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The Fear and Demonization Of Black Hair... Why Does It Still Exist?


Keka Heron, a professional hair and makeup artist, told POPSUGAR. "Black hairstyling has only been taught in cosmetology textbooks within the last five years. If the professionals don't learn how to work with Black hair, how can they teach clients or educate others?" The dearth of Afro-hair education in cosmetology schools point to a larger issue: Black-hair discrimination. "So many women of color feel that they have to wear straight extensions and straight hairstyles in order to be successful, particularly in corporate environments," Heron says. "We've been taught not to be seen as different or to stand out in any way. I have heard stories of professionals in the '70s and '80s who wore dreads and Afros and had to cut them off in order to enter the 'professional' sector." There are also societal implications that come with different Black hairstyles, and discrimination like this still exists today.


"This prejudice still so deeply affects the Black community that it has prompted action like the creation of the CROWN Act, which is legislation that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles." Ariel Baker Writer


Hair discrimination has a long history, notably rooted in the European slave trade. Enslaved people had their hair forcibly cut off and sometimes used as furniture filling for couches and chairs, a dehumanizing act also aimed at severing their ties to African culture. In the 1700s, the Tignon Laws forced Black women in Louisiana to wear head wraps because their beautiful, elaborate hairstyles were considered a threat to the status quo. In the late 18th century, new economic opportunities and growth led to an increase in the free African and African-American populations of New Orleans. This was because some people of African descent were newly able to make money, buy their freedom, and subsequently increase the free Black population. And with that came an increase in interracial relationships, to the dismay of colonial authorities.


To address this “problem,” in 1786, Spanish colonial Governor Don Esteban Miró enacted the Edict of Good Government, also referred to as the Tignon Laws, which “prohibited Creole women of color from displaying ‘excessive attention to dress’ in the streets of New Orleans.” Instead, they were forced to wear a tignon (scarf or handkerchief) over their hair to show that they belonged to the slave class, whether they were enslaved or not. In The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, historian Virginia M. Gould notes that Miró hoped the laws would control women “who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who competed too freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order.” Embracing Black Hair is the same as loving yourself and embracing Black Beauty it is an act of defiance to a system that says you shall think of yourself as inferior! Hair Freedom equates to positive self image which is the first step to decolonization of the mind!



Centuries later, the legacy of slavery continues to manifest in workplace and school settings, where afro-hair is often deemed unacceptable. In the US, the signing of the first Crown Act in California in 2019 marked a significant milestone. The Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair,” recognizes hairstyle discrimination as a form of racial discrimination. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who championed the act, says it is about more than hair. “It is a civil rights issue,”



Kenya's Mau Mau guerrillas fought one of the bloodiest insurgencies against British colonial rule, with thousands of people killed in the brutal crackdown that followed, sparking calls for justice which still resonate in the East African nation. From 1952 to 1960 the fighters -- often with dreadlocked hair -- put fear into the oppressors colonial communities. The fighters, drawn largely from the Kikuyu ethnic group in central Kenya, took up arms under the slogan "land and freedom" and staged attacks from bases in remote Kenya's lush forests. The rolling green hills and lush forests of central Kenya -- once dubbed the "white highlands" -- were especially prized by colonial settlers who threw the Kenyans off their ancestral lands like they had done to so many people across the globe, sparking bitter resentment from the Kikuyu forced off the land.


But while attention focused on the deaths of 33 white settlers, at least 100,000 Kenyans were killed, with some estimates far higher. Tens of thousands were also rounded up and detained without trial in British death camps where executions, torture and vicious beatings were common.

As many as 100,000 Kenyans were killed, and 160,000 jailed in camps, according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission. The British looked for sympathy from the world because the Kenyans refused to allow them to steal their land. Much of which they had planned to give to European Jews as Israel!in 1903 the British government officially offered the newly formed Zionist Organization a large portion of land in the Kenya highlands. to be set aside as a new home- land for European Jews. The offer was a free grant of land, about 5,000 square miles or about 3,200,000 acres.


The name Mau Mau reportedly came from secret code words for the group, many of whom referred to themselves instead as the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA). Dreadlocks to the Mau Mau freedom fighters were a symbol of anti-colonialism and this symbology of dreadlocks was an inspiration for Rastas to loc their hair in opposition to racism and promote an African identity. Dreadlocks are not unique to Jamaica and Rastafarians. The dreadlocks hairstyle originated in Africa and is still worn by various tribes there.



One of the earliest tribe this hairstyle can be attributed to is the Masai tribesmen of Kenya. Many of the warriors of this tribe wore this hairstyle. These men sometimes dyed their hair red with root extracts. Dreadlocks are also believed to have been the hairstyle of choice for Egyptian Pharaohs. Many historians believed that locs were used to represent a level of esteem and power. Pharaohs, for instance, wore dreads that were heavily adorned with jewelry and other objects to signify their wealth. The Egyptian headdress worn by Pharaohs is called the "nemes."


It is a striped headcloth specifically made to cover the Royal dreadlocks that is often associated with royalty and is commonly depicted in ancient Egyptian art and sculpture and modern movies. Ironically movies of early Hollywood would show Egyptian soldiers and commoners wearing this which would have been ridiculous it would be like having everyone wearing a crown. Since the most popular hairstyle of ancient Kemet was the Afro having white people wear this was much easier to explain than having them wear afro wigs!




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