My Faults

I set out on this blogging journey for many reasons.

One of them was to lay my faults out on the table for the world to see: I’d show you my embarrassingly messy room, my crooked mouth that made me insecure most of my life, my frustrations in a structured workplace. Being vulnerable is scary, but it was something I felt I could lead the way in. I believe every fault or weakness in any person is balanced out by some brilliant, positive trait, it’s just a matter of identifying them both. I have a brash shamelessness about me that has allowed me to push boundaries and accomplish things I might otherwise not have. I’ve been told I’m fearless. I felt this was a unique gift that I could use to help others. Once you announce your weaknesses publicly, who can stop you?

Ha. Well, I hadn’t officially gotten to that part of my blogging yet, but as it turns out, I didn’t have to “announce” anything. I have revealed to the world a big giant whopping fault of mine: That when it comes to racial sensitivity, I am ignorant.

Yes! Due to my privileged white upbringing, I am unaware of a lot. I have not experienced how very prevalent issues of systematic inequality are today in 2012. I had no idea how achingly sensitive the issue of hair was to people of color. And as someone who hardly gets offended about anything, in a culture of South Park and Tosh.0, I was shocked at my own frightening capacity to offend people.

I set out on this blogging journey for many reasons.

One of them was NOT to see what life would be like as a black woman, to gain insight into discrimination and oppression, nor to insert myself into black culture in any way. I’ve proudly worn my afro to parties (and I happen to go to parties with black people and fried chicken), to work (yes – frequently!), to networking events, with black friends, with white friends, and to Rosh Hoshana dinner with my family. Through physically wearing the afro I’ve gained a lot, but none of which is personal perspective on the black experience.

But now, after reading many comments and articles, the black experience intrigues me more than ever. On top of that, I can assure you that I have many intelligent friends, successful colleagues and thoughtful followers who also had no idea that any of this would be taken offensively, so I am happy bring it to light here.

I’ve spoken to a number of people of color about this in the past few days. I actually have a video of a handful of afro-rocking people who were really adamant that anyone should be able to wear an afro, wig or not, and I shouldn’t listen to people who tell me otherwise. (And dude, that’s pretty cool.) But I won’t post that here at this time, because being proven “right” is not the most important issue for me. People will always see and say what they will.

I’ve taken a friend’s recommendation and last night bought Assata Shakur’s biography, which I look forward to reading. I thank Kelly for her constructive suggestions for reading/viewing material – check it out. (If Good Hair would just come back to Netflix I’d have watched it weeks ago!) I commend 15-year-old Lola, wise beyond her years, for sharing her thoughts. My reader Limbo Scruffdork (make my day and tell me this is your real name) suggested, let’s open up the floor. What are some REAL Before and Afro journeys? Were you treated differently before and after relaxing your hair, getting a weave, or deciding to go natural? I think anyone would enjoy and benefit from hearing stories like this, and it’s a great idea. If you feel comfortable (as some of you mentioned you would be), please email me or share your stories below – would love to hear from you and spread a bit of the real deal.

Putting on an afro was never meant to lead to all this, but I think it’s quite important that it did. Like I said, every fault or weakness in any person is balanced out by some brilliant, positive trait. This may be a strange and contorted and slandering one, but I still believe it fits the theory.

All this being said, there is a very important issue here that still remains, and I’d like you to think outside the context of my blog:

Can the afro belong to any one group? As so many of you have pointed out, afros and kinky hair are part of nearly every culture. The fro was all the rage in the 70s. For perpetually straight-haired people who love the look of a beautiful bulbous coiffure framing their face, should they be ridiculed or denied because they’ve not experienced the struggles associated with the culture to which it is most strongly tied? And if someone wants to change their look with a wig on a whim – fro or bob, blonde, brunette or rainbow – should there be freedom to do so? And just because society says one way is better, is there no seeing outside of it?

In other words: Can’t we have Equal Hair Opportunity??

Marc Jacob's Louis Vuitton Spring 2010 show

Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton Spring 2010 show

I invite your thoughts below, and for the sake of all the people who are reading and learning from your comments, please keep them clean and constructive. Thank you. Much love!

102 thoughts on “My Faults

  1. You have only shown in your two posts responding to criticisms of your appropriation of Black hairstyles, your white privilege, your exotification and fetishizing of Black women’s skin tones and hair, your complete disregard for the feelings of Black people and the harm you are doing, and your using PoC and their cultural, social and political signifiers as props that you are talented at ingesting and vomiting back out these criticisms without actually understanding them. You have offered fauxpologies followed immediately by backpedaling and ridiculous justifications. Perhaps worst of all is that you have taken it upon yourself to “host a discussion” on these issues which is a selfish and privileged act that keeps you in control of the discussion while simultaneously erasing or marginalizing the words and experiences of PoC that have already written about this at length and “hosted” discussions on their blogs and in their spaces. Instead you insist that they come into your space and have this discussion on your terms.

