It seems that black women still have not fully accepted themselves as who they are. The most blatant disrespect that black women show themselves is covering up their natural hair. They have kinky hair, for the most part. But they’d like to ignore that and pretend otherwise.
This not meant to be a blanket statement to condemn the behavior of all black women. Of course, there are many of us who wear our natural hair proudly, who lock it up either for its unparalleled beauty or in celebration of its versatility, or simply because they think it’s cute. This post is not in references to the actions of a few individuals, but the observation of a black majority—especially in the media.
The most visible African Americans in media always wear their hair bone straight or they don wigs that have the same effect. And who’s the most visible of all black women?
It’s sad to say that it has been nearly six years since President Barack Obama first took office, and I have never once seen First Lady Michelle Obama, or her daughters Sasha and Malia for that matter, wear their hair in its natural and unaltered state.
Now I know that some of you are thinking that this is not a big deal and we should be worrying about bigger issues, but I disagree with you. And here’s why.
How people treat their appearance and especially a visible facet of their appearance like hair says a lot about how they feel about themselves. Unfortunately, most black women feel they need to present themselves in a certain way to be accepted in American society. And I just don’t mean to be accepted around white people.
Even in their own communities, black women wear the fake plastic hair, or the mane snipped off of some woman in India. And for what reason? To make themselves acceptable? To raise their self-esteem? I don’t know, but it’s a widespread epidemic that needs to be halted.
It messes up the psychology of black women and young girls. It makes them think they are innately imperfect and need to be changed in order to be loved. Believe it or not, the way black people treat themselves can be damaging to their psyche. And their hair is the first step to eradicate this vicious cycle of self-hate.
What is so wrong about black women wearing natural looks—locs, braids, twists, afros, curls? If Michelle Obama, one of the most visible black female figures, wears one of these hairstyles on a regular basis, or at least even once, won’t that set in motion a broader movement of acceptance for young black girls? Won’t they wake up the next morning and stop saying they want their hair to be straighter or longer? Won’t they put their efforts, their frustrations, and their energies–that elbow grease–into other matters besides doing their hair?
People make blanket statements blaming the media for not accepting images of black women and girls as they are but as beautiful only if they conform to certain standards. Even for women with natural hairstyles, they only present themselves as fully polished accomplishments.
Most often the case, black women in film, television, and news wear bone straight hair or weaves from black women’s favorite heroine Kerry Washington on Scandal to Cari Champion, the broadcast journalist on ESPN’s First Take. While people are all obsessing over Olivia Pope, why don’t they ask her to wear her hair naturally? And it’s really hard to see Cari Champion’s face with all those bangs.
Monique Nelson, the CEO of top ad agency UniWorld, is also guilty of always hiding her natural self under a wig.
Is real black hair so shameful and hideous to these women that they cannot bear to step out in public bearing their true selves?
There are also women who wear short, but straight styles like MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and Joy Reid.
Straight or fake appears to be the unspoken norm. Black women wearing natural styles on-air is the exception.
It’s hard to name black women who regularly wear their hair naturally in the media.
MSNBC political news anchor Melissa Harris-Perry gets props for wearing her hair in braids. But I’ve never seen her with braids like regular women have—she seems to have her braids redone every week. Jemele Hill on the ESPN sports show Numbers Never Lie (update: now His and Hers) also sports braids that are freshly done. For these women, if one of their braids is out of place or needs to be retouched, their natural look will be too natural for the mainstream.
The overall message is: black women, if you want to be professional and black, you need to leave the beauty salon not more than an hour ago. One day past due is not good enough.
There is a sell by date for black female acceptability in the media. You are only as acceptable as your hair is straight, fresh, and in place. You and your hair cannot be out of line, otherwise you are rough around the edges.
Why are black women in the media so quick to abandon who they are only to try to perform in someone else’s image?
This not to say that Michelle Obama or any female celebrity should be the role model for all of our children more than their own mothers, aunts, grandmothers, older sisters, teachers, and other real women in their local communities should. Nobody is saying that black children need media personalities for role models or guidance. That is a model that is surely held up to fail.
When people in the media show imperfections, they are blown up out of proportion and are cast to overshadow the person’s prior achievements. We just see the parts of celebrities’ lives that are made for television. Not the full human being, their mistakes, and how they overcome them.
The importance here is that Michelle Obama is not just a celebrity figure, she is a real person. Just like visible black women who are not in music or entertainment, but are real people in the media—professionals in politics, journalism, and news. These women should provide a fitting example for black women and children.
Black professionals are part of Du Bois’s talented tenth, the leading black class. Part of their responsibility is to set a standard for the black masses to aspire to. But why do they insist upon setting standards of how to be anything other than black?
