Stick & Stones: The Hurtful Words People Use To Describe Naturals

stereotypes about natural hair

In light of the controversy over comments E News and Fashion Police presenter Giuliana Rancic made over Zendaya’s beautiful faux locs worn on the red carpet at last Sunday’s Oscars, this article is very timely. We’ve all been on the receiving end of hurtful comments made by others towards our natural hair. Any of these sound familar?…

I prefer your hair straight, because it’s more beautiful.

You have that ‘good hair’. Are you mixed?.

I feel that she smells like patchouli oil . . . or weed.

*Blank stare* at the last comment. I have an endless list of all the hurtful comments I’ve received during the past six months – enough to fill a book. I’ve often been offended whenever people dropped odd comments about my hair. After having multiple confrontations with the offenders, I realized that I had to change my view and approach. It’s not possible to change everyone else. I started to ask myself are these comments intended to be offensive?

Over the past few centuries people of color living in predominantly white/Caucasian countries have experienced extreme difficulties, stemming from slavery. These challenges persist today and permeate all industries and walks of life. For example, in order to have a successful career in the music industry women often chemically straighten, blow out their hair and/or wear straight wigs and weaves to appease “mainstream” audiences.

America’s complicated history coupled with the dominance of Western culture in mainstream media pretty much throughout the USA and Europe have all contributed to the misconception that straight hair is superior to curly hair. And though we’d like to think that society has made leaps and bounds in terms of changing their attitudes towards our differences, comments like those made on E Entertainment’s Fashion Police remind us that that’s not the case.

We often shout that people are racist when they make comments they have no business making but should the terms Racism and Ignorance be used interchangeably?

‘Ignorance: lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated’ – as defined by the Oxford Dictionary

Ignorant comments, however painful, are not always intended to bring down the recipient. No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Plus, the person making the comment is lacking the knowledge, sophistication and history to sufficiently articulate their point of view. We will always deal with prejudices, but now I choose to handle them gracefully.

Even though this can be challenging, taking the time to teach each other about our cultural differences will ultimately make this world a much better place. Not only for this generation, but for all future generations too. At just 18-years old, Zendaya is the perfect example of class and grace under the weight of ignorance. She’s a great example to me and to us all.

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