    I do not know you, but I know what you have done here is gross, offensive and oppressive. And, it seems like you have absolutely no intention of changing your behavior. So, you can really just go get bent at this point.

  2. Of course we are treated differently…..not sure if you know the difference, but “natural” hair for most black women means tighter curls, and afro texture. Just like anyone else, a flat iron can “turn” our hair straight for a couple of days until moisture turns it back into an afro. I am VERY aware of the way that I am perceived by whites and other blacks in some cases when I wear my hair straight (and no its not a weave, black womens hair actually grows long when we keep chemicals out of it) and when we wear it in its natural, kinky state. I personally don’t have a problem with you wearing your hair anyway you please but a Jewish woman wearing an afro wig seems more like mockery to me. Black women who wear weaves aren’t mocking white women, they are attempting to fit into the status quo.

    • A. Talk about a double standard. So you are allowed to ape supposed “white” hair styles (though I do note that naturally straight hair is hardly limited to white people) and yet a white person apeing a “black” hair style is mockery. That comes across to me as mighty presumptuous of you.
      B. I can say absolutely that you are not “perceived by whites” in any one way at any time. White people, like black people, or any other group of people do not all think alike, nor perceive others alike. It is the height of bigotry to act like all people of any particular group think/act alike.

      • This is a pathetic attempt at being profound lol. Once you try to compare the experiences, culture, aesthetic, etc of black people to white people and vice versa in this type of manner, you have already failed. Of course we are not monolithic people, but your white privilege and entitlement is showing, just like hers is. Black women aren’t “aping supposed ‘white’ hair styles” when we choose to not wear our hair in its natural state, texture wise that is, and if you opened up a book and learn a little about the history of social constructs and how they marginalized and disgraced everything correlated with blackness (kinky hair, dark skin….) you wouldn’t fix your lips and make such an idiotic statement nor would people agree with this dogmatic and short sighted analyses. Kinda reminds of the folks who actually got mad because of BET’s special “Black Girls Rock” deeming it an example of reverse racism (which by the way does not exist), without even trying to understand why something like that, just like Black History Month, TV one, Jet/Ebony magazine, etc, etc things like this exist in the first place.

        Try again.

      • Nope Estherologie not trying to be profound at all, just stating basic truths, that straight hair isn’t a “white” thing and that there is no such thing as “white experiences, culture, aesthetic, etc.” nor “black experiences, culture, aesthetic, etc.” because no person of either group shares all of those things with every other member of said group nor do they fail to share those adjectives with members from outside of the group. Treating people as if their skin color dictates their thoughts, beliefs and values is among the definitions of racism. Period.

        Your claim that there is no “reverse racism” can be interpreted in two ways. One is that you are following through with the left-derived racist ideologies of “racial power” “racial privilege” and such, that there can be no racism against white people, because racism can only be directed against others by white. If that one is the case then you sound like a self-mocking right-wing parody of a politically correct person. The other possible interpretation is that racism is racism and anything that is racist is racist, therefore there is no “reverse racism” because it is precisely the same thing regardless of who it is being applied to or by. If that is the case then you state the obvious. However this second, far more reasonable interpretation, doesn’t comport, at all, with the rest of what you said which can be summarized as: “I believe in racist essentialism and share far more ideological beliefs with neo-nazis than I’d likely care to admit.” So I am left with the only surviving interpretation of your statement, you are a racist who has been so blinded by her racism that she cannot accept the basic truth, that all claims of different racial experiences are, themselves, racist in their presumptions. If race is a “socially constructed” thing then it doesn’t actually exist other than in your own head, which means you are dividing people into different groups with no basis in reality.

        Then again you probably buy into all of the anthropology/post-modernist culture is king nonsense (as demonstrated by your abuse of post-modernist pseudo-intellectual buzzwords) that has so warped the minds of many modern “social scientists.”

      • I know, I’m late!

