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. “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’m glad you realized this…but yet….you keep doing it…

    • Head/desk. She is still not getting it. But she really doesn’t want to. That IS the point. She is not naive, she is not ignorant, she is not worth the benefit of the doubt, because she is a RACIST. So it is never going to get any better with her.

  2. As a WOC who has sported many a coif, I am all for you sporting whatever hairdo you feel comfortable in. Whatever you do will not always be liked by all. It’s just the way things are. I didn’t feel that you wearing a FRO was disrespectful or insensitive, but I tend to be a little more tolerant than most. I commend you for taking the time to try and understand the sensitivities people were expressing. I am in the process of going natural but have not truly embraced it yet. Just a few of my own insecurities I’m dealing with. However, at the end of the day, if you can go to sleep knowing that your intentions were not to be disrespectful but to admire a do as bold and as beautiful as the FRO, YOU GO GIRL!!

  3. I feel that you do understand that wearing an afro (which you obviously wore as an african-american cultural symbol and not as some sort of intercultural hair fashion- look at your past posts) was ignorant, or that you remain ignorant of certain racial realities. But other commenters are right – you do seem to apologize and then back pedal in the rest of your post. But your approach to wearing an afro is extremely problematic and I don’t think you have adequately understood this. For instance, you posted awhile ago that when you went to a party in Bushwick with “your new toy” (the fro), you “twirled through a beautiful palette of blacks, browns, beiges, peaches and milky caramels, painting my world with richness. With spice! My afro—and all the magic it made me feel—fit right in here seamlessly.” You’re blatantly exoticizing black people here. Moreover, you’re using this white perspective on blackness–they’re so exotic! so COLOURFUL!- to enhance your self image in an incredibly narcissistic and delusional way. If you don’t see how racist and ignorant that statement is, then you’ve really got some owning up to do on this blog. As in a full out apology. And I’m not sure you’re the one to facilitate a discussion of black women talking about their hair.

    • “And I’m not sure you’re the one to facilitate a discussion of black women talking about their hair.”

      Thank you! We already created our own blogs and spaces for talking about our hair experience. If you want to learn, fucking Google that shit.

    • Exactly. Why should it be a white woman setting the floor for black women to talk about their experience? It reminds me of “The Help”- which was a good movie, with a likeable heroine- but a story in which yet again, it is a white woman who empowers black women and gives them their voices.

    • This comment perfectly explains why people were upset with what you did. When I first saw this blog I thought that it was a joke, and as a black woman I am horrified to see that you actually thought you were doing something poignant and progressive. So if you didn’t do it “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.”, why on earth did you do this at all?

  4. “But now, after reading many comments and articles, the black experience intrigues me more than ever.”

    Good lord, you are stupid. Just when I think you have reached the pinnacle of dumbfuckery, I read your next blog entry and my mind is blown all over. How you have survived in the wild all these years without falling out of a window or walking out into traffic is beyond me.

    That you haven’t admitted your ignorance, apologized and stopped this foolishness astounds me. No, instead you have doubled down on your stupidity and sought counsel from your “black friends”. PRO TIP: Whenever someone talks about their black friends, they are in fact a racist.

    Your afro wig is the least troublesome aspect of your assholery. What is completely mindblowing is that you go around in public taking pictures of random black people like they are monkeys in a zoo. Do you fail to see how this could be offensive?

    I can only assume you are very young and not very smart and that is why you have thus far failed to see the error of your ways. I almost feel sorry for how ignorant you are.

    But here’s a real bit of advice–your blog has gone viral on the internets for all the wrong reason and the internets never forget. So ten years from now, you might be in a job interview or running for local government or something that is important. And someone is going to remember you and say, “Hey, isn’t that the racist blog chick?”

  5. Yes, I agree with Emma, definitely not one to facilitate a discussion of black women talking about their hair. But I am not black or “of color” as it was used in this post. I am a pale, frizzy-haired white woman. I would, however, like to share my own thinking on hair. I am incredibly bothered by white women dying their hair blond. Blond is the color of youth and I get that women want to look young. I’m still relatively young, but as I see the “early” signs of aging, I can understand wanting to stop/reverse them. I just don’t get the fake blond! If your hair is brown, let it be brown. But why do I think this way? I’m not really sure. I also have a problem with women straightening their hair. Women of ANY race. If your hair is curly, let it be curly. It probably “fits” you much better than forced straight hair. But then, when I think about it, do I really let my hair be natural; all natural? No! I woke up this morning, having washed my hair last night and letting it air dry without any product, with a true fro. Did I like it? Did I just walk out the door like that? No. I rewet my hair in the sink and applied antifriz gel and curl spray. I left the house with hair hanging down, but in loose curls and ringlets. I liked it much better. So, why am I so biased against fake color and texture? Is my product-laden hair fake? I like when I see a middle-aged woman who has not dyed her hair, but I do recognize that it visually ages a person. So, I am not against dying hair to cover gray. Still trying to figure this out within myself. Hair is a big issue for most women. I didn’t like my curly hair until I cut it shorter than my shoulders, with layers, and learned to use product to make it less frizzy. I’ve always admired women who wear their hair natural and I get complements from many races about my hair. Often the conversation starts with, I always wanted curly hair (could you guess that would be from a person with stick straight hair?) OR I’ve always wanted to try to let my hair grown out naturally OR I cut my hair super short to let it grow out because I’ve been relaxing it my whole life (could you guess that would be from a person with super curly hair– a black woman?). Reading about how you wore the wig out, I’m embarrassed for you, though. I, however, would like to dye a section of my hair purple. My job won’t allow it. So go figure!