Regrettably, real black women in the media set a standard for black professionalism that is artificial and untrue to the essence of blackness. If they are to be professional, they wear their hair in ways that are most un-black.
They do this all the time.
They send the message that in order to be successful as a black professional, you must present yourself in this way all the time. After some point, it becomes part of your identity and you lose the potential to be black in the way that you were born.
Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, and black women wearing that unnatural straight hair need to step up, not just to be a role model for black girls and black women, but to be true to themselves.
The first way to say that you accept who you are and even more, that you love yourself, is to stop changing your image to try to be more like somebody else. And be who you are and love that image.
Do some black women feel embarrassed by natural hair? Or do you just like the straight look better? Inquiring minds wanna know.
Some Black girls do think the straight is also Black!
Ask non-black people why they think black hair is unprofessional…That’s the issue. Read my other comment. Look up slavery. Take some time to research and figure out why black people and their texture are discriminated against. They want to fit in. That’s the quick answer.
Michelle is a spoof of what a Black woman would have become in the white house. Oh, is it still the white house? I thought so, no wonder she keeps her hair bone straight.
Michelle can have a choice. Can’t she? If she decides to keep her hair straight, then that’s what is it. Leave her alone.
I am trying to understand Black women like you. If you have a choice then why wear the hair bone straight every gaddamn time? Why are you defensive about changing it up sometimes? Why? I think this is what the author is driving at.
Damn, this comment is coming six years later- the reason why black women wear their hair straight (for like jobs / job interviews) is because many people believe curly hair is “unprofessional”, or “messy” and so they try what they can for the job. Now this of course is not all black women. In all honesty, when I straighten my hair, I do it because it’s less of a hassle to deal with. Black girls not only wear wigs because they are easier to deal with, but they are a protective style (google the definition) like braids. It keeps the hair from being combed, and pulled all the time. In simpler terms, black women CHOOSE to keep it / wear it straight because it may be easier to deal with, protective, or simply what they like. It can’t get any simpler. It’s been a good six years, you must’ve seen Michelle’s curls by now!
I like Michelle Obama, but I wish she would be herself a whole lot more. Her bone straight hair is off-putting sometimes.
If Michelle never wears an Afro before leaving the white house, it will be a shame. I big fat shame.
The day Michelle Obama wears an Afro in the White House, they will be assassinated. Have you heard what the president’s home and office are called? The White House. For a reason. America, my friends, is still stuck in 1791. That’s why white cops walk around shooting Black kids for absolutely no law enforcement reason. Someone called it white paraphilia, and I think it is fitting.
I been looking for everywhere,I can find a girl be natural,only woman I see wearing natural hair,straight bone,I don’t have much to said,love my be natural that’s turn me on.
OMG people get over the hair thing! Michelle Obama or anyone else for that matter doesn’t need to validate your personal choices!
Thank You ! Women should do whatever they want with their hair. I’m so over people judging and didtating what black women should od with heir own darn hair. Whatever floats your boat is the right thing to do for yourself.
The issue is that most black women never wear their natural hair and when we do it’s usually relaxed. This is an issue it’s not just about us grown women is also about our little girls. I know far too many women who’ve relaxed their children’s hair. Wearing straight hair all the time and changing their kids texture makes them feel as if something is wrong with their hair. Ask any black women if they’d rather have their hair or naturally straight hair which do you think they’d choose? (Most black women) amd this thing about white ppl who made us feel opressed move on. I know it can be hard but what about all the mom’s that’s making their children feel opressed which is worst your own kind making fun of you or a stranger?
Just reading this in 2018, but sometimes wearing hair straight is easier. I have thick, long, natural hair, and I am tired of doing it, 30 minutes every night. I am contemplating getting that silk press right now, because wrapping it and going is much easier. This does not mean I am trying to be white, this is just my “I need a break from doing my hair”style. I don’t do braids or weaves. So please, enough with the judging people WHO CHOOSE to straighten THEIR hair not YOURS. Not everyone does it out of self hate.
I am a black woman with natural curly hair and I don’t wear braids or wear my hair straight. I twist it or wear it loose after shampooing with moisturized curls or I brush it up in a pony tail and let the curly ends pile up at the top or pin it into a loose bun. I LOVE my natural hair I would never prefer fake hair.
I think black wome’s natural hair can be groomed to look their personal best – beautiful!
I have naturally wavy hair and wear it in braids. It is obvious black women are copying white hair styles with weaves and don’t feel attractive unless they look white. Tv and movie personalities are proof. They all have phony hair to their behinds constantly caressing it like it is alive. I really feel sorry for their lack of self esteem.
