to those wigs? where are the pictures of you in your costumes, invading blond and pink-haired people’s personal spaces as you seek their approval?

    but whatever. you’ll end up on someone’s talk show or news show and you’ll join the thousands of other whites who’ve achieved some level of fame by ripping off black culture.

    you’re so happy that this funky ass blog received over 10k hits. you are straight up ignoring the dozens of black people telling you what you’re doing is offensive. you’re saying “i’m sorry my race-play offended you but get over it.” which is a top five example of white privilege.

    you’re just another white person telling black people what they should be offended by. you’re just another white person trying to tell black people to accept the theft of yet another cultural identifier.

    yeah, you can post pictures of your family members’ “jewfros” as an attempt to earn credibility and validity, but you’re not running up in bar and bat mitzvahs, asking Jewish people their thoughts on you wearing a fake “jewfro.” you make a point to go where black people are, in your fro, to find whatever enlightenment you think will come via a synthetic accessory from a fucking party store. you are too old for this shit.

  25. Michelle,

    I’m a white male in my 30’s in Atlanta. I am just learning about your blog, so I apologize for any incorrect assumptions I’m making.

    It seems to me that you admire what you see of black women, so you decided to “try on” the identity of a black woman. The problem is that identity is so much more than superficial stereotypes about things like hair, clothing, and food. I haven’t seen anything from you that tells me that you get this yet. Maybe this will help: you’re offended when people make assumptions about your intent and who you are based on just this one stunt of wearing an afro. Similarly, it can offend black folks when your actions objectify black folks based on superficial stereotypes. Objectifying is something we all do – we make assumptions about people’s lives based on the little we know about them. But to truly get to know someone takes time.

    My recommendation to you, if you keep the website at all, is to give the spotlight over to actual black women, and let them tell their own stories. If you want to publish conversations comparing your experience with theirs, that might be interesting as well. But until you do much more homework on understanding the experiences of black folks, you are doing your image a disservice by trying to represent them or their identity – especially on the internet. And at this point, since you’ve already done some damage, just switching the color of your fro is not going to make things right.

      • I would contribute great stories to a “before & afro” blog that focused on how the lives of Black women changed once we stopped straightening our hair.

    • “My recommendation to you, if you keep the website at all, is to give the spotlight over to actual black women, and let them tell their own stories. If you want to publish conversations comparing your experience with theirs, that might be interesting as well. But until you do much more homework on understanding the experiences of black folks, you are doing your image a disservice by trying to represent them or their identity – especially on the internet.”

      Seeing this woman and her response/reaction to people’s comments, I highly highly doubt this will happen. Great recommendation though.

      • shall we use it as the litmus test? a takeover is unwarranted, but a “yousay/isay” conversation would be HOT!

        for ex: she has an afro-outing WITH a person of color, and they both report back.

    • Yes, I also think this is a good idea. If you recognize the power and pride of the afro then allow people who actually grow real afros to tell their own stories of pride and power as well!

  26. It baffles me how a bunch of dead cells can be such a hot topic? Don’t get me wrong! I love hair! And I love to experiment with it. Have I always been a red-head? No! I tried out different colors and styles until I find something I’m comfortable with. And I still have to see this day.

    But guys, it’s just HAIR! Keep doing your thing! Why shouldn’t you wear an afro when sooooo many others are changing their hair-style and color almost weekly? Why should I stick to my frizzy and red hair, just because my skin is fair?

    Now, stereo-types. You asked, here they come (a summary of my every day life):

    Feeding stereo-types is racism. I firmly believe that. I’m German. Yet the first thing most foreign people have in mind, when they hear that is Hitler. Geez, thank you very much! Thank you for degrading me because of some austrian idiot that had a deep hatered for jews (next to some very serious psychological problems.). Thank you for putting me on the same step with a generation of murderers, that did their dirty work waaaay before I was born. Thank you for welcoming me with the typical salute instead of a hand-shake.

