The Backstory

What is an afro? In the context of this blog, it is the ::magic:: that follows any “before.” It’s the discovery of something new about the world, or better yet, about yourself.  An “afro”—be it a new lipstick or a new career—changes your perspective. It makes you think, walk, see and experience life differently.

There’s before. And then there’s afro.

I must mention here, the afro also happens to be an extremely important historical landmark. It’s a hairstyle rooted spiritually deep in black culture, symbolizing a renewed sense of identity after the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties. The afro became a powerful political symbol for black pride, redefining personal style and making a stand for total integration, all in one. It became a booming pop-culture icon into the seventies thanks to legends like Billy Preston, Angela Davis, Jimi Hendrix and Diana Ross.

The afro is also a hairstyle that I’ve recently rendered part of my personal style repertoire. I originally got my fro for a Studio 54-themed costume party, and let’s just say the party has not ended. The afro changed my perspective; it made me think, walk, see and experience life differently. I wear it often. It’s not about feeling black… what I actually feel like is ME, understood more clearly. It’s not an alter ego. It’s an amplified ego.

After a summer racking my soul over what kind of blog to start, the afro was the catalyst. The catalyst to begin sharing this strange and wild journey of self-discovery. (Among other discoveries, so I have learned.) There was before, and now, this blog: the afro.

Fro-ever yours,

Xx Michelle Joni
@michellejoni

97 thoughts on “The Backstory

      • Nope. You’re horribly offensive to the point that I feel literal pain in the pit of my stomach. And that is not better than frozen yogurt on any day.

    • Post some pictures of you wearing the afro to work and a consistent basis in your work clothes, then I can take you seriously and feel this is not a gimmick. If you refuse to wear it to work think about why, I would be interested to see your reasons. If its just a wig….

  1. You do realize that using a facsimile of what actually grows out of non Caucasian heads as a prop/metaphor in your little self discovery mission is pretty much the definition of white privilege and appropriation, correct?

    Consider the political and social implications there are for women of color who choose to stop weaving or relaxing and wear their hair naturally, vs you using a mockery wig as a self help prop you can drop and reassume at will.

    Just a wee touch ignorant.

    • Hi Paige, thanks for leaving your thoughts here. Some of my Black friends have indeed made the point that I can drop and reassume at will, and this can indeed be seen as White privilege. But, it is all how you look at it – I don’t have the option of having a real afro, so where does that leave me? The word “mockery” is something that doesn’t sit well with me at all – I am not taking on any characteristics outside of my own. If anything I am paying reverence to the hairstyle and the women and men who wear it naturally.

      • No, you can’t grow an afro naturally. The fact that you think every culturally specific style touch point needs to be accessible/available to you to use at will is entitled, and again a privilege issue.

      • So your black friends have told you that this is an unquestioned display of white privilege, and you basically still don’t care. You’re a great friend. And a great human being.

      • Nope. It isn’t how you look at it. It’s hurtful and offensive and your white privilege doesn’t allow you to see it. After people, black people, have explained to you so many times how blatantly disrespectful your actions are, I can only assume you are quite possibly mentally ill.

      • I don’t have the option of having a real afro

        Try getting one that’s a little more realistic, for starters.

        If anything I am paying reverence to the hairstyle and the women and men who wear it naturally.

        …no.

        Signed,
        A sista whose Afro you would LOVE to have

    • WHITE PEOPLE GROW AFRO’S NATURALLY!!! Every race, culture gender, nationality has individuals with natural afro’s. It is not just a black person’s hair dilemma. Go immerse yourself in other cultures and stop living a closed life.

    • Right on Paige.

      Although, are hyphens too post-colonial passé these days? What’s in season for marking personae non gratae?

    • It never ceases to amaze me how touchy and politically correct people are in this world. What is the actual use of getting offended over anything on earth? Things that others say or do? You can LET others offend you, that’s the power you have. Will you let this roll of your back, or will YOU ALLOW it to be offensive to you? You have the ultimate CHOICE in whether or not to ALLOW something someone has said or done affect you. Enlighten thine Self, and embody that power! By being offended and angry, you’re giving your personal power away. Let others be, say and do what they want, with no judgement. Don’t pass on negativity. You don’t like it? then turn away.