        Greg, I think this discussion is much more deep than racism. Racism was definitely a political construct and I’m sure we can all agree upon this idea. Color was not seen as inferior in 1619 when the first Africans landed in Jamestown. The basis of your status was presented by two things and two things only: religion and social class. It was circa 1670 when being Black was considered being less and uncivilized, because it was around this time slavery became legal and accepted. There is one thing that should be made very, very clear. When an idea like superiority, because one is a certain skin tone is instilled in everyday life among a majority of people and is time and time again “scientifically proven”, it becomes a reality. It is because of Thomas Jefferson and Sam Morton that Blacks continue to feel as second-class citizens, who are trying to fit in. This applies to all terms of life, especially in topics of beauty. Please, remember, I am not saying that every White person is racist, I am not. Although, we must admit that there is a certain privileges that Whites contain. Throughout history Black women are constantly taught straighter hair is better and lighter skin is prettier. It is, of course the lighter slave who is allowed to work in the house, as opposed to the fields. It is the girl with the longer hair, who probably contains more white genes, therefore making her superior. These are all some of the reasons why rocking the fro, without understanding and feeling the black experience feels somewhat insensitive. When your mother tells you your hair is so short and thick, we need to braid it so it can grow or brings up the infamous relaxer to thin out your curls, it hurts. It hurts in a place that is unrecognizable and deep within oneself. When you go to Church after being out in the sun for a little too long in the Summer it hurts when a lady from your congregation tells you you’ve gotten darker, because you know she doesn’t mean it to compliment you. I suppose, what I am trying to say here is one must not become to wrapped up in how political this issue may be. It is very much an emotional issue for the Black woman. For being beautiful is an issue for all women and being a Black woman you are almost always never accepted for your natural self.

  3. This really says it all:

    “If you’re going to do this, lady, commit to it and do it all the way… Don’t just wear it to parties and fried chicken festivals…. Wear it and keep it on when your boyfriend/girlfriend asks you if you’re really going out like that, when s/he tells you they prefer you long, blonde, and straight. Stick with it as your boss is gingerly looking for the politically correct way to tell you that your hairstyle is unprofessional and isn’t properly representing the company. Keep it on after those smiling nods of approval you got when you were so clearly in costume give way to scowls, sneers and giggles. Continue to wear it when people tell you you’d be so pretty if only you did something different with your hair, and as you sit through all those Herbal Essences commercials that remind you that femininity is long, flowing, silky, and bouncy. ”

    If your wig is really an expression of admiration for the afro hair type, if you’re not just trying to wear it to look “silly”, wear it EVERYWHERE, not just to parties. And keep us updated on people’s reactions. That’s a REAL journey of self-discovery.

  4. Sometimes I wonder if this is all for attention, honestly. As a white person, I’m embarrassed for you and I couldn’t imagine myself rationalizing doing something like this. If you really do care, which I think you do, take these comments seriously. It’s not your job to facilitate an idea that you know nothing about and doesn’t include you; you telling WOC about their hair seems ridiculous to me. You nor I have no idea what that’s like. we can speculate, we can imagine, but we’ll never know the true struggles. I’m completely baffled that you feel the need to be some savior for WOC, such as the other commenters are mentioning. “Why should it be a white woman setting the floor for black women to talk about their experience? ” This says it all., If you SERIOUSLY want to…stop racism, open peoples eyes, I have no clue what you’re trying to accomplish exactly, but just stop it. There are other ways to gain insight and help.

    Also; the fact that you got this idea from wearing a HALLOWEEN costume says it all; you’re wearing a RIDICULOUS costume. COSTUME.

    Man. Just stop, for real. You’re embarrassing yourself. Seriously.

  5. Whether or not you knew it would be offensive to do this experiment is no longer applicable. These comments on your blog are proof that you now know how your posts are making others feel. I highly suggest you stop making excuses and act accordingly.

  6. You are a certifiable moron. Gawd! Will there ever be a day where people of color don’t have their experiences explained to them by dumb white people? Will I ever have a day where I am not horrified to be white because people like you make me look completely ignorant by association? YOU ARE NOT EXPERIENCING A LIFE-CHANGING ANYTHING WITH YOUR ‘WACKY’ FASHION. You are participating in centuries old systems of oppression and you aren’t even thinking twice about the damage it causes. How can you not understand that even if you aren’t “racist” (which, puh-lease, do a little reading. We all participate in racism, everyday.) as you claim, you are utilizing white power in order to HURT people of color with your actions, ignorance and stubborn refusal to listen to people pointing these things out to you? How is that not racist behavior? You make me sick.

  7. I agree with A LOT of the comments posted. They were spoken more articulately (is that a word? Haha.) than I could be right now. Here’s the catch 22, the more we all keep talking about it, the more publicity she is getting. Although what she did and continues to do (including her backhanded insults that we are all being “achingly sensitive”) screams a conversation, she wanted to be seen and she has succeeded. She is no longer naive, and her contradicting apologies and justifications proves that. She is a woman with purpose and intent. [Did anyone notice the contrast in photos of her wearing the huge black fro compared to the smaller blonde fro btw?] I won’t say she is racist, but she is not positively promoting anything when it comes to a racial topic. As long as she has people on her side (as she has “spoken to a number of people of color” and her friends are highly intellectual and successful), people who see her point of view, this blog will continue. And let me just say, if your hair is naturally on the afro-ish side, there is nothing wrong with you wearing your natural hair. There is nothing wrong with wearing weaves or extensions. But what she was promoting with this wig business is what made it controversial. The role she took on when she sported this wig made it controversial. The words she wrote down surrounding this journey associated with the wig made it controversial. The images she was portraying made it controversial. Guess what? All of our comments and feedback have just intrigued her more. And unfortunately, we have given her way too much of our time when her time should be up.