    I’m sick of telling people that my family has been victim of the Nazi-regime and I never get to meet my grand-parents because they were killed in concentration camps.
    I’m sick of fighting for respect, just because I’ve been born in this country – something, I couldn’t very well choose, could I?
    I’m sick of people leaving the room, just because I’m German. And that’s only one stereo-type!
    No, I don’t wear Lederhosen all day and while I DO like Schnitzel, it’s not even German! I dislike Sauerkraut and sausages, but, yes, we DO have fridges! It’s not difficult to travel from Germany, because, no, there is no Wall anymore. Not ALL of us wear socks with their sandals and we don’t need scissors to eat Spaghetti.

    Now! Let’s see what’s so great about being a red-head. We’ve been haunted and burned in the past. Oh, that’s nice. Now, DON’T YOU DARE GET STAKED, IF YOUR HAIR ISN’T RED!!! I DARE you!!! I will take personal offence, if you did!

    You can’t change your nature, but you can choose how you live. You can’t choose your family, but you can find your own friends. You shouldn’t read about history, you should make your own. Your hair grows without you having to do anything about it, but you can cut and color and shape it any style you like.

    To everyone who thinks she shouldn’t were an afro, just because she has the wrong color of the skin: think about and take care of the living things first, before you start a fight about who owns this special kind of dead cells!

    Michelle, don’t stop! If you would stop wearing your afro as proud as you do, and if you would stop blogging about it, these stereo-types will just do what they’ve been doing for generations: making us blind to the individual and giving us a false feeling of knowledge.
    Be a role model to all those that try to tear down these walls of stupidity and intolerance. There will always be racism, if we stick with our social and geographical groups. And there will also be racism, as long as people talk about it.

    xx

    • Shaazo. I said it before and I will say it again. Because you are NOT black you cannot begin to understand the problem here It is very distrubing to me. She is basically flashing her white privelege in my face and laughing while doing so. And no, despite Morgan Freeman’s comments, not talking about racism will not solve the problem. Talking about it will. I am not a costume and my struggle should not be mocked. Plain and simple. I would love to direct you to some articles about cultural approriation.

    • I bet you’ve never considered dyeing your red hair to a more acceptable color for a job interview. I have to consider my texture each and every time I’m up for a job. Not some of the time. Every time. Don’t compare hair color to Black women with highly textured, kinky, coily,nappy hair. It’s disrespectful and irrelevant.

    • It may be “just hair” to you, but it’s not “just hair” to those who are told wearing their hair in their natural state will hinder their job opportunities.

      It’s not “just hair” to us whose hair in its natural state is considered ugly and inappropriate to most of western culture.

      It’s not “just hair” to little girls who can’t find a doll with hair like theirs in the store.

      You (and the author of this blog) don’t get it. The reason why we (black women, and others who understand) are so upset is that it’s bigger than hair to us. The author’s joke, experiment, fun time wearing kinky hair is a part of LIFE for many of us. The author’s “everything but the burden” approach to attempt to live a piece of black women’s lives is offensive.

      Clearly it’s not “just hair” if so many black women are upset. The dismissive attitude here is illustrative of the problem and the ignorance present here.

      It’s not “just hair”, and if the author doesn’t understand that she has no business rocking kinky hair.

    • It sounds like you’re giving Michelle the thumbs up in this whole rediculous stunt because “guess what, there are white people who have been discriminated against to” You sound just a simple as she does, worse in fact. Stop comparing the prejudices of black individuals to white individuals. That is not what this is about. This is about a young lady who woke up one morning and thought “hey, I am going to put on a fro,” And does not have the thoughtful mind to think twice about such an ill advised decision and the affect it would have about the people around her. SMDH

    • “Don’t get me wrong! I love hair! And I love to experiment with it. Have I always been a red-head? No! I tried out different colors and styles until I find something I’m comfortable with. And I still have to see this day.

      But guys, it’s just HAIR!”

      All due respect, but ABSOLUTELY NOT.

      If it is just hair to YOU, then by all means. Fry it. Dye it. Lay it to the side. But the reality is, this country has decided what is beautiful, this country has decided that “beautiful” is something to which all women should ascribe, and this country has decided that it is acceptable to ostracize those women who do not fit that mold.

      Rest assured, you are FAR closer to looking like what America thinks is beautiful than I am, with my ACTUAL ‘fro that I grew from MY scalp that gets ME stares, rude UNSOLICITED commentary and people thinking they can play in my hair and I won’t feel it.