And I feel sorry for you that you have to put black women down to make yourself feel better. People like you perpetuate this nonsense. Or you don’t condemn those that do, which is just as bad. Whenever a guy tells you that you have “good hair” ask him what that means. Call him out! And realize why black women tend to wear this stuff. Look at the media. Look at literally any shampoo/conditioner advertisement. They ALL have straight to wavy hair like yours. You are never picked on because of kinky/coily hair. There’s a reason. It’s not black people’s fault, but that of people who have hair like yours and straighter. It’s white people’s fault. And now black people’s burden. We have to embrace our own beauty. But it’s difficult. I’m sure you can expand your mind to think why…
LMAOAAOAA, she said “phony hair” and “copying” but black hair is different from white, and can come in ALL forms like loose curls, tight curls, BLONDE, and even straight. Name one black woman you know that has low self-esteem. If any black woman has low self-esteem, it depends on what the affliction is. Since imperialism was a thing, it promoted a feeling of racial superiority among Europeans, and exploited minorities. It’s been a few years, maybe you can read some information about black people hair from non-biased writers. Thank you 😉
Fake hair or chemical hair. Those are the only options black women know.
I see what this person is saying about fake hair and such but everything else is dumb. You sound so ignorant. I am so tired of people who claim they love black woman, but try to bash them on every little thing that seems “unnatural”. Cynthia girl you need to just shut up, you’re opinion is irrelevant. You are not black, clearly. Anywho.. Michelle Obama’s hair is the way it is because she wants it that way. Even before Obama became president, we saw her hair straight, same way it is. She wears her natural hair, but it’s straightened. It’s still her hair, so do her daughters. How women choose to wear their hair is there choice. Unfortunately, yes, we see alot of women wearing weave, wigs, and extensions, etc., in alot of reality shows and I agree it’s sad and many of the girls I see today do it also. As a black woman, I know how much of a struggle it can be to try and figure out something to do with my hair. I can’t wake up with it all extra dry and just go about my day, I have to use products to keep the moisture in my hair, I find ways so that it doesn’t feel so heavy on my head, or it’s not in my eyes, and a afro is a hassle, you gotta keep it clear of things that can just land in your hair and get stuck their, I mean lol. I love my hair. I really do even though sometimes I wish I had naturally curly hair so I don’t have to do much to it, but yes, I love my hair straightened as well. I know it’s my hair. That is the amazing thing about black women that WHITES, ASIANS, SPANISH, ETC. people can’t do. They can’t go back and forth with an afro to straight hair like we can. I can go two or three weeks without having to go the extra work just to maintain it. All I have to do is comb or brush it and be off. That takes a couple minutes. Black woman are not children, they are not little girls. When we were little girls, our mom used to comb and brush our hair for an hour or hours and now that we’re women, we have to do it ourselves. It is not a big deal. She can do what she wants. As First lady and the wife our president, she is the most outspoke about issues that actually do matter. You felt the need to come write up this blog insulting her. Out of everything, this is what you come up with? So why does Michelle Obama wear relaxed hair. She is a woman who can make her own choices. Try coming for the media, what has an impact in every social life; what has changed the way our little girls view themselves. You’re mad about black hair. It’s not just black women wearing weaves, extensions, and wigs and crap, it’s every race. WE HAVE WOMEN WHO ARE NOT EVEN BLACK WEARING WEAVE JUST TO DO THE BLACK WOMEN’S NATURAL “BRAIDS, CORNROWS, DREADS” AND!!!?
First of all her hair is not relaxed, it is flat ironed…get it right! Her hairstylist for the last six years made that clear!
If Mrs. Obama wore her hair natural, it would be upsetting to the whites. FACT!
BLACK WOMEN SHOULD DO WHATEVER THEY WANT WITH THEIR HAIR. IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH NATURAL HAIR THEN THAT’S YOUR CHOICE, IF NOT THEN DO WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT.
[quote] The overall message is: black women, if you want to be professional and black, you need to leave the beauty salon not more than an hour ago. One day past due is not good enough. [unquote]
Sadly, that is the message for all professional women, no matter their skin color. Men (especially older White men) can walk into board meetings with bad comb-overs or a haircut that looks like they did it at home with manicure scissors and not one criticism is voiced. Women, on the other hand, are expected to be impeccably groomed at all times, otherwise it means that they don’t take their jobs “seriously” or are otherwise not good workers. I was a 16-year-old high school student when I got my first job – a part-time office job at a large company. I had (and still have) baby-fine straight blonde hair that I’ve always hated. Anyway, at the time I wore it straight, parted down the middle, much like Marcia Brady on “The Brady Bunch”. And when it came time for my “performance reviews” did I hear about how I was always on time, how well I did my job, etc? That was actually an afterthought – I mainly heard a litany of remarks made by the long line of executives who reviewed your review (if that makes sense) to determine whether or not you’d get a raise (mind you, this was the late 1970s and I was earning $2.65/hr): “Can’t she do something about her hair?” “Her hair is not appropriately styled for business.” etc etc
As a White woman, i found myself laughing about this article. I have thin, fine, straight hair. If I don’t blow it, layer it with product, curl and reshape it; if I let my WhiteGirl hair go natural, i look awful. Some Black women look great natural. Others look better with relaxed hair. Hair play is fun and cosmetic. Frankly, I think we all need to make our own choices: about hair and everything else we choose.