    • i’m with you. it’s like she’s carrying around a security blanket or magic talisman to give her what she thinks she lacks, meanwhile disrespecting real people it reminds me of when richie’s try to be cool and hang out with regular folk. i think it’s because our music, art and dancing have feeling to it. it’s like they want grit and carefree attitude for a little vacation, but they don’t want what made us this way. all we have is bright colors, hugs, and music, maybe some good food and a little booze, and they want to take it without giving anything in return. reminds me of the pulp song common people.

  2. Personally, I have no issue with the journey you are undertaking. Especially if it affords new insight. However I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a way to fashion your own hair into an Afro. Im sure someone can help in that department. By not using the artifice perhaps it would enhance your journey and you can better understand the experience you are seeking.

      • The fact that you see this as “fun” really means that you do not get it.

        However, if you decide to truly do this as a sociological experiment as a opposed to a fun costume, Japanese afro perms do exist.

        I’d be interested in knowing what your experiences with the hairstyle would be outside of fried chicken festivals or in places where it wouldn’t be deemed “unprofessional”.

        In short, I’d like to know what your experiences would be if you couldn’t take the hairstyle off, whenever you felt like it or only apply it to “fun” stereotypical applications.

        You could even write a book about it, if you decide to take it seriously.

        As a blond, you do know how sickening it would be to say, dye my hair blond and then proceed to be as slutty and dumb as possible, and then proclaim it a statement of “reverence” for the hairstyle.

        I notice that in your write-up about the afro, that you neglected to mention biggest thing about the afro hairstyle, specifically for black Americans, and that is coming to accept, what society had deemed gross, ugly, and unacceptable, just by virtue of it’s association with blackness.

        I hope you grow beyond the offensive douche-baggery you’ve exhibited here.

    • I heard your interview on Sacramento’s NPR(Mon. Nov. 31). While I find your experiment in sociology interesting and provocative – in particular, the ethnic aspect, I must admit that I find your “Afro Wig” mildly offensive. I voice my opinion as a suggestion hoping perhaps to limit any animosity and disdain directed at your experiment.

      I find myself slightly offended as you’re able to easily disassociate yourself from the ethnic disparities that African Americans face. While commending your creative lure, that too is what I find offensive. Being Caucasian and using an iconic ethnic hair style by means of a wig for the purpose of selfless promotion is agitating and offensive.

      As you stated your love of the Afro hair style upon NPR’s “Morning Edition”, then why don’t you use your own hair? I suppose this is what I find most disagreeable: Your half hearted “love” of the Afro by using a wig is a blatant and obvious self interested means of shameless self promotion to attract an audience. This comes at the cost of “poking fun” at an ethnic group. Your sincerity would only be validated by actually growing out your hair and styling it as an Afro. Otherwise, your site appears as a shameless and selfish plug.

      This is only my opinion and I intend no harm. Good luck and thank you for bringing this somewhat “taboo” subject to the main stream. I commend your creative alluring tactic, but hope that you will “walk in another’s shoes” by diving in and using your natural hair to wear an Afro.

  3. you are costuming yourself in blackness. look at your attire when you wear the fro. it’s a caricature.

    maybe if you wore the fro with your regular attire– you know, the way most black people wear their hair and aren’t in costumes– i’d be less critical.

    you dress up in blackness to have fun, to have people look at you and give you attention. then you take off your blackness to go back to benefiting from your white privilege.

    being black is not about dressing in flamboyant colors and dancing.

    you are a minstrel show.

    • Hey Tornado, the truth is (and you can ask anyone who knows me!) I dress like this normally. I’m a flamboyant, dancing showcase of colors and styles, afro or not. My outfits run the gamut – there is no formula, but it’s all I actually find I have to dress simpler and less colorfully when I’m wearing the afro, because it’s such a statement. If something’s too bulky, it’ll throw off the proportions. Trust me, the only caricature here is of me!

      • So an afro, the way my hair grows NATURALLY out of my head, is SO flamboyant, in your opinion, that I need to wear simple outfits and less colors when I “wear” it. You have to be kidding me. This blog isn’t real… I refuse.