      It’s not “just hair” to those of us who grew up with mothers burning our ears, necks and foreheads in front of a stove, trying to straighten out our “kinks.” It is not “just hair” to those of us who couldn’t play outside because we couldn’t “sweat our pressed hair out.” And, for god’s sake, it’s not “JUST HAIR” for those of us who have had to WILLINGLY become black sheep of our families because WE chose to wear our natural afros, curls, coils, kinks and locs and our families think the only way for hair to *be*…is for it to *be* like a white person’s. Straight.

      My afro was my way of, not rebelling – although it HAS been effective to that end – but saying SCREW all that. Wearing a blatant symbol of Black identity while aloofly engaging in stereotypically incendiary sh*t makes my afro a joke.

      Last week, I attended a PARENTING forum that discussed the way to hear the experiences of others. You don’t pity them (“Oh, bless your little negro heart.”), you don’t philosophize on their plight (“That’s just life, sometimes.”), you don’t blame them (“Well, if you weren’t so sensitive…”), you don’t give them advice (“Well, if I were you, I’d just get over it…”), you don’t deny their feelings (“Oh, it can’t be THAT bad…”), you don’t ask them “deep,” “thought-provoking” questions (“Well, why did your mother care so much about your hair?”) and you certainly don’t offer your amateur psychobabblebulljive.

      The reality, here, is that people are offended, and in order to understand, you listen. You do your best to try to empathize. You speak understanding to the frustration you may have caused. It’s not even about your apology – it’s about imparting an understanding to you all that you may not be aware of how NOT “just hair” hair actually is for people who are NOT you.

      Don’t minimize or devalue the experiences of others to make yourself feel better about the outrage. Just… stop. It does nothing but create a wider rift than there was when you showed up and started to show out.

    • On one hand you attest to being upset by German stereotypes and on the other you applaud Michelle for wearing a stereotype on her head. Could she wear lederhosen and then profess to say she is exploring German culture with that one accessory? What many people are saying here is that her implication that wearing an Afro is somehow going to help her to get to understand another culture is shallow and it marginalized the African experience, just as allow of those German stereotypes marginalize Germans, your experience as a person of German descent, and the unique human being you are.

    • It is not just hair. Black hair is politicized. Black women are punished for wearing their hair in afros or other natural styles. Just because you don’t understand this doesn’t make it not important.
      Not talking about racism doesn’t make it go away. It didn’t make it go away in Germany in the 30s and 40s, it didn’t make it go away in South Africa in the 80s and 90s, and it has never in the history of America made it go away. Talking about it and bringing it to light can reduce it. Ignoring it only lets it grow.

    • “There will always be racism, if we stick with our social and geographical groups. And there will also be racism, as long as people talk about it.”

      Ima be frank, that is quite a silly thing to say.
      I know it may feel like the subject of race never go away but that’s because ’bout time you get the engine moving and people talking you get the “WHY ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS STILL IN YEAR 20–” ? And thus the progress stop. People forget I mean FORGET that they are people who experience living in the Jim Crow days that are STILL alive! This country doesn’t even have 100 years of NOT living in a segregated society SO Where do you THINK all the HATRED and BIGOTS went? Did they or the feeling simply DIED because we got a law that declares ALL humans have equality?

      You can not learn if you do not educate.
      You can not educate if you do not teach.

      And not talking talking bout an issue doesn’t make it go away.
      It keeps it burning, alive to repeat the cycle over and over.

  27. Your apology does not sound sincere. I suggest you really apologize, delete your blog post, and then just leave a list of all the great reading material and blog suggestions people have graciously suggested on your home page. People can come visit your post and be directed to “My culture is not a costume.” campaign and then links to much worthier blogs. May I also suggest the book Uprooting Racsim for you to read. It is written by Paul Kivel who happens to be white and Jewish like you. It would be nice if you started relying on some anti-raciest white allies to break down how raciest your actions are instead of relying on the people who are hurt by your ignorance. You have a long path and a long reading list towards “enlightenment” ….I really don’t think you have time for this blog If you are going to take that seriously. You messed up. Are you going to commit to fixing it? Stop taking up a dissproportionate amount of space. You are not an authority on the subject. Finally, I will also point out that diminishing African American culture is not the only thing that has happened on this blog….I also see hints of propagating Indian culture as well. Appreciating cultures can only come when you are not being voyeuristic (which is what happens when you interact with a culture in a non substantive way) diminishing the culture to one singular thing, using it for your own self gain, and are not comfortable with your own. Many white Americans feel a deep deep void because they (or their ancestors) have given up culture in exchange for privilege. If you work to end white privilege you will be activily participating in culture and feel way better then you do in that wig. Start with a real apology. Then read and listen to what people are saying. Then move on. A blonde wig is such a callous flippant response to what has happened here.