  6. If you think there are POC out there (other than the ones who are clearly determined to coddle you right out of this jam you created for yourself) who actually want to share their stories with you, after all of this, you are more delusional than any of us ever believed.

  7. Done with you. You have the amazing ability to regurgitate rhetoric about White privilege without any true self-reflection or sincere admittance to your active participation in a system of White supremacy. These last two posts have been incredibly passive-agressive assertions of your anti-Black racism.

    Just stop. Try being transparent for once. You truly don’t see it as a problem- you’ve said as much between your fake words of remorse. Get the courage to say so. Don’t masquerade as a damaged, wounded White person struggling for some form of acceptance and understanding. Just admit you don’t give care and that you want to and will continue to do whatever you want.

  8. I believe you when you say that you did not intend to hurt anyone with this experiment. I believe that you truthfully were ignorant. However, now that you know that you have done harm, I am dismayed at your determination to defend and continue it. Your impact has been broad and harmful, and that is independent of any intention you had. Intention, as we say in the social justice world, is not magic. It does not undo the damage you have caused.

    Permission or encouragement from any number of people to continue the behavior does not undo that harm either. If your behavior was harmful before, then it will continue to be, only worse — because now you *know* that your behavior is racist and harmful. Now that you know that, you have an opportunity to grow immensely from the gift that is being offered to you by those who have taken a risk by telling you how you have injured them — offering for the veil of privilege to begin to be lifted from your awareness, a veil that obscures vision between you and those you harmed and prevents real contact and communication and love to pass between — and not only will the harm be repeated, it will be magnified. This time, you cannot plead ignorance. This time, you will be choosing to inflict racist wounding upon any number of other people who have already told you that you hurt them.

    I do not believe that you want to be a willfully racist person. If that is indeed so, I ask you to consider the possibility that your desire to continue this behavior despite being made aware of the wounding it causes is in fact a symptom of your privilege. When you began this, you were ignorant. Now you are aware, and greater awareness comes with greater responsibility. You have a choice between personal gratification at the cost of racist injury to others, or acknowledgment of perpetration and relinquishing the wig. Such is the nature of white privilege that although those you hurt did not have a choice whether to be wounded, you do get the choice whether to be the source of those wounds once more. I deeply hope that you make the decision not to be.

  9. OH you can change you hair, just like I can straighten mine. Nothing wrong with that! It’s when you donned it to make some kind of statement about experiencing culture etc etc. that’s when it started getting weird!

  10. I have no issue with you wearing an Afro, and it would be ridiculous to say you can’t wear an Afro but I (being a black woman) can wear a straight wig, weave, etc. Do what you want, sometimes some black people can find fault in everyone but themselves. My only negative feedback is to be respectful of the previously noted caricature issue. Just be you with the wig on and maybe think about not taking pix with a whole bunch of random African American people unless that’s what you did in your pre-Afro day to day life. It takes the sincerity and genuineness out of your blog.

  11. If you need a fake gimmick like to be interesting you have other issues.
    I can not believe that this blog is still up after all the time that people have spent telling you how it makes them feel. If you truly meant to do no harm, and now realize you have, an actual apology, admission of a mistake made, and a deletion of this blog would likely be your best route.

  12. “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.”
    Yeah, all of this. I’m a black woman with a teeny weeny afro. I’m not offended by your free spirited exploration. Also, I see you as naive rather than ignorant (I sense no hatred in you). Hope I’m right. You do have some blind spots that I hope you will make the time & find opportunities to change (commenters like Emma have provided some specifics). No biggie; we all have blind spots.
    I ask that you keep in the forefront of your mind that we are all human. Me & mine have the same vulnerabilities as you & yours. And some of mine are of a different “racial” category from me & still they’re mine & I’m theirs.

  13. You still don’t seem to realize that POC don’t exist to be your object of intrique and entertainment. It is not their duty to educate and indulge you. You need to realize this is nothing new and these “questions” you keep bring up and expecting POC and others to find fresh and interesting have been happening for a long time now, since the colonial era.

    Also please stop tokenizing and mentioning “your black friends”, it’s just making you look worse.

  14. I am a middle school teacher. In my line of work, I often have to correct student behavior and redirect them to more appropriate outlets. I know that over 75% of the time, a student’s error is a mistake made because they did not have the information necessary to make the right decision. There are very few instances in which a student knows what they’re doing is wrong, and still continues to do it. I have one student in particular who frequently finds himself in the 25%, making an error when he knows it’s the wrong choice. He’s quick to pour out a million “I’m sorry”s and excuses, but I found myself saying to him what I often heard in church as a kid (a phrase that stuck with me long after I left religion behind): “It is a good start to say you’re sorry, but the truly repentant change their ways.”

    I don’t object to your wearing an afro at this point; what I object to is your refusal to understand why people would find this ridiculous and ignorant. You’ve read it in dozens of comments at this point; you know how people feel. Blonde wig or black, you know full well that your actions stoke ire in the hearts of many. You know the correct protocol for behavior now. You are not one of the 75% who doesn’t know better yet. Yet you insist on this foolishness, using the fashion industry to justify your aesthetic choices, when we all know how deeply tone-deaf and insensitive even the world’s most savvy designers are when it comes to issues of race (see http://www.blogher.com/fashion-mags-bring-blackface-back-en-vogue, and more recently http://www.complex.com/style/2012/09/a-history-of-racism-in-fashion/).
    My words for you are the same I utter to an eleven-year-old child on a near-daily basis: “Try again, change your ways, and make it right.”