  4. THIS IS HORRIBLE BULLSHIT FROM A SPOILED WHITE GIRL THAT DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK SHE IS DOING. THIS HAS TO BE A FUCKING JOKE

  5. Please give us an example of the “change” you are experiencing. How has your world-view differed from before? Not just how people respond to YOU differently…what exactly have you learned/ are you learning about yourself?

  6. I see what you’re trying to do, but actually, it just looks really racist. Like if I went and got something reversible…I don’t know, if I got my butt deflated and wrote a blog about how much freer I feel when the limitations of my own physical body are gone, I feel like white people might just be a tad offended.

    Or maybe if I got a lip reduction, and talked about how much harder it is to make out with guys, so I understand the “struggle,” white people might get a little miffed.

    Or if, say, white people had anything to culturally appropriate, and I wore it because “like, it’s cool looking, and different” that might be deemed a bit insensitive.

    That said, wearing your afro wig to a fried chicken festival….is racist.

  7. Your replies to these comments are testimonials to how ignorant and insensitive you are. “Trust me, the only caricature here is of me!” says the privileged white girl in an afro and daishiki going to a fried chicken festival. You are fucking horrible. HORRIBLE. Jesus Christ it’s almost comical how much you suck

  8. Can you please get a deep dark spray- on tan to accompany the fro and then get back to us on your enlightenment. I’m sure we’d love to hear about it. I most want to hear about the passive aggression you will experience being seen as “black.” Step it up a notch – don’t just settle for afro, go blacker.

  9. I agree with Paige. You are the very picture of ignorant, blatant white privilege. And honestly the fact that you haven’t given it up after so many people have told you so doesn’t make you “free spirited.” It doesn’t make you “kooky.” It doesn’t make you an “enlightened soul searcher.” It just makes you a huge, white, obnoxious asshole. The comment you left on her post also shows this. “Black friends.” I’m surprised you have any, to be honest, considering the insanely ignorant white bitch you are.

  10. i keep trying to figure out a way to actually affect you with my point – you’re making fun of me and it deeply hurts my feelings on a couple of different levels – but i’m fully at a loss. i can’t be sure, but i feel like you’re probably just having way too good a time doing it to listen to its impact.

    have you gotten any negative reaction or comment in person while you’re out experimenting with my life? if so, what does that look and feel like?

  11. Lord. Every time you put that wig on you are diminishing the value of a CULTURE. My culture is not some wig that you can put on to experience “change.” You put this wig on and it doesn’t make you some better person in some weird spiritual way, I mean look at what you are wearing. The stereotypical 90’s black person attire. Anyway real, tangible change happens from the inside, and no matter how much you change the outside “appearance”. Unless your change was into a racist? Then perfect!

  12. even still today, not that many black women choose to wear out their natural hair because they want blond locks like you and here you are taking it off and putting it whenever you please. its always been more than just hair in the black community. since slavery days, we were told to hate our hair. wool-headed niggers, nappy-headed hoes. mothers of little black girls are relaxing their young daughters’ hair with dangerous chemicals to conform to them white beauty standards. (http://worldofbraiding.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/10-tips-to-grow-back-healthy-natural-hairline/) just about every little black girl dreams of having long silky straight hair because you know what? our hair is still barely represented anywhere and if it is, it’s almost always seen a political statement. they don’t see that dreads or a fro can look as beautiful a a 16″ yaki weave. for jobs we worry that we have to tame it to make it look “presentable” because kinky hair is still seen as dirty, unkept, and unruly by many. our hair can get unmanageable and dry as fuck. we can’t pass a comb through it without it being wet first and look up fairy knots. not so glamorous now, huh? we shame each other about our hair. if there is the slightest onset of new growth, we are told that we should “get our hair done” aka relax it. this is black face and a fucking mockery and an insult. and just because some other white-sipping black people commenting on this don’t see it as one, doesn’t mean its not offensive. your natural hair is still the most desired and sought after by pretty much most societies. check yourself dumb ass white bitch.

    consider yourself just as bad as these guys: http://italkfrank.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/894849-wallabies-fans-wearing-blackface-paint.jpg?w=500

  13. This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. This shouldn’t be a “oh, I’m learning about myself and discovering, and subsequently I’m able to easily portray this to people.” If you understood anything about being a minority: Firstly, you’re profiled for your appearance and don’t portray what you want to other people at all. Secondly, you are deterred in discovering yourself because you are bound to the image white society pushes onto you. Lastly, nobody learns about themselves from a pure coincidence of birth.
    Go read a book on how American Jews have become white and white privileged, and a book on white privilege too. Oh and, saying “but I have black friends” doesn’t make you any less offensive or racist. Stop defending yourself and listen for once. Listen to the community you’re attempting to take from.