    • “Many white Americans feel a deep deep void because they (or their ancestors) have given up culture in exchange for privilege. If you work to end white privilege you will be activily participating in culture and feel way better then you do in that wig.”

      That is very profound. Has there been more written on this subject, or is this your own thoughts?

  28. Girl. I feel as though you are seeking attention and that you ARE getting. Seriously though this afro wig does not become you….I like your blond hair much better.

  29. I’ve been following your blog for the past two days. Because you did say you read all of these comments, let me tell you my story. Tell me what YOU feel:
    I am 15 year old Black American. From as LONG as I can remember I have been perpetuated with certain standards of beauty…white beauty. I can remember from about age five I have been asking my mother for a perm. Because you obviously don’t research much about black culture/struggle, let me inform you. A perm/relaxer and chemicals are used to straighten African American hair. It makes it very straight and your hair does NOT change until cut or until it “grow out”. This is why perms always have to be done every 6 weeks or so. Up until recently did I stop getting them because I wanted to embrace my natural hair during the summer. This is such a huge problem in the black commnunity. From the time I was FIVE years old (probably even before) I have been told that the hair that grows naturally ut of my head is ugly and undesirable. I’m in highschool now and black kids STILL talk like this. It’s often reffered in the black community as “good hair”.
    White beauty standards are not limited to hair. Up until I was in middle school did I learn to accept my dark skin. Ask any little black girl if she wants lighter skin and pretend to be suprised. I understand that black women wear weaves that look similar to white hair, but it is not the same. From the time our ancestors arrived in this country, we have been told that our features are ugly and undesirable. These ideals are still VERY ALIVE in the black community. WE ARE TAUGHT THIS. Natural hair is becoming a trend nowadays, so black woman are finally starting to embrace their hair. But we still have a long way to go. Although I was natural during the summer, I am still quite afraid to embrace my natural hair in school because of what my peers might say. It is defiently a journey.
    What you are doing is appproriating my culture. You are approriating my culture, our pain and struggle and it hurts. Other cultures are not for you to pick and choose the “cool and hip” things you like while leaving the racial discrimination part behind. To me, it is not fair to contemplate whether I should embrace my natural because of fear of criticism for peers and the mocking and names to come along with it. But for you to do it you are seen as “open-minded” “different” “hip”. Please stop using my struggle for your own personal gain. And no, changing the wig from black to blonde is not making any difference. I cannot, as Limbo put it (ATL woot! woot!) “try on” my culture and hair, take it off or put it on. It certainly does not MAKE me, but it is apart of who I am.
    And please, do not use the excuse that we are all a melting and should share eachothers culture. Because usually when others try to take cultures from others it is an extreme sterotype, as you have shown through your fried chicken post and ridiculous poses. I would be happy to share with you any other information about black hair. I don’t mind the interest, but it should come from a respectful place. Whatever you do learn in this journey, please understand that you will never learn how deep self-hatred is rooted in the black community. This is a problem that you are mocking.
    Michelle, Listen to us. You are being hurtful, insensitive, ignorant, foolish, and you need to stop. I am not your costume.

    • Out of the mouths of babes. You’re a smart and brave girl. Go on and wear your hair in its natural state. As hard as you think it is, it will be A lot easier for you now than it was for me at 15, over 20 years ago.

    • Lola, I am only 5 years older than you, so this might not mean much, but I want to let you know you are AMAZING. You show a depth of understanding and empathy that Michelle, who appears to be at least 10 years older than you, will NEVER have. You are a remarkable young woman, and I applaud you for coming into a space like this and being able to maintain your eloquence and poise in the face of something so ridiculous. Cheers.