  15. Why is it that you can’t seem to just apologize? “I’m sorry IF people feel hurt” is entirely another defensive kettle of fish than a simple straightfoward “I’m sorry for offending so many people”

    A wide variety of POC and Caucasians have taken the time to explain to you why this approach is a problem, why it isn’t appropriate, legitimate or funny and yet STILL you persist with a bushel of half baked apologies and a magical gift for selective hearing for the voices of the folks who you feel give you right to continue this project and who have viewpoints you can align to your obviously predetermined decision to attempt to gain attention and status.

    Let’s address a few statements here shall we?

    You claim you always wore bright wild clothing and you weren’t playacting your colorful attire or exaggerated expressions to align with your perceptions of what a person with an afro should act like. Yet a quick google image search shows your wardrobe to be almost entirely plain, neutral colors and there is not a single photograph with the cartoonish hand gestures and myspace facial expressions until AFTER you put on the costume wig and piled on every neon bit of fabric that was attacked by a bedazzler and a herd of feral cats you could find:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=michelle+joni&hl=en&safe=off&client=opera&hs=42k&rls=en&channel=suggest&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=WtqAUOC4BcbE0QG9koCQBw&ved=0CDIQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=863

    You also claim that you didn’t intentionally hit the stereotypical nerve regarding fried chicken on purpose, and that you just HAPPENED to be at your usual schedule of chicken cook offs and leisurely strolls through Bushwick while wearing the wig. However, neither in your attempt to be a next gen Carrie Bradshaw for the (now deleted) NYC game blog, nor in your writing for the spa site can I find any regular reference for anything further downtown than the East Village, not have you been photographed at any outer bourough events, which seems odd for someone who visits regularly:

    http://www.ahalife.com/profile/3404/michelle-joni-lapidos/

    http://guestofaguest.com/directory/michelle-joni-lapidos/

    http://thenycgame.blogspot.com/2009/06/why-am-i-playing.html

    So which is it? Are you just a chicken loving BK hanging girl? Or a Hamptons hopping social butterfly who’s night isn’t complete without “5 inch heels and YSL lipstick” who considers it her personal quest to “go to all the BEST places?”

    Additionally, this is not the first time you’ve scratched the surface of an an experience in a heap of pseudo exploration to garner yourself the attention and page views you crave. Remember when you decided you were a stripper/burlesque performer for a day? Apparently, the ladies that work in that field also made a handy costume for you to dress up in for your own validation, in a self professed attempt to become famous in two weeks or less:

    http://guestofaguest.com/new-york/fashion/how-do-you-become-famous-in-two-weeks-take-your-clothes-off-and-dance-for-one

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2009/08/tabloid-whore-of-the-week-michelle-joni-lapidos/

    Oddly enough, even your burlesque costumes (a genre where over the top glitz and excess is both appreciated and quite common), were less garish than the items you chose while in afro mode.

    You’ve been given ample opportunities to open a productive discussion, and to learn about many things you claimed to be interested in given your “liberal” and “tolerant” world view and supposed desire to learn. Yet you don’t take it. You issue faux-pologies full of caveats, and use unnamed black friends as a human ideological shield.

    Given your previous projects and writing, this is just another of your attempts to be famous by any means necessary, even if the reflected lemonlight only illuminates the shadow of your head tucked firmly in your navel.

    The blithe ignorance and defiance of the variety of massive issues and injury this project raises makes me ashamed that I have to share the same categorical census checkbox with someone so utterly self serving.

    • These are what the late, great Whitney Houston would call “receipts”. This is proof positive of Michelle’s penchant for attention-seeking antics and that this “afro enlightenment” is yet another “LOOK AT ME” stunt.

    • YES, YES, YES, and YES! This is why when you play miss naive, you better make sure you don’t have an electronic trail that internet super sleuths surely will find…

  16. Here’s the thing, I find you intensely condescending. It sounds like this is a game to you and you want a cookie for being such a good anti-racist. Well, there aren’t cookies for doing what you should be doing anyway. I could tell you “before and afro” stories, but I don’t think you’re actually interested in that. You come across like someone watching a movie. At the end of the movie you can turn it off and go about your life because none of that stuff actually happened. Some of us can’t turn off the movie, though. My afro does not come off at the end of the day. And frankly, I’m not here to teach or enlighten. Read a book, take a class, listen, think and stop talking and believing that a cheap wig can teach you anything.

  17. Michelle,

    I’m glad you read my comments and found my suggestions helpful. I’m sure you are aware of your increasing audience, and as such I advise you to tread lightly as you move through the confusing, guilt-ridden, reality-changing, and ultimately humanizing road to becoming an anti-racist. You need to remember that you still have a lot to educate yourself about and these things take time to really sink in. In other words, you are not ready to facilitate a blog where women of color share their stories. You take up a lot of space when you are the writer and subject of a blog. I guess that’s why people start blogs in the first place – to have their own personal platform.

    But you should understand that white women have a LONG history of taking up more than their fair share of space when trying to collaborate and organize with women of color (see Second Wave Feminism). So for you to try to solicit the trust of people you have continuously offended and invite them to be vulnerable in an environment that you ultimately have total control over (which stories to publish, what context to place them in), well, it probably sounds pretty familiar an unappealing. I think the low number of responses to this post, especially in the context of the 100+ comments of your previous post, might speak to this. (When people referred to you handing the blog over to women of color, I think they meant fully – like give the domain name away and throw away your key).