    P.S. “but I always dress cooky, it’s not a costume!”… NO. Look at what you’re wearing in the first picture and second. One is a costume, and the other is your “classy” little image.

  14. While I commend you for seeking a better “you” the journey you are taking does seem to intersect with the offensive stereotyping of a culture…..even if done in fun and through seeking positive life experience. It’s akin to black face which at times were seen as fun and humorous, even acceptable to many as a way for a white person to represent a black person….just look at Whoopie Goldberg and Ted Danson’s routine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RiHfEtOy6A. The way Ted represents his voice as being less intelligent, a callous disrespect for men of color and hiding under the umbrella of his black girlfriend who is widely popular at the time. I just hope that in portraying your “character” you do so with the legitimacy and respect of the people who ‘naturally’ wear those clothes and hair, and also that you do not ‘dumb’ yourself down to do so. While what you do is your business, by bringing it to the public forum, you leave it open to the interpretation of others.

    2 final questions, more for you to observe in your own actions, than for a response:

    Have you asked your black friends if what you are doing offends them (or noticed any of them distance themselves from you while you are in character) in a serious conversation?

    Do you act in a different way when you are around your black friends (or a black stranger) vs. friends (or strangers) who are not black?

  15. I am a young bi-racial woman. I would just like you to know that you have deeply offended me, my father, older sister, grandparents, as well as aunts. This is extremely offensive and I am going to make it a point to not only have my family let their friends and loved ones know about your sick presentation of privilege- but being a MAC artist i am going to make sure to tell my clients, co-workers and my region about how hurtful and sick your project here is- maybe that way other people can start standing up against disgusting and selfish displays of appropriation.
    Shame on you.

  16. I don’t get it…
    I see you’re honestly trying to express yourself and enjoy your life, but I just don’t understand the methodology behind it.
    To comment on your afro historical section, fros are just how African/Black hair grows so it’s existence obviously predates the Western History of African Americans. It became a statement during those decades in the 1990s because it was seen as a more individual human stance to take pride in how we naturally are in a country that was anti Black.
    “My ultimate goal here is to help people all over the world look deeper within themselves so they can master their consciousness and fall madly in love with every detail of their lives. I may have a contorted way of getting there”
    How is the Black Afro apart of your life? I saw the post about the Jewfro from your father’s side of the family, but those tend to look and have a different significance than that of African peoples.
    I don’t want to come at you like I’m mad, I’m really just confused. I want you to see how this is kind of silly and inappropriate at times (Fro’d Chicken for example).

  17. How about this? How about you not try to slip on my skin and hair for some ridiculously privileged “enlightenment journey”? You make me sick. This whole shebang encapsulates so many stereotypes: the Angry Black Woman, the Magical Negro, Black woman as druggie, etc.

    News flash: you’re not doing Af-Af women any favors. Your little masquerade isn’t a gift to us, either. Your privilege and ignorance are simply confounding, and I hope that people pass on this site so that you get the education you so thoroughly deserve.

  18. Black women as a whole can’t agree on what’s acceptable and unacceptable, so you’re going to get mixed reviews. I can’t even judge you for what you’re doing because this is comical to me and you are nowhere near being the first white person to mimic blacks in a comical fashion.

    My only concern is your intention. To reach some heightened level of consciousness via my culture’s hairstyle is ridiculous. The idea of you (or anyone, for that matter) having an alter ego is ridiculous. I understand that everyone’s minds work differently, but you’ll eventually have to learn how to be a greater you w/o wearing a silly wig.

    I have to ask: people are shouting “white privilege” at you left and right. Do you understand what that means?