    • “Michelle, Listen to us. You are being hurtful, insensitive, ignorant, foolish, and you need to stop. I am not your costume.”

      Woman, I applaud you! Very well said. I was 15 as well when I decided to embrace my own kinks and you’re right – it isn’t easy! But it should be. And people who flaunt their ignorance in the face of correction just make the situation worse for the ones they mock, intentionally or otherwise.

  30. I went through some of your recent blog posts. I see that you went to the beach without our afro wig. You also went to the spa without it. Why is that? My real afro hair is big and thick and kinky and i wore it to the beach this summer. I know it’s hot and its hard as Hell to get the sand out. Didn’t you want that part of the Black Woman Experience?We who actually live this nappyhead life don’t get to pick and choose. We have to take the good and the bad. And the bad can range from sand in the fro to confrontations at work about appropriate your hair may or may be. You don’t deal with that at all in your experiment. This is why you’re getting the reaction that you’re getting.Listen and learn. By the way, QuestLove was ridiculing you. He doesnt think you’re cool anymore than I do.

    • I’m assuming your African American the “nappy headed” terminology is part of the self hatred that was programmed. That’s not a word that we need to use to describe our beautiful texture of hair in its natural state so allow the de-programming to begin!

      • I’m a 39 yr old, fully-actualized Black woman. I have kinky, gorgeous, highly-textured hair growing from my head that I call “nappy” at my own discretion. The problem you have with how I self-identify is yours, not mine.

      • Actually I don’t have a problem and you are exactly the problem with our culture. I introduce the idea of describing your hair with a tone of excellency and you shut it down in the typical African American attitude. I have no problems with my identity I would never use such a slavery generated word to describe my coils. Carry on lady Carry on!!!

      • Girl, bye. The only thing you introduced was your desire to have me identify how you see fit. That is in no way, shape or form your business. I am very unconcerned with how you self-identify although I will always advocate for you to be free to do so at your own discretion. I would hope you’d respect my right to do so as well, as a human being and another Black woman.

      • Everything after ” Girl Bye” is a non factor your attitude alone disqualifies anything you have to say. You can call your hair nappy all you want but I highly doubt you will keep that viewpoint to yourself but will slip up an attempt to call the texture of other African Americans nappy! Yeah you have a right to call your hair texture whatever you want but majority that attitude will never alone stay with you but will be extended to other African Americans. You sound rebellious and don’t like correction which is blinding you to see the bigger picture that this isn’t just about you! The “girl bye” makes you sound so classless! Elevate and rise!

  31. Dear Michelle,

    I am a 24-year old white woman living in New York City. I imagine we had similar, privileged upbringings and I can see in this perhaps well-meant social and personal experiment that you are trying to reach out in some way and challenge your notions of beauty, race, and acceptance. I appreciate that you are trying to turn the overwhelming response to your blog into a conversation. However, I feel that you may be in over your head in trying to facilitate a conversation that is addressing so many systems, institutions, prejudices, and historical relationships that you are unfamiliar with (and you seem to acknowledge that in this post).

    As white people, we are trained to not see our race and the privilege it brings us. And it’s really hard to make sense of the world until we do so. I first began to understand my whiteness when I was 20 (which is INSANE when you consider that people of color may be reminded of their race in some way EVERYDAY OF THEIR LIVES). I had some amazingly formative experiences since then that have allowed me to better understand the world I live in and how the decisions I make exist in that world. I suggest that you take some time away from this blog to give yourself the opportunity to explore these personal and socio-political realities more meaningfully, so that you may continue this conversation more informed and more critical.

    The following are some resources that have been invaluable to me, and I recommend them to you because I can see a little of myself in you. I think one day you may look back at this blog/experiment and feel embarrassed. And you know what? That’s OK, as long as you are genuinely committed to challenging your ignorance and moving forward towards a compassionate, informed, and critical life. If you do, then you will have a community of people here to support you.

