Black Women, H&M, and Hair

Written by Nicole J.

Nothing gets black women more riled up than the conversation of hair. Hair has the super power to get under the skin of black women, more than men, money, mental health, the works. The latest hair-centric conversation hitting the social media stratosphere is that of a cute little black girl featured in an H&M ad.

Photo credit: H&M website

The campaign, meant to reflect children at the end of a day at school, features other little girls as well. The only difference is that they are not black.

Oh, and there was no outrage over the way their hair was styled from their respective races. Interesting, huh?

H&M had a brilliant response to this manufactured outrage:

What, specifically, is it about natural, kinky hair (especially of the 4c variety), in its rawest form, that triggers black women in this way? And why are we so quick to show the world how much we truly despise our hair? Not just our own hair, mind you, but natural hair on other people too, as is the case here. Why is 4c hair in anything but specific styles seemingly viewed as messy, unkempt, not presentable (three common adjectives I’ve seen used to describe this situation) yet 3c hair and below can be so dry it resembles tumbleweed, or limp and shapeless, and that is considered alright? What do black women have against what the average black girl, much like the girl in the ad, looks like?


Not to mention, what of this little girl’s feelings? Hopefully her parents are sheltering her from the hairpocalyse, but in this age of the Internet, no one lives in a vacuum. Imagine feeling so thrilled to land such a big campaign, only to be torn down by the same people who one would think would be in your corner. “It be your own people” as they say.


The absolute vitriol being thrown around at this little girl’s hair is telling. It’s like people view natural 4c hair as it grows out of a scalp as a direct assault on their eyeballs if every edge isn’t slicked down and the hairline carefully sculpted into baby hairs that take up forehead real estate. People have grown so accustomed to seeing black women laden with a tub of hair gel to get curl definition, or have some other woman’s hair of a completely opposite texture glued, sewn or plopped onto her head. Natural hair can’t be “normalized” if so few of us are wearing it.


Also, newsflash: 4c hair isn’t meant to lay down!


Another question – how should she have been wearing her hair instead? If she had a Just for Me Elementary School lace front on, would that be better? Or natural, but with relaxed edges so it’s “neater”?


You will hear how unfair it is that natural hair is just now being accepted in parts of corporate America, when the first place to reject natural hair was at home. Little girls are brought to the salon just barely out of diapers for their first relaxer, or fried to a crisp with a hot comb, under the guise of it being more manageable or “acceptable” that way. Literal toddlers are out here with crochet braid extensions, not given a chance to embrace their natural features without unnecessary additions.


In a similar vein, women will reject the very thought of dating interracially due to her hair practices, because Chang and Chad simply won’t ~understand~ her routine, and somehow, black women don’t seem to get that up in arms when black men and other black women call her nappy headed with the slave hair, or say things publicly like a black woman who wears her natural hair is suffering from low self esteem or depression. It looks like “understanding” of our hair is pretty thin on the ground on all sides.


With all the internal problems we have in the community, one would think we haven’t got time to be dealing with a harmless ad campaign. It’s like “yeah, our children are consistently scoring the worst on standardized tests, and they are born into instability, our neighborhoods are a cesspool, and we are poverty stricken and have a negative net worth to pass to the children…BUT HER HAIR, THOUGH!!!”


Why are we so eager to take aim at corporations for perceived slights against our image, and let everyone else get away with so much worse simply because they have a similar melanin content? Why is H&M, an organization built, lead, and sustained by “the oppressor” expected to have more concern for our representation than we do? Also, where is the black-owned equivalent of H&M, so we can have more dark skinned little girls being prominently featured in the first place?


Black women and hair will continue to be a sore spot, and this will be far from the last time that a situation like this comes up this year.


Sad to say, no one hates black hair more than black people, and that’s on us.


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