    I think I, too, will have reached my space limit by the time I finish this comment.

    In terms of the questions you pose, I think a few things need to be acknowledged. Your wig is literally from a “Studio 54” costume referencing black culture. And given the fact that it is a costume, it’s really hard to separate it from a race-based caricature, no matter how much you argue against it. White people who naturally have kinky hair should proudly wear their hair however they wish. The hairstyle belongs to whoever’s head it grows on. But I think white women who wish to change their hair to an afro are able to do so BECAUSE of the people (mostly people of color, but probably also some white people) who wore that style despite it denying them the employment and respect they deserved. Because of these people shouldering this burden, space was created for the style to become popularized in mainstream culture. (I’m not implying that people don’t still face backlash for wearing an afro. However, I think the presence of women in the media – Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill come to mind – proudly wearing afros has affected how the hairstyle is perceived. I can also say I’m outside of my area of understanding at this point, so I’m going to stop now…)

    But I may understand what you’re doing more than anyone, because I kind of did the same thing a few years ago, just without the fanfare. I was studying abroad in Ghana, West Africa and while I was there I got a “kinky weave” – basically, it was a small afro. And you know what? I really fuckin’ loved it. Except for the itchy, painful experience of actually getting the weave, there was something about the style that I just felt connected to in some way. I liked the way it looked, I liked the way it felt, and if I’m honest with myself, I liked the way people saw me when I had it.

    I’m 3/4 European and 1/4 Chinese. As a result, I look…vaguely ethnically ambiguous. My Chinese heritage means a lot to me, and I am immensely proud of my family history. But as I come to fully understand my whiteness, I find myself using this part of me as a defense (“I’m not entirely white, so white privilege doesn’t effect me in the same way”). But the fact of the matter is that, despite the slight racial diversity in my heritage, I am perceived as white and thus treated as such. I’ve reaped the benefits of that whiteness so now I have to own up to the responsibilities that come with it.

    At a time when being white for me meant feeling immense amounts of personal guilt and second- third- and fourth- guessing every single thought and action, a month-long foray into the world of increased racial ambiguity (that is, looking less white) felt like entering a temporary haven from my confusion and guilt. This may sound baffling to people of color who have lived a different reality as non-white, but that was my reality at the time.

    While I can see the differences in our experiences of politicized hair, I think the similarities are poignant. I think we both were acting on our draw to something exotic and different from our usual reality. I stood behind my temporary hair choice because it made me feel good, so I chose not to dig any deeper than that. This blog has brought up a lot of self-questioning that I didn’t let happen before, which is probably why I’ve left so many damn long comments. I don’t know what my answers are to your questions. Rather, I have another question, to you and to myself: when we change our outward appearance in a way that is racially significant (including, say, white people who lock their hair), and we choose not to question that change because it makes us feel good in some way, what is it about ourselves that we are trying to invisibilize? I think your answer to that question will unlock the reason why you started this whole thing to begin with.

    • Kelly,
      What great insight! And what a powerful closing question?!! I think it is one we can all ask ourselves. It is particularly poignant for me as a WOC who’s had to change her outward appearance to meet certain standards of beauty that is not of her own making. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

    • Kelly, Kelly, Kelly! Applause… So well stated. Now, yours would be a blog I would love to follow. And, I would gladly participate in through dialogue around these and other sensitive issues. There truly is not much more that I could add here that would advance any understanding (I don’t believe that understanding was truly the intention here.) Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I hope this moves through.

    • Thanks, everyone, for the feedback. It really means a lot. Michelle, I just want to stress that this post was not an implicit endorsement of you getting a weave, as others have suggested. I think the only high-integrity way out of this is to stop altogether. If you feel the need to keep the blog going, let it be your thoughts from the process of learning your country’s history and the systems of racism that still very much exist today. Don’t seek excuses from these comments to figure out a way to keep doing this shit.

  18. Racial discrimination has been waiting hundreds of years for a privileged, sheltered white girl to open up discussions that will end it. Thank you for finally moving the world past the time when people are judged by their skin color. What will you take on next???

  19. This is not making things better, thanks for the apology but you’re actually insulting my intelligence as a black woman when you mention being proven “Right”. Girl, you are wrong, admit it, delete your blog and move on.

  20. If you are taking this as seriously as you say you are then why not *really* do your hair in an afro, or at the very least invest in a high-quality wig – one you don’t have to costume up with ‘wacky’ accessories?

  21. “and I happen to go to parties with black people and fried chicken”…

    Have you ever watched “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, it really takes ya to the world of “good” and “bad” hair and why a lot of black woman have very sensitive issues with it, and/or how light or dark her color of her skin is, or the size of their nose… I bet you can relate a bit with it since Jewish people like to go to the plastic surgeon very often to get ride of their natural noses… maybe a black lady should start writing a blog wearing a prostetic “jew” nose and take it to parties with “jewish people and matzo balls” and take pictures of her wearing her new “jew” nose having a blast with her new jew friends. And put tons of pictures of how cool her “jew” nose is. You understand it doesn’t do a lot of deep dialogue into being a jew, right? It’s more like people will get offended, she will probably get a letter from somebody at the JDL, and a lot of people will call her silly, to name the least.