    1. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” article by Peggy McIntosh. Google it and read it online. The list she presents is really impactful.
    2. The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s (PISAB) Undoing Racism Workshop. I cannot recommend this workshop highly enough. I’ve gone 5 times and have learned something new each time. Check their website. They will be in New Jersey later this month and next month. Going to this workshop was the single best investment of time and money I have ever made. I recommend it to everyone of any racial identity.
    3.”Black Looks: Race and Representation” book by bell hooks. She is a fantastic, accessible author and I highly recommend any of her books, though this one stands out in the context of your blog.
    4. “Good Hair” documentary by Chris Rock. It explores the cultural and financial atmosphere that surrounds the Black hair industry.
    5. “A Complete Guide to ‘Hipster Racism’” article by Lindy West on jezebel’s website. I think you may find some insight in this informal piece.

    I’ll stop there for now, but I would be happy to have a conversation with you or anyone of your supporters about this. I understand that you think you are doing something larger and outside of racial politics. But you’re not, and you truly have to understand that.

    • Thank you so much for representing a person truly interested in learning about these issues. I’m black, but have very curly (I couldn’t have an afro if I wanted one) hair. “Good Hair” completely changed so many of my white friend’s perceptions of the history, drama, and pain that is represented in our hair. I also highly recommend spending the 90 minutes watching the doc, Ms. White Fro, if you are truly interested in learning about the culture of our hair.

      Oh, and maybe you should meet and speak to a black woman. We don’t bite. Instead of making assumptions or deciding you have the key to exploring someone elses’ cultural experience, find a someone with the experiences and ASK THEM.

    • I was going to contribute a comment, until I read yours – which is stated much more eloquently than mine would have been. I’m looking forward to checking out your sources!

    • Correction you’re not white never have been and never will be. This is the irony we are so advanced in our society regarding technology & quality of life & yet you still have not figured out how to properly identify yourself. You know what’s white the clouds in the sky that’s white. Hmm what else white out is white. You have a very fair complexion with very little melanin and of Caucasian descent that’s what you are not white!!!

      • …And coal is black, tar is black, Sharpies are black, and “black people” have a lot of melanin and are of African descent. Don’t play stupid semantic games.

      • The W,

        Yes, race is a specious (meaning FABRICATED, MADE UP, NOT REAL) classification of human beings based on skin color that was created by Europeans for their own advancement. I get what you’re saying. But we cannot stop the conversation there. By saying we will just not acknowledge that this system of racism, in which people who came to be identified as white (including my Italian, French, and Irish ancestors who dropped culture, language, and history to be accepted into this group) did so to open doors to institutional power: housing, jobs, education, enfranchisement, etc. The people who gave up everything to be identified as white had access to a whole world of this power that has affected EVERY generation after theirs, including mine. This doesn’t suggest that every white person is wealthy and personally powerful, but it does acknowledge that each person identified as white (even if they themselves don’t identify as white) has benefited in some way from that whiteness. Again, I suggest you read Peggy McIntosh’s article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (avail. online) to understand this more clearly.

        I mean housing, jobs, enfranchisement – who wouldn’t want that for themselves and their family? Probably no one. But the fact is, this institutional power was SYSTEMATICALLY DENIED to the specious classification of people known as BLACK, generation after generation, and this kind of institutionalized racism very much exists today (look into: red lining of neighborhoods, standardized testing, the War on Drugs/prison industrial complex). The result of this system is what we see today. A reality in which black people are disproportionately poor, undereducated, and incarcerated.

        On top of this system of institutional racism, let us not forget overt bigotry. People of color have been systematically harassed, assaulted, and killed because of the color of their skin.

        So to deny that I have a RESPONSIBILITY as a white person striving to be anti-racist (because when we live in a racist system that covertly benefits us everyday, it’s really easy to not fight it), I am denying that my melanin count has MEANING in the world. I’m denying that my melanin count is tightly wrapped up in a system in which people of color have been systematically abused and denied. I’m denying the fact that I want to live in a world in which ALL people have equal access to these institutions.

        Also, this melanin stuff is kind of bunk. I myself have darker olive skin that may very well be darker than the skin of people of color. This system is based on more than melanin.

      • How is melanin a bunk? Melanin is a fact in the human skin tone. It is
        A dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. So how is this a bunk there are albinos who have no melanin and suffer and die early due to the exposure from the sun is that a bunk as well. It is a fact that Caucasians have very little melanin and the ones who seemingly have darker skin tone chances are they are the product of a mixed ancestor. It happens!

