Written by Penelope Farthing
It seems every other week a topic about black women’s hair is trending.
Last month, it was H&M, after having the nerve! the cheek! the unmitigated gall! to have a dark-skinned, kinky haired little girl prominently featured in an ad campaign where her hair was both 4c AND short, a hair faux pas of the highest order, and her edges, those pesky edges! were not laid, slayed, or throwing shade, so it was simply unacceptable! Unkempt! Unpresentable! and whatever other adjective other black people used to describe it.
Now, the latest black hair issue features a different little black girl, 12, who initially reported she was held down by three white boys who called her hair nappy and cut her locs. Now, she has recanted her story, saying she made the whole thing up. Her guardians have since issued a statement of apology through the school.
This whole thing is very sad. I honestly feel bad for this girl. She’s just a child, and now she has made national and international news after telling tall tales. This will no doubt have consequences wherever she goes to school next, because children seem to get meaner with each passing year and something like this only fuels the bullying fire. I hope her guardians have the means to homeschool her or something until the furor blows over, because this whole debacle does not bode well. But I wanted to talk about some wider implications of this incident.
Like I said, nobody hates black hair more than black people. We can complain about corporate America all we want, but the first place to hate kinky hair was at home. Maybe black hair hate is a chicken or egg scenario (do we hate it because white people hate it, or did we hate it all along?), but I know for sure we certainly perpetuate it.
This poor girl hated her hair so much she felt the need to lie to be able to change it. Obviously I don’t know anything about this girl’s situation and this is all wild speculation, but I wonder if she had any say in her hairstyle at the time of her establishment – locs are a pretty permanent hairstyle, and at the delicate age of 12, having hairstyles different from the rest of your peers can have a damaging effect on self-esteem, especially when other kids are around calling negative attention to it.
Now that this story has been revealed to be false, I’ve seen quite a few commentaries saying that they suspected something was up because of the use of the word “nappy”, and outside of Don Imus, most white people don’t use that word. This is true; I personally have only been called nappy-headed by people who possess a melanin content and hair texture similar to my own (imagine that). But it is interesting how quickly people were championing her in one comment section, and cast her aside as a liar the next, with very few giving this girl the benefit of the doubt that maybe something else could be at play here that didn’t make the news.
Being 12 I don’t expect this little girl to understand the implications of lying about race-based violence on the wider community of black women and girls. But unfortunately, cases like these only makes it harder for the black female victims of a crime or attack to be believed, and the perpetrators get to run free as a result.
It doesn’t quite apply here, but it is an important point. When black people get angry en masse, it sure nets somebody a tidy sum. That somebody is very rarely other black people… And the easiest way to do it is talk about hair. Not one but two rappers this year got free press for disparaging black women’s hair choices (and continue to rake in the dough from the women with the same hair they despise, but that’s another story). And of course, the billions of dollars being spent in the black hair industry speaks for itself. If you get enough black people angry, social media will be lit up with hashtags and witty repartees declaring how #cancelled the brand in question is. Once it all blows over though, it’s back to business as usual, and the corporation continues to profit from the days/weeks of scandal.
Take for instance the aforementioned H&M, who has used the outrage of black people not once, but twice recently (the other time being the little black boy with a racially-insensitive hoodie about being the coolest monkey in the jungle), to keep their business in headlines for free advertising. This time all they had to do was have a little girl wear her hair as it grows out of her scalp and social media was all atwitter (pun intended), and voila, headlines aplenty! I wish the speed at which black people developed outrage over hair could be focused and channeled somewhere more productive.
Stay tuned for next week’s outrage. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m sure it’ll reveal itself soon enough.