Thanks for your comment, Naomi and I couldn’t agree more. As a black woman, I’m presently natural and certainly thinking about returning to the perm. My hair has suffered continued shock, along with my time, since I’ve decided to go natural. I don’t enjoy the styles and it certainly isn’t that versatile.
I’m so sick of pro-blacks, who contribute to nothing but division in this society, or hatred, instead of learning to just love themselves and others. In whatever manner Michelle or any other black woman chooses to wear her hair, whether it be natural, permed, pressed or bald… it’s their business.
The only time I see articles like this… it’s usually associated with the individuals’ own personal dilemma’s are self-hatred of themselves and they want everyone is to feed into it. Just because someone wears weave, wigs, color, or whatever on her head, does not mean that it’s synonymous with self-hatred, lack of self-confidence, or an attempt to identify with any other culture. It’s called her right.
Black people, stop creating so much division and learn to love yourselves and others. God didn’t put us here to teach division or separation. He said to love one another. Except people for who they are… you’re not they’re God.
Stop with the BLM mentality. It’s called hatred and it’s called division. Black people are they’re own worst enemies. Let people live their lives.
I am late to this but I have to comment! I *love* natural Black hair. Everything my Black girlfriends put on – earrings clothes anything – looked so much better on them than on me. Because of their natural hair. When we were younger in NYC – in the 1970s/80s – I used to give them my earrings etc. for that reason. Lol. Here you can have these – they look so much better on you…
I am half Arab (Asiatic indigenous mountain) & half German & had a crazy mess of really thick straightish (three different textures! Straight wavy & corkscrew behind one ear only… ) hair like doll hair that never did what Euro straight hair did either (layers or completely normal things for flat straight hair like fitting inside a barette or elastic etc.). I couldn’t cut it short either. It would just stick straight out in every direction. (The way some Asian & Indigenous American men’s hair looks when cut short).
It is not my place to say how Black women should wear their hair. So I am not going to pass judgement on people who straighten their hair. But I really agree w/ everyone here saying how people wear their hair sends a message to girls of colour telling us we don’t fit into the pale Euro beauty ideal (fascistic ideal). I spent so many years fighting the injurious colourism directed at me. I was born in the early 60s so did not see girls & women of colour reflected in magazines & film etc. (in slightly larger numbers) until I was in my 30s. It took me years to prefer my brown (almost grey) skin & very Asiatic features. I really wish everyone would celebrate their natural beauty. I really don’t understand the obsession some people have w/ flat hair. xx
*PS: When I wrote ‘it took me years to prefer my brown (almost grey) skin & very Asiatic features’ I meant until about age fourteen/fifteen.
This is important because it’s young girls who are the ones who suffer internalising this dross – before hopefully coming through to loving themselves as they are.
By high school I was proud of my looks; despite still having to fight the micro-aggressions & othering & racist comments from certain people – still directed at me till this day.
The world is about to have a Black English Princess now who is so far only seen w/ straightened hair. I hope she sets it off after the wedding! Lol! That would be amazing! I want that in every single royal portrait. InshaAllah. xx
This is so ridiculous! Stop trying to make people who you think they should be. I’m African American and I wear my hair relaxed. It’s easier for me to maintain and manage. I personally don’t like braids or afros. If that’s what you like so be it. We all are entitled to like what we want. I don’t see every female who dons braids walking around in African attire every day.. so let it go. Move on to more important world issues.
Period! The person that wrote this article did not do much research, and shared a bias opinion due to the fact that they did not explain to the people reading this about protective styles, and how it’s easier to manage.
I am African American with relaxed hair and love it. I tried going natural for 13 weeks and it was simply too painful and too much work for me. I love seeing all the ways that some of us wear our natural hair but I am appalled at the manner in which some of us feel its okay to step out with messy, uncombed hair that frankly do not reflect us very well. To roll out of the bed, come to work with unkempt, uncombed with a few lint balls showing is certainly not the way. Please speak on that. I am a proud black woman and however I decide to style my hair is my business and we should focus on proper presentation rather that a small minded view of what we as black women are or are not. In my opinion, when a person can match and accomplish what Michelle Obama and her girls have accomplished and are doing in the world then speak. How they are wearing their hair is nobody’s business and does not reflect on them being true black women by not gracing us with their natural hair style.