      • Kelly, I get what you are saying. It is more than melanin. The science of race has been debunked time and time again. The variance in phenotypea between and within cultures cannot be easily codified into neat little categories. Melanin, along with facial features, along with hair texture are apart of the equation used to label someone as Black and therefore marginalize them. I am trying to move away from using these colors in describing people because it is a tool of racism (which is a system). Even using generic terms such as African-American or European-American can be misleading or limiting in scope but such is the nature of labels.

    • Thank you for this response. You have more insight than many people (even people of color). It’s great to learn that young people are truly learning about other cultures and races and then being able to intelligently articulate what you learned. It seems as if has sunk in and that is good for me as a 31 year black woman to know. 🙂

  32. So basically the gist of this post is: “i am sorry if you were offended, but I’m still going to keep mocking African hair though scores of people explained how offensive and hurtful it is, just this time with blonde coloring.” Awesome, radical, you’re such a free spirit, etc *applause*

  33. Nah, but seriously, I know you don’t mean any harm, and I do not believe you are hateful, but your ignorance has been revealed in the way you have handled this situation. If people are hurt and offended by this, you need to evaluate your actions. You’ve basically set a corner of the internet ablaze with this blog and dozens of black folk are expressing anger, disdain, hurt, and offense over this, but you basically say that all those people are just overreacting instead of listening to what they have to say and figuring out a new way to get your point across without doing what basically amounts to a new form of blackface.. That’s white privilege in action right there, and it’s ugly, no matter how earnest or how god your intentions are.

  34. You are simply just too adorable for words! I can’t tell if you are really trying to make amends and are very bad at it or if you are mad at the backlash so you are trying to be more offensive or if you are doing this for attention. Your blog is so cute, it’s like looking at something my Preschoolers created. It has just maybe a little less emotional depth and creativity, but it’s no less interesting than the other works I see from people who lack emotional development and have only a burgeoning sense of identity. I wish you were in my classroom so I could give you a gold star for effort 🙂

  35. Listen, Hi. I’m a 30 yr old white woman. After a lot of time listening and reading the thoughts and experiences of People of Color in North America, I’ve learned that the ONLY truly respectful thing I can do to counteract my inherent and immense privilege is to assume I don’t understand even a modicum of the situation and to resign my initial reactions in matters that deal with racial tensions because they’ve been proven ignorant with more research and understanding. The impulse to feel like, “I should be able to wear an afro wig if I want and people should try to understand because we’re all equal” is right in line with the inherent impulse of privilege. **There are just some arguments and actions that we, as white people can’t touch. Don’t you think we can accept that tiny concession for the abhorrent amount of advantage we get from our white skin?** I know we didn’t personally ask for our privilege; just like we are not individually responsible for the terrible racial situation and history, but it exists and we are a part of it whether we like it or not. While we’ve been growing up and optimistically thinking “Race doesn’t even exist, ladida, let’s be color blind”, black people are growing up ACTUALLY dealing with racial issues. You really are making a mockery of a struggle you don’t understand; and the fact that you’re totally blind to it doesn’t change that at all. You’re alternate intentions aren’t going to stop this from hurting and offending and angering people. Maybe you could practice your first real rejection of white privilege by recognizing there may be truths you don’t understand and giving up your right to wear a silly wig.

    • Liz, EXACTLY. White people are the only people you will ever hear say shit like “oh, I’m colorblind” or “we live in a post-racial society” because white people are the only people not affected by racism in modern society, and frankly most people who think like that don’t wish to be disabused of that notion because it makes them feel better about demeaning and belittling the concerns of a POC. Speaking as a white woman-yeah, it might be easier to live life pretending my white privilege doesn’t exist and saying stupid shit like “It’s 2012! Slavery was like a hundred years ago or something, GOD, why can’t black people just let it go!” In fact, it probably would be easier. But it certainly wouldn’t help improve the world for POCs, and I, for one, cannot live with myself if I take the attitude “I’ve got mine, screw the rest of you.”

      • Just one big ass generalization.

        Even after she divorced my father, she STILL experiences racism. Why is that you ask? Because she happens to work in a place where her co-workers are predominately black. Do you actually think young black women treat my 61 year old white mother well? It doesn’t matter if they know she was married to a black man at one point or not, she is still treated like shit until she pushes back – which is what ANY ONE should do when they’re being discriminated against.