  19. What you wish you were:

    What you actually are:

    Your cheap wig and imitation dashikis are neither an homage to nor a mark of appreciation for what you identify as an “Other” culture, and they are most certainly not a symbol of your enlightenment. You are just a ridiculous White female playing dress-up in the costume pieces you associate with American Blackness, which is nothing more than a sign that your concept of “Blackness” is narrow and flawed and stereotypical. What you are doing requires no courage, no conviction, and no commitment, which is greatly evidenced by the defensive excuses you make for your ill-conceived behaviour (that you’re flamboyant, adventurous, different, etc.).

    I believe your problem is that you actually have no idea who you are, and utterly no ability to develop an identity of your own. This year, it’s the afro and a dashiki; next year, you’ll be strutting around in a furisode and white greasepaint. Because you have confused the imitation of elements with sincerity of admiration. And because, in all likelihood, you feel cheated of an inherent relevance, an intrinsic meaning, by having been born merely a White Woman.

    That latter issue would actually be far more interesting to explore. Coping with being privileged and elevated when you long to be oppressed and marginalized, endlessly yearning for a struggle to give your life meaning.

  20. Historically, the black community has to cope daily with society’s messages that “good” hair is sleek, straight, shiny – in short, white person’s hair. The afro was historically a rejection of these messages and an expression of black identity, an identity marked with a history of oppression and racial violence.

    You, however, have the privilege, the white person’s privilege, of never having to cope with those messages unless you CHOOSE to. You are not “supporting” the black community by putting this thing on and acting the fool. Others have mentioned how this behavior is akin to minstrelsy, which is so true. You do not have the weight of a history of oppression to carry on your shoulders, and you are not some kind of white Messiah that you can ‘win’ the race war for the black community. Why does your so-called enlightenment have to take the form of some really thoughtless, offensive cultural appropriation? Stick to spas. Don’t be a moron.

  21. I have read a majority of the comments and I agree with all of them. I will not read your blog, but instead give you my opinion of the actions that have brought you this wee bit of fame. What your doing is so disrespectful to the black women of today, of the past and the children of the future. OUR beautiful hair that has the ability to do so many wonderful things..is not to be made a mockery of. It is deeply and truely apart of us..It is not something that can be put on and taken off with ease. It is a represenation of the blood, sweat, tears, struggle that we continue to face on a daily base. To know that the struggle continues with your rediculous blog is sickening and sad. You should be ashamed of yourself, for lack of better words, I think you’re a fucking idiot. As you were.

  22. You go girl!! I recently found something for me too! It truly is hard to understand for other people! That is in part due to a lot of stereotypes and prejudice in the society, so in the end, people judge. Simple as that! I, myself, have been talking with an asian accent, squinting my eyes, dying my hair black and straightening them as well. Let me tell you, I have never felt so good and rejuvenated! It has truly helped me overcome some deep personal issues, I do feel like a fresh newborn sometimes. Let the people judge and haters hate!! We, are strong. I support your cause, you go, you show them what you’re made of!

  23. I grew up in Brooklyn with many different races. Racism from slavery days was white people telling black they couldnt do XYZ becasue of the color of their skin.

    Wow, now it seems so many people want to tell someone they cant live a certain way becasue she doesnt have the right hair by birth?

    Sure there is more to the black experience but I know from growing up in brooklyn, not being racist is about including people in our own lives regardless of race, not casting them out becasue of stupid outfits, lack of money, hair, skin color and sex.

    Now you all want to tell her she’s “too entitled” or “too white”. Screw you and get off your high horse. Why not go tell some gays they are men and should’nt like other men, or tell Ray Charles he cant do country. Last time I checked New York was the place to let your freak flag fly without getting shit thrown at you. Fuck all you haters.

  24. Until you understand the historical and societal impacts of racism and white privilege and its presence within everyone’s daily lives, you should stop immediately.
    In your quest to gain “new insight” is actually perpetuating racism and white privilege. Yes, racism and white privilege are imbedded within a huge system, but small individual actions (micro aggressions, etc…) help sustain the status quo. You are helping sustain the status quo. That somehow a white woman is entitled, and justified to appropriate something which is historically incredibly important to a certain community and culture. I work with Native communities, but that does NOT justify me wearing their regalia or participate in their ceremonies. So, don’t hide behind “I’ve got a black buddy so it’s ok”. White people have been doing this for years. Taking something they find pretty from a different culture and claiming it as their own, while ignoring their own privilege and the realities that many of these communities face.
    And yes, you are correct Jews (I am one) HAVE had a rough go of it, but that does not exclude Jewish people from the white majority. You still receive the same privileges as white society, and this is where it is in your best interest to EDUCATE yourself and please, take off the fro.