    • Well, your comment made me laugh, but I think all she’s saying that she thinks afros are cool. i don’t think she’s trying to mock anyone. And I think that this statement is actually way more offensive than anything I’ve heard/seen her do or say.

  22. It’s isn’t about race in a sense. As black women in America we are brainwashed and bred to believe that the hair growing from our heads in its natural state is unacceptable. Now wearing the Afro during Halloween is fine it’s a day of dressing up and having fun but doing everyday is highly irritating. When you go home at night you can take the Afro off as with me I can’t. Yes you are free to wear whatever you please but the history and discrimination against our hair is what you aren’t understanding. Yes Marc Jacobs used them in his fashion show he can do what he wants we can’t stop what he does what’s so ever and it wasn’t worn everyday all about town especially to fried chicken places. That’s like you dressing as a mammie and saying I’m getting in tune with my motherly side. There are other ways to do that just like there are other ways to find yourself instead of obtaining an identity which does not belong to you. The Afro doesn’t enlighten you it’s the person wearing it who can walk around without an issue the white woman. In the words of the great Paul mooney. ” everybody wants to be a nigga but nobody wants to be a nigga”

  23. Pingback: Before And Afro

  24. Ugh, here’s the thing. You didn’t publish my last comment, and I doubt you’ll publish this one, but you said you read them all. So I guess it’s worth a shot.

    A little background: I am white, 31, a single parent, and (finally) a college student. The last few years I’ve been actively trying to interrogate my ingrained cultural beliefs, examine my privilege, and unpack all the things that existing in America stores in my head.

    Like you claim to above, I embrace all of my sisters. I embrace my sisters of every color. I embrace my sisters who were born with male genitalia. Like you, I believe that an afro is beautiful. I believe the glorious spectrum of skin colors in the world are gorgeous. I do not fault in any way your seeming appreciation for the beauty and value of the afro.

    However–and it’s a big however–to put on an afro as a white woman, especially with your stated ignorance about the implications of doing so, and without any sensitivity for the massive amount of pressure exerted on black women in our country to hide their natural hair texture and conform to a more acceptably caucasian appearance, you are reducing an element of culture to a “cool” or “exotic” fashion accessory, and that is problematic. It is problematic because when you wear it, it’s a costume. If it is a statement, it is a statement about your ability as a white woman to make yourself less conventionally attractive. For a woman of African heritage to wear an afro, it is a statement that she is refusing to be dictated to about the acceptability of her natural physical appearance by a racist, dominant, unapologetic culture. What you are not doing is saying anything about how it is OKAY TO BE BLACK IN AMERICA. I hope you can see the difference there, I really do.

    What you are doing is called fetishizing. You are, from a position of privilege, appropriating an aesthetic element of another culture, taking it completely out of its historical and cultural context, and projecting your own mythology onto it. It makes you “feel good” to wear the wig. But as you’ve said so often, you also enjoy the ability to take it off whenever you feel like it. And the fact that you have referenced that shows that, somewhere inside you, you understand that there is an unconscious belief in our culture that an afro “should” be taken off.

    In other words: the afro is not just another hairstyle. It’s not like a pony tail or a french braid. It’s not the difference between an up-do or wearing your hair down. It’s not the choice of straightening your blonde hair or putting it in rollers to give it waves. It is the natural texture of a race of people(s) who have been forcibly assimilated and oppressed for centuries. It is an element of identity that is stigmatized and rejected in this culture. With it comes other associations: black women’s hair does not respond the same to water as white women, so there is a stigma of “dirtiness” associated with it, since white people tend to wash their hair at least every other day, but usually daily; it is often treated with oils, which white women consider to be “greasy”; and it grows in a way that white women and the beauty industry refer to as “frizz”, which you will find approximately five thousand products to eliminate, it is so undesirable. When you slap on an afro wig, no one looks at you and thinks you are dirty or greasy or oily and probably don’t shower.

    It comes down, again, to one word: costume. Please investigate the wonderful work being done these days by activists to combat white appropriation of cultural elements as costume.

    • Alright, I see that you were trying to help the blog creator to realize a way in which she may have erred and I’ll give you that. However, your choice of words are very peculiar to me. For one, I was unaware that there was a stigma of “dirtiness” attached to Afros. Also didn’t know that white women become “less attractive” by donning said hairstyle. And lastly, your comment that “when you slap on an Afro wig, no one looks at you and thinks you are dirty or greasy or oily and probably don’t shower”….wow, I have no words. In trying to enlighten someone else who has offended a lot of people, you have overtly, not sure if this was intentional or not, said some very offensive statements. I think it may be beneficial for you to read over Kelly’s above comment and compare her approach to your own.

      • I agree with you. Mandi, you probably thought you were helping but the only thing you were doing was showing your own prejudice.

        Truth is a lot of white women or even other women of color who do not understand black women, black culture and black hair think of us in that way. I remember when I went to college my freshman year I was the ONLY natural woman on campus at the time.

        I had to educate my black friends as well as answer ignorant questions from everyone else. When I use the word ignorant there is no anger or malice but I use it in it’s truest form. Through my discussions I learned that I was viewed as the lowest. The fact that my other black friends with permed/relaxed hair could wash their hair once a week was okay but because mine didn’t need to wash that often – instead it could be washed once every two weeks or I could go even longer without a wash – made me even dirtier than my black peers.