        Let me tell all ya’ll who are talking all this mess about how messed up white people are and how out of touch they are – I’m both black and white and I can see both sides pretty damn clearly. Both white people AND black people
        have issues that need to be dealt with. White people need to stop acting like they understand or care about issues they don’t give a shit about. It’s transparent. If you don’t want to concern yourself, don’t fake it and just leave POC alone. If you actually want to broaden your mind and get to know people, stop buying into stereotypes and try getting to know people – not the race, the person.

        POC – stop condemning every damn white person you encounter and labeling them as a racist. The bullying and other behavior towards white people is just as bad as white people’s naming calling and bullying. We don’t get a “pass” because of past fuck ups that white people made. I can safely say that pretty much every white person running around alive today has NOT owned a slave in recent years nor is that same white person responsible for Mexico losing the state of Texas. Nearly every race has been put upon and discriminated against in history – unless you’re being put upon and discriminated against in the now, stop holding every white person responsible for it. Rise above it.

        Lastly, I will say that being biracial gives me a vantage point that most people will never understand. I can understand Michelle’s experiment but at the same time I can REALLY understand why people are pissed. Miss Michelle, what you’re doing seems “right” to you but your somewhat fake need to connect with something you’ll never understand if just off putting. I’m sure you probably think you mean no real harm but honestly, you just come off as foolish. When I was younger, I so wanted the long flowing blonde locks that I saw on TV and that I thought was the beauty ideal. When I got old enough (and once hair technology advanced), I got that pretty straight hair. Guess what? I haven’t changed one iota because it’s only fucking hair. I still have no idea what it’s like to be a white girl and NOT get followed in a store because my skin is I’m brown. I still don’t know what it’s like to NOT have old white ladies grab their purses simply because I walk by them in the store. My straight, more white looking hair changes NOTHING. Why? Because, again, it’s fucking hair!!!

        P.S. – As an aside, I will continue to straighten my hair because, it’s my goddamn hair and after 30 some odd years of it being curly, I want it straight. Plus, no curls = no tangles. I don’t give a shit about “ideal” hair or going natural or any of this shit. I do what I want to do and what I like.

  36. I find your act well a bit disturbing what I wonder if this is a subconscious throw back to your ancestral roots. You do know that some of you Jews are descendants of biracial Jews because the original Jews were not just black people but dark skin with kinky texture hair. The Israelite Jews were not white or arab as some like to tout but they were the equivalent to Africans such as the original egyptians and ethiopians. That’s why as a Jew you are well aware of the common traits in your culture such as the “Jew fro” olive skin not so narrow nose which I see you have, thick lips, large ears and so on are traits usually found amongst Jews so it’s a possibility you may be a product of that and in some strange way trying to channel your roots so to speak!

    The European Jews don’t really acknowledge their dark skin pass but it’s OK the truth is coming forth through the antics of possible descendants such as your self. Hope you find what you’re looking for I think I have an idea of what exactly it is!

    -Cheers

  37. “It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much resentment still.”

    That’s called White privilege.

  38. Okay, “before and afro” (excuse me while I barf)… How about we substitute the word ‘ignorance’ for ‘resentment’ in the sentence you wrote and have you read it back to yourself out loud? Here we go: ” It would never have occurred to me that in America, in 2012, there’d be so much IGNORANCE still.”

  39. Woman, just leave it…

    You don’t even know what Racism is… much less what the Black experience is about. If you truly wanted that experience, coming from your background with your skin tone…dipping into our world and truly being treated how were are treated, domestically and abroad, within all aspects, socially, politically, economically…you’d take a glock to the head and pull the trigger. The truth is…you don’t know black. And you cant possible equate to black. You don’t have have the stomach to live or breathe black. Never have, and never will.

  40. This whole post was incredibly insulting to me as a black woman. I started reading it hoping that’d I’d be able to see some sincere critical examination for your own actions. But nope, underneath your “apology” you’re just making excuses for yourself and trying to justify your behavior. Fine, do what you want, but don’t expect people to be on board, don’t expect people to be ok with what you’re doing, and do not expect people to stop criticizing you and discussing the implications of your actions.

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