  25. i really wish i understood what you are trying to do here. in the context of this blog, an afro is “magical goodness”. what does that mean? and apparently it “changes your perspective”. have you blogged about any changes in your perspective that you’ve experienced? it doesn’t make sense.

  26. I am White and I find you cringingly embarrassing. You remind me of my high school days in the 1960’s. We were studying India. I’lll never forget when a privileged White suburban teen girl in my class said (seriously), “I didn’t eat breakfast this morning so I could understand what it was like to starve to death.” Are you related to her? You sure seem to share a cluelessness. After this Afro adventure are you going to tape up the corners of your eyes to understand Asian-ness? Or put on random “war paint” and go to the rez and yell “Whoo Whoo” to connect deeply with Native-Americans? How about examining your Caucasian ethnicity instead of donning other ethnicities like costumes for Halloween? Cringingly, Joe

  27. Attention progressives on the internet: don’t bother explaining to this idiot why she is wrong. She has demonstrated in post after post that she is far too self-absorbed, shallow and rich/white/privileged to even understand the criticism, let alone reflect upon it and change her behavior. I mean, for God’s sake, she works in “social media”! Hahahaha.

    Someone like this is just going to be a reactionary, yucky person for the rest of her life. She’s worse than a conservative because she *thinks* she’s somehow open-minded and progressive, meanwhile perpetuating all of the oppression she benefits from. Mitt Romney if he was 40 years younger and a Jewish woman in New York. #FuckinGross

  28. I don’t understand why you just don’t dye your hair black, go to your hair dresser and have them perm your hair on the smallest rods they have. That would give you a real type of afro. When you want to go back to enjoying your white life…put on a straight wig. Now Hay!!! Silly rabbit.

  29. The first photo of the dyed long blonde locks is you not accepting yourself as you are…so you want to be an amplified white woman, then still not happy with yourself you put on a wig and think that hair will transform you.
    You are a very, very weak woman who is looking for some schtick to set you apart.
    Pathetic

  30. Though I appreciate your goal to “help people all over the world look deeper within themselves so they can master their consciousness and fall madly in love with every detail of their lives,” I don’t believe by supporting and encouraging the appropriation of communities with different lived experiences than you is necessarily going to help people meet that goal.

    With so much love to give, there is a way for you to share your thoughts and ideas without it being at the expense of groups of people. As another white woman committed to building relationships with white people to be accountable to and in relationship with people of color, I encourage you to reflect on what you are really saying.

  31. Calling Michelle a racist is the easy response. While readers are quick to judge Michelle on her background, the color of her skin, the appropriateness of a certain hair style, her flamboyant dress sense and her right to attend certain social events, you call HER a racist. Hypocrites. Shall we tell Black people they are not allowed to wear wigs which are straight-relaxed and blonde? Shall we tell Black people that they have to dress a certain way? Michelle is pushing the limits, testing the boundaries and sparking discussion. She doesn’t need an afro that ‘looks more real’ because she is not pretending to be Black or to have a Black background. If you weren’t so quick to judge, you would see that Michelle’s intentions are not malicious. If anything, she is already on her way to accomplishing her goal; to provide an opportunity for others to experience self-discovery, which includes identifying your own prejudiced.

  32. Calling Michelle a racist is the easy response. While readers are quick to judge Michelle on her background, the color of her skin, the appropriateness of a certain hair style, her flamboyant dress sense and her right to attend certain social events, you call HER a racist. Hypocrites. Shall we tell Black people they are not allowed to wear wigs which are straight-relaxed and blonde? Shall we tell Black people that they have to dress a certain way? Michelle is pushing the limits, testing the boundaries and sparking discussion. She doesn’t need an afro that ‘looks more real’ because she is not pretending to be Black or to have a Black background. If you weren’t so quick to judge, you would see that Michelle’s intentions are not malicious. If anything, she is already on her way to accomplishing her goal; to provide an opportunity for others to experience self-discovery, which includes identifying your own prejudice.