        Thankfully these views were expressed like a child saying matter of factly that the sky is blue. I write thankfully because it allowed me to understand no matter how much you explain and they claim to ‘get it’ they won’t. You will still be a greasy, dirty, frizzy black girl to them. And Just as you so happily tried to educate this white “naive” (I’m still not sure about that) woman, the few white women who claim to ‘get it’ often mess up when trying to educate their counterparts.

        I don’t judge white women for washing their hair every day. If anything I’m happy I don’t have to because that would be a chore. I feel sorry for the person who sees my own glorious afro and thinks dirty or greasy or even one you didn’t mention, but I’m sure is buried in your subconscious, smelly. The process for my hair is different from yours and the most I can do is respect that difference. Because I run a natural hair/lifestyle blog on Facebook I am educated somewhat in the process of taking care of white hair just in case someone needs to ask a question but I do not feel the need to 1) educate other white women on how to take care of their hair when I have not one strand of ‘white women hair’ growing out of my head. I’m not down with your ‘struggle’ 2) I have no need to judge the process of taking care of your hair nor do I need to share the non judgement

        Thank you for showing that no matter how far we feel we have come – the natural movement is growing and for me it is not a trend but rather MY lifestyle – underneath it all we are still the lowest of the low to ‘your kind’. But frankly, I don’t want to be high up. Not if I sound like that.

        Ladies if you are natural or even interested in being natural you can visit my blog at http://www.facebook.com/naturalisme

    • “If it is a statement, it is a statement about your ability as a white woman to make yourself less conventionally attractive.”

      “But as you’ve said so often, you also enjoy the ability to take it off whenever you feel like it. And the fact that you have referenced that shows that, somewhere inside you, you understand that there is an unconscious belief in our culture that an afro “should” be taken off.”

      “With it comes other associations: black women’s hair does not respond the same to water as white women, so there is a stigma of “dirtiness” associated with it, since white people tend to wash their hair at least every other day, but usually daily; it is often treated with oils, which white women consider to be “greasy”; and it grows in a way that white women and the beauty industry refer to as “frizz”, which you will find approximately five thousand products to eliminate, it is so undesirable.”

      Thank you for this. I’m a 23 year old black woman who wears her hair in it’s naturally curly state, and these three statements were so honest and true that they hurt. I agree that these are the exact reasons that this blog is so harmful. I would like to add that nearly all of the pictures that she has taken while wearing this wig are offensive: the “gangster” pose when she first put the afro on; every last picture in which she poses seductively while wearing the wig; and all of the pictures that she has taken with and of black people who “approve” of her antics. It’s so condescending.

      While I think that people should be able to wear their hair however they want, I can’t approve of someone using one of my physical traits as an accessory through which she can let her “crazy, misunderstood personality” shine through. If she really wants to wear an afro wig, she should be: a. wearing it without so much fan fair and without using it as a means to get attention; b. wearing it while acting like a NORMAL PERSON (not while doing crazy poses or attending “black” events); c. not seeking out black people as sources of affirmation, guilt-removal, and “exotic” photo subjects; and d. not ignoring people when they say that they are hurt by her actions.

      Honestly, when I first heard about this blog, I thought, “She’s probably incredibly naive and ignorant about the ramifications of what she’s doing.” Now, I don’t believe that; Michelle completely understands that she is hurting and offending many, many people, AND SHE JUST DOESN’T CARE. It’s her life and she can do whatever she pleases. For her sake, though, I hope she eventually decides to start caring about other people, and maybe, just maybe, she will consider that degrading an entire ethnic group isn’t worth her personal enjoyment.

  25. I don’t know what’s more disappointing: the fact that you tried to prove a point about cultural differences by wearing a costume shop afro, or that you went to stereotypical “black events” in order to teach others about cultural issues. It is deeply offensive to me that you think wearing a big afro and taking as many pictures as you can with black people somehow makes you more enlightened about racial issues than other people are. Do you think that for a second you experienced anything close to what black women have to deal with in this country? Your back must be raw and sore from all of the self congratulatory back pats you’ve given yourself in your posts.

    “I believe everyone should push past their comfort zone and try it – for their own mental and emotional growth. Vulnerability is sexy.”

    The vulnerability I experience as a black woman living in a prejudiced world isn’t sexy, or cool, or fun. It’s very real, and the fact that you think you somehow understood that by parading around in a fake fro is disgusting.

    “There was only ONE proper way to transport the afro: on my head. The moment I walked outside with it, I felt different. Magic fairy dust fell from the sky. I was instantly cooler. The world looked slightly more fun. People looked at me like I was more fun. They glanced with curious eyes; eyes that squinted with smiling nods of approval. I was grooving (more than usual) as I walked down St. Marks Place. My shoulders and arms felt smaller and skinnier, making my collar bone seem to jut more. (Random, but a plus.) My cartoon-like shadow bounced as I cocked my head back and forth ever so slightly.

    I could already tell… this afro was going to be more than just a one night stand. #AHA54 was about to be the party that never ended.”

    If you’re even trying to pretend that this blog was about raising awareness of racial issues, and not about drawing attention to yourself, you have A LOT of growing up to do.

  26. This brings a Regina George / Mean Girls quote to mind: “Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!”

    Michelle, stop trying to make afro happen.

    Especially not after dozens (hundreds? more?) of women have told you that a) that you offended them by putting on a “black” costume wig and striking poses and wearing accessories Lady Miss Kier threw out, all the while claiming that you were gaining “understanding” and “experience” of what it means to have an afro; b) that being “brash” and “misunderstood” is not the same thing as being an insensitive jerk, so quit THAT spin; and c) that the only way to redeem the situation is to just. stop. the. train. wreck.