  8. I think she’s pathetic. She needed a blog idea, she found one that’ll ‘keep’em talking’ now she’s suddenly been enlightened and will read Assata Shakur all while still OBVIOUSLY defending her initial stance and ignorance? I hope you get the “fame” you desire as you sell your soul to feel relevant in the media. You should go on a “journey of enligtenment,” but not at the expense of Black women or Black culture but rather to find out who you are and why you feel you as a Jewish white woman with soft blonde hair isnt enough or interesting to blog about. What a backhanded half ass attempt at redemption.

  9. There is something wrong with you. I don’t think there is much point attempting to school you, countless people have tried and you are evidently far too dim and self-absorbed to even begin to examine the implications of what you are doing.

    when you say: “the black experience intrigues me more than ever” – the “black experience” is not a source of intrigue, it is not a thing you can learn about by prancing around in a wig (why did you think you’d be able to achieve anything w this weirdness???)

    also, i hate to break this to you, but you are not going single-handedly fix racism in this country, and this fucked up antic of yours is not going to take the nation by storm and break barriers, so you might want to give the lame-ass slogan posters a rest…

    p.s you have an incredibly annoying writing style.

  10. I agree that the Afro or kinky hair can be shared over race lines. What I don’t understand is how an afro goes hand in hand with watermelon and fried chicken?

  11. This is the type of reaction that people like you cause. Enjoy:
    Arturo de Gheaubinoo de Fleurieu
    Most black women where I am from wear fake hair, and a lot of times blond wigs.

    Black women seem to try to do everything they can to compensate for the gorilla fur they were born with.

    However I cannot recall white women busting a nut over fake hair on negro haids.
    5 Hours Ago from theroot · Reply

  12. The fact that some POC aren’t offended doesn’t mean that it’s ok. It’s no different than how some women don’t mind being called a b**ch. Some even go as far as to say that word empowers them. Still, you wouldn’t go aroung calling a stranger that word. That word can make a woman feel hurt and is meant to be mean. It’s the same with you wearing the afro. THe fact that some don’t find it wrong, and you didn’t mean harm, doesn’t change the fact that some ppl are hurt by this. When someone tells you they’re hurt and you keep doing that, it comes off insensitive. Do you really care?

    • Yes, some women don’t mind being called such. Precisely right. Which is why its not something you can say that “women object to being called B****”. Which is the whole point. Women, of color (which is a funny expression since “black” is actually the absence of color…though black people are actually usually brown….so none of these labels make any sense) don’t think any one thing.

      Of course your analogy breaks down because when you call someone a b**ch you are purposefully trying to offend them whereas that was clearly not the intent here.

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

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

  15. I just heard you on tell me more from NPR and I still have a hard time believing you are doing this because you thought you looked cool. It seems like you want to poke fun at black women. I can see that others have given you suggestions on some great books to read and I hope you do read them. In doing so I hope you see that some of the pictures you’re posting are just wrong. When you take pictures of yourself with your natural hair appearing normal and then you put on your fake afro transforming you into black women stereotypes I have been fighting against in my daily life since I was 10 years old. In some images you look to be angry while snarling at the camera, then in other pictures you seem to be over sexualizing yourself by protruding your butt into the air, or in others you are holding your hands in a confrontational stands.

    When you put on the afro do think of black woman as angry and over sexualized? People with afros like myself are not angry black women walking the world. Even people that I know who are not black with big curly hair are not like this. You can wear your hair however you choose; this is American, but when you portray yourself in pictures it’s almost like black face (form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person.).

    This may have been an innocent experiment to have fun with big hair, but how you are carrying yourself in pictures is what I’m railing against. You may not be aware that you are doing it but what you portray says otherwise. Have fun with your big hair but rid your self of the stereotypes.

  16. I respect you for your bravery.
    I am a black girl who just so happens to have natural hair, and i have to say personally i dont see anything wrong with a white person wearing a afro wig. As long as you are happy that is all that really matters, the negative comments and remarks will (and should) roll off your shoulder. The only reasons why people judge others on their individualism is because:A) they lack originality and stick to what society thinks is hot or not and fear what they dont understand. Or B) they are too self concience about what others would think of them.

  17. Pingback: Resolving and Evolving | before and afro

  18. You simply look online. The stories do not exist in a vacuum. Instead of asking for stories to be submitted to you, why not do a little research on the interweb & find out! I’m sure some ladies will appreciate your reaching out them, while others will be offended by your “curiosity” as if their choice of hairstyle allows them to be studied or gawked at as if animals on display.

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