    • Two-side Suzie and Michelle, one of the points being made here is to say that there is a power differential between Black and white women in U.S. culture. When a black woman straightens her hair, this is not automatically ‘equal’ to Michelle wearing an Afro wig. African-American woman often have to do this to get or keep a job! A Black woman’s Afro, no matter how stylish, beautiful, and elegant, can prevent her from getting that job or from being equally protected by law enforcement today. African-American people were and are abused in America solely based on the fact of racial attributes such as African hair. These beautiful racial attributes, such as nappy hair texture and brown skin were, and are, used as a marker to excuse and sanction this abuse, oppression, and exploitation, which has continued for centuries – right up to the present day. Being Afro-centric is still seen, in too many (woefully ignorant,) quarters as a threat, and is suppressed and maligned. In the recent past, the entire Jim Crow system, which institutionalized many types of profound injustice against Black citizens in the south, was based, again, on victimizing people because of their race, pure and simple. It did not target white women, or poor white people in general, for example, even if those people were abused in other ways. That dangerous, life-threatening harshness was reserved for African-American people. (Though other Brown and Native people were also caught in the net.) So, we don’t have an ‘equal opportunity’ hair thing going on in America, do you see? Just because Black women may have gotten creative about straightening or dying their hair, does not erase this history of inequality that Black people have faced by virtue of their Blackness, though It may be a tribute to the creativity and resiliency of Black women’s culture! History is here with us. It is alive. We cannot pretend it is not, however painful that might be to all of us, for our different reasons. Black women don’t have the privilege of forgetting that their ancestors were hurt because of racism in the past, nor do they have the pleasure of living in a racist-free country now. Yes, it can be said that blonde women are stereotyped and treated with disrespect in this culture. We are used to sell cars, booze, cigarettes, clothes. Our bodies are violated, dehumanized, used and abused as either bullshit status symbols or as punching bags, while we as people are treated like whores, idiots, bitches, witches, and cunts. Unfortunately, some of us are so internally oppressed that we buy into this stuff, too. This situation has indeed been insulting, demoralizing, degrading, and despair-inducing for blond women. No wonder you want to wear some other kind of hair! Girl, I dye mine red to get away from that non-stop, perpetual shit! But even THAT wretched, woman-hating scene is not the SAME thing as being prevented from protecting your family or from entering places of business without harassment or from freely and safely voting–just as a few examples–all privileges which white people, including the despised and vilified blond, have enjoyed. These human rights, and more, have systematically been withheld from Black citizens based on skin color and that beautiful Afro. Nobody burns a cross on your front lawn because of blond hair. Police don’t shoot your son in the street when he reaches for his wallet because of blond hair. etc., etc. The same can not be said for an Afro. So you see the difference? That ‘different’ treatment African-American people get started with slavery, ‘advanced’ to Jim Crow, and moved on to the prison industrial complex we have RIGHT NOW TODAY, which incarcerates Black people at a chillingly terrifying rate (for the same crimes which white people get lesser sentences)–AND ALL FOR PROFIT! This situation guts entire communities, destroys families, and traumatizes children… And that viciousness is happening RIGHT NOW as we argue about your wig! (More prisoners than giant China or totalitarian Iran.) And this is only PART of the picture of the terrible damage racism does! Racism hurts and harms people of color, damages the intelligence of white people, and destroys our country entirely. So you see, there are many kinds of intense dynamics dancing around your wig! Racism is not over. We all need to FIGHT IT AND END IT. There is no ‘equal opportunity costuming’ available to Black people, and thus it is not available to white people. We’re not there yet. Black women I know have been harassed and fired at the work place for wearing their hair the way God made it. Our first lady and her children have been harassed about their choice of hair styles. Do you see what I’m saying? Let’s all fight for freedom for all our brothers and sisters in America, NOW. And when your sisters cry out to you that they are hurting because of your actions, please listen. I’m not saying you have to do something different – but I AM saying listen very hard and very well, LEARN with an open mind and heart. We all need to be listening to one another with deep respect and love. Doing that, we can change this country, and finally heal some of these deep, festering wounds out here. An example–let’s all get up in arms right NOW TODAY about the voter suppression being perpetrated in Black communities RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE. You have the freedom to fight back against that injustice as YOURSELF, a smart, articulate woman. If you want to do it in that wig, then get your analysis together. Be a smart and informed lightening rod. Above all, take your freedoms and privileges in hand and use them to change the world so that EVERYBODY can live with joy, safety, and respect in the skin they have been given.