    If you actually gave a rat’s ass what anyone objecting to you thought, or if you actually conceived of how offensive your behavior is, or if you really wanted to change the world around you and learn a lesson, you would LEARN IT, and cease trying to inject meaning into an attention-grabbing stunt.

    And finally: if you’re doing everything you’re doing for an article or a book contract, then not only are you insensitive and halfway-wicked, you’re mercenary.

  27. I hope am I wrong but it seems as though you are not trying to fully understand why people see an issue with what you are doing or maybe you just don’t get it. Also, is it possible that you are doing this for attention? If that isn’t the case then can you PLEASE give a straight forward reason as to why you are doing this because it is very difficult to understand your so called explanation at this point. I am not a person that is easily offended at all and what you are doing did not change that. I am just very curious but mostly confused about your actions. I am not here to pass judgement because only you know your intentions but please help us understand where you are coming from?

  28. Michelle,

    I commend you for attempting to address the sticky situation that is race-relations in this country. It’s a fucked up situation, and it’s lovely that you are trying to talk about something that is not talked about a lot. Many people here have addressed ways in which you may have been misguided, wrong, or leave room for improvement in this. I don’t have much to add here.

    What I would add, however, is that while you address one inequality you leave others in the dust. Being black is not just about having different hair. It is also about hundred of years of oppression and inequality that STILL CONTINUE TODAY. History, in this case, is not over. You talk for some bits about how Jewish history is similar fraught with its share of shit. Few would disagree with you here.

    But something you may have to come to terms with is not only your white privilege… it is also your (what I am assuming to be) upper-middle class privilege. You have so many opportunities afforded to you because you could afford to go to college to get that job in this industry, you can afford that retro Chanel bag, you can afford to run around hipsterdom with your quirky and adorable outfits and personality, you have the time and money to run this project of self-discovery.

    But social change will not come from you starting this forum to talk about hair. As a white girl of privilege, you can be an ally (as well you should) but you cannot be a means to an end. You cannot give voice to others, try instead to sit back and listen.

    If you want a great example of a white privileged ally, check out Aaron Huey’s TED talk on his work in Pine Ridge, So. Dakota. He is a photographer who, I believe, spent seven years on the Lakota Indian reservation LISTENING to their stories. http://www.ted.com/talks/aaron_huey.html

    There is a way to address privilege in a more sensitive manner.

    Good luck with everything!

  29. You are missing the point. It is not about who can and can’t wear an afro. You put on costume hair, a huge sloppy afro wig sometimes with a big scarf wrapped around the middle of it, and walked around thinking that you were having some sort of enlightenment. If you’re truly trying to see what it’s like to wear a fro then get something realistic for a white woman.

  30. Btw…there are tons and tons of blogs, tumblrs, photo albums, forums, youtube channels, facebook pages, etc dedicated to what we experience when going natural and staying natural. Before trying to foster a discussion here you might want to take some time to visit them.

    • This was literally my comment so I’ll just cosign — Michelle, your request that I teach you about the Black hair experience is laughable. If you really wanted to learn anything beyond your current knowledge base you would have. It’s pretty simple – a quick Google search.

  31. You wearing an Afro is not the issue. Someone wearing an Afro just because they like the hairstyle is great (in fact, this is a small movement in Tokyo). The issue, however, is that you see this as a window to peer into the Black Experience and/or Black culture.That’s ignorant. Ignorance has nothing to do with being privileged, so don’t blame it on the money. If anything, being privileged brings more opportunity to be cultured through travel. Ignorance is a personal decision that a person chooses. If you want an insight into Black culture there are FAR more truly enlightening ways to do so. This Afro “experience” of yours is nothing more than superficial, with a little bit of creative writing on the surface.

  32. I think you should do some reading on the history of minstrelsy because I think that’s what you are performing here. Let me recommend Eric Lott’s “Love and Theft.”

  33. Please stop. This whole process, including apologizing and stopping, will be much more powerful for the personal growth you say you’re seeking.

    Do your own research! I am a mental health counselor. I am also a person of color. I had a whole course on counseling people of color. Most of my classmates were white. One of the main teachings in this course was that when white counselors work with people of color they should never expect POCs to teach them about their race or racism. It is the responsibility of the white counselor, with their unearned privilege, to teach themselves through reading and research. Asking POC to do it for them, to “educate” them, was simply reinforcing the racial hierarchy and power dynamic. It’s hurtful, to the point in counseling where it’s unethical and damaging to clients. When you ask POCs to help you to learn, “oh, it’ll be so fun!”, it’s so patronizing, and just pulling another power trip that your white privilege allows you to do.

    Please just stop. If it feels good to get all this attention, please get psychotherapy. There are much healthier ways to get attention and the love we all seek. Or maybe you have narcissistic personality disorder. If that’s the case, then nothing anyone says on here will stop you, and you’re basically a sociopath. If not, just know that this is the wrong way to get attention and you will regret it for the rest of your life. You’re getting closer to the point of no return, here, with each day that goes by and each non-apology you blunder through. Just apologize. And stop.

    Check out this easy book for more on your unexamined white privilege: http://www.amazon.com/Privilege-Power-Difference-Allan-Johnson/dp/0072874899

  34. This seems like a fashion experiment that you’re trying to justify with intellectual posturing that carries little water. Ending it with a Louis Vuitton runway shot pretty much sums it up.

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  36. You almost had me, Michelle. You started out well in this post, but quickly bombed again. You don’t want to win. You just want to look good losing.