      Excellent reading material to help you on your journey:
      Dear White America by Tim Wise (very male-centered, but still good.)
      Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston – a great read & informative
      Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon
      The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander

  33. I heard you on NPR yesterday, and I thought you’d appreciate this 70’s vignette. 1972 or so, packed high school cafeteria in suburban New Jersey, a regional school bringing in 3/4 of its freshmen kids from affluent white neighborhoods and the rest from working class African American district — “black” was the politically correct term at the time.

    There was already some tension in school — white girls had just begun dating black guys, and it was considered a cool thing, a status symbol of a certain kind. This did not go down well with a lot of the black girls — the man-pool was way down, since white guys stuck to white girls.
    A husky (but blonde) fun lover was swishing her pony tail and flirting with a popular football player with a perfectly picked Afro. A table of black girls was across the room, scowling. Blondie and Fro began some good natured tickling which turned into a little teasing wrestling. More disapproval from across the room, louder now.

    Footballer tweaked her ponytail.

    Big Blondie grabbed a handful of Afro.

    The entire cafeteria came to sudden stricken silence as she stood there with the Afro in her hand, and he froze, mortified, wig cap on display to the whole school.

    Huge eruption of laughter, even from the football player as he shot out, abandoning the wig, to boys’ room (and a comb, I guess).

    Belly aching laughter, except from the black girls’ table. The biggest girl strode over to Ponytail, who was still in possession of the Fro. The angry girl was his twin sister.

    “How dare you do that to Gerald!!?? You knew that was a wig. You did it on purpose to humiliate him, you stuck up white whore!”

    “No, never! I had no idea. He’s my friend. I had no idea!”

    “Bitch girl, we ALL got ’em. You think our mother let us grow hair like that? Shit you’re stupid”

    Turned out it was true, at least for a lot of the more luxurious do’s.

    The white kids never noticed, but the kids with wigs knew who they were.

    Perhaps it was a coincidence but the following Monday we had our one and only race riot.

  34. I heard your interview on NPR and promptly went to your website to see what the fro looks like on you. I think it looks great. I wasn’t offended listening to you nor was I offended when I saw the pictures. Although some of these commenters are making some interesting points, I am baffled as to why they are so offended. I haven’t heard you say anything offensive. They call you ignorant. That may be true in the fact that you are learning things about black people that you didn’t know before. BUT your attitude toward learning is far from “ignorant”. Some people choose to remain ignorant, but you aren’t and that’s great. And surely if we’ve got a woman here who is not ashamed to wear an Afro-that’s fantastic. I don’t see white privilege. I see the definition of beauty ( in society at large) expanding to include traits that aren’t exclusively white. How is that a bad thing? I believe we already live in a society where wearing natural hair is “acceptable” in many professional situations. I’ve done it and not had any problems. If its not that way everywhere, I can only see this “experiment” leading us to a future where it is universally a non-issue.

  35. I will keep this short and sweet. I listen to your interview with Michelle Martin on Tell me More. Which is why I wanted to look you up and learn a little more about your blog. I am a black women and I see you as my sister from another mister. I hope you never let anyone bully you into not doing what make you happy. I see nothing wrong it’s not different then if I wanted to dye my hair blond. Some people need to look pass race and just see the beauty.

  36. I dont c this as a race thing you have courage to do this n away i c what your doing but i struggle with this part of me that is kinda offended because this “Afro” of yours seems like an accessories you can take it off when you feel like it you can brush your hair even comb your hair with no problem how can you really ” help people all over the world look deeper within themselves so they can master their consciousness and fall madly in love with every detail of their lives” if you don’t understand the meaning behind the afro that people like me really have and the effort and time it takes to maintain it and the pain we go threw physically and mentally do u struggle with it question yourself about the decision of going natural its not o let me wear an afro today so i can c how people view me and so i can c the world n a new light its so much more than that its also decision to not go with the social norm of us damaging our hair so we can have hair that looks like yours does naturally i would like to see you perm your hair and put it threw hell and back so that afro is real and then come back and tell your “journey”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s