    You get it. You’re no longer ignorant. But you want to make this about you. You want to be famous, by any means necessary. As hard as you’re working at it, I don’t see you coming out on top with this. My suggestion to you: Turn your Manifest Destiny ALL the way DOWN and return to your little socialite life in which you believe the world would be a better place if “we all could get a massage and everybody had an iPhone.”

  37. I love that this woman is having some sort of spiritual afro journey but her message is essentially, “fuck everyone who doesn’t ‘get’ me! this is MY journey!” Someone who is concerned for others does not possess that mentality. But it is heartening to see all of the people who are repulsed by this woman who are, much more eloquently than me, breaking down the trouble with her “project” (even if she doesn’t possess the empathetic capacity to understand what people are saying).

  38. today was my first and last introduction to your “experiment” (or whatever you’re calling it) and frankly, I must agree with many of the intelligent comments left for you to ‘approve’ – you are harshly ignorant and despite being told so, you have failed at actually being enlightened by the struggles of everyday WOC.

    your wig; whether blond or black, doesn’t automatically give you insight to the plight of African-American women. to be frank, nothing in this world, outside of being born an African-American woman, can give you that. WOC have struggled with their standard of beauty for years that date back to before you were born. as I’m sure many women before me have explained, this is not something for you to turn into a comical joke among your privileged social circle. also, simply because you can refer to your “black friends” who find this ‘social experiment’ to be acceptable, does not mean that it is NOT culturally insensitive. furthermore, if your so-called “black friends” had any type of dignity in their own heritage, they wouldn’t allow their “friend” to publicly mock their culture in such a disrespectful and insensitive manner. much like how you would stop a friend from making a bad fashion choice, your friends need to sit you down in front of a bonfire and collectively burn your wigs, while passing you some literature about African American history and standard of beauty – all of which are readily accessible via Google these days.

    your baffoonish ways, I am assuming, have not given you the attention in which you seek. clearly, your antics are to seek some attention from WOC, no? it is clear that you were hoping WOC would come here and open up about their struggles and strife that come along with being a WOC yet, your forum for this has turned into a selfish display of ignorance on YOUR part. like i said before, you seem to have all the necessary information to change your outlook and be more respective of the African-American culture and yet, you choose not to. that is the exact reason why you’re not getting the attention that you were seeking.

    you are a fool and fortunately for you, a lot of the research that you SHOULD have done, is right here in your comment section – you don’t even have to go far. clearly, the library (or even Google) were too complicated for you to use. maybe you’ll take heed to what some people are saying and tone down your blatant ignorance (I really don’t know what else to call it) or maybe you won’t. just remember, you can’t hide behind your “privileged” upbringing because the resources are out there and many people have spoken in detail (via your comment section). while you’re parading around in your wigs, eating friend chicken, and touching random WOC’s hair and skin remember that we are humans too! we hurt, we bleed, we cry, and we have every right to call you on your bullshit; it’s call the First Amendment. while you’re enjoying the food in Brooklyn or sight-seeing in Harlem with your wigs and “ethnic clothing”, don’t be surprised if you’re disrespected verbally by WOC considering you’re blatant act of disrespect that you choose to wear (clothing included). at that point, you cannot hide behind a keyboard and/or an iPhone. peace be with you.

  39. Oh my glob, just shut up already. You are such a fraud, it’s honestly painful to watch you try so hard! You knew exactly what you were doing when you bought that cheap acrylic wig. You knew what you wanted and you knew how to get it. You’re just a shiny new meme. Causing controversy in hope of gaining fame and then feigning ignorance when you got exaclty.what.you.wanted. Thousands of hits, articles and whatnot. When’s your first television appearance scheduled?

    You knew this would work too. You had that built in fail-safe… I’m a Jew, I can’t be racist! Witch, please. Your jewishness is as authentic as the fro, you put it on as soon as you need it. You knew you couldn’t get away with this bs if you were just an ordinary white girl. No, then you wouldn’t have an out. You wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if the ish hit the fan. Never forget, amiright? You’ll always be able to say that you understand what it’s like to be discriminated against and that your people suffered too.

    Enjoy your 15 minutes and then go choke on a piece of fried chicken and fade away like every other contrived piece of garbage that came before you. May you enjoy the company of Samantha Brick, Tiger Mom and Balloon Boy.

  40. For a moment, I thought you had finally seen the problematic aspects of your actions. But this post could be boiled down to the usual fauxpologies with a dash of fetishism/exoticism/”Your black struggle ~intrigues~ me.” I am disgusted.

  41. Being a light skin Black woman, I truly do commend you for even wanting to learn anything about something in which you do or did not understand. I have had this very conversation on either a weekly or bi weekly bases because it comes up too many times. With this huge movement of Black women wearing their natural hair, it is frowned upon when some of us decide not to go with the trend. Yes, I know surprising isn’t it. I have partaken in numerous discussions about Black women- loving the creamy crack, wearing weaves and natural hair. One discussion was so intense and heated it went on and on. The sad part about it is that men fell that if you a Black woman relaxed your hair or wore a weave that you have self esteem issues or wanting to conform to European society. I was shocked and appalled by the comments and statements.

    Long story very short, those who feel that they are justified are not. Those who feel that they can condone that they are right and you are wrong, need to take a great long look in the mirror. If we truly want to live in peace and harmony, than it is high time that we began to truly learn, teach and most importantly educate each other on our differences.

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