Got It Twisted

There was a time in which we all existed without preconceived ideas about other people. A time before racism, cultural appropriation, gender conformity or non-conformity or exercising of privilege and influence. That brief period began at our respective births and ended probably within a year or two of living. By the time we hit 3, the sentiments of our parents and grandparents begin to reveal themselves in our actions and opinions. This doesn’t mean those sentiments will remain consistent forever, but any changing of them will come from intentional effort to change. That applies no matter what identifying trait you were born with that you choose to apply to yourself.

teenage girl with long green coloured braided hair
Photo by Keith Lobo on

As a really young kid, I didn’t know much about hair or hairstyles. Not much has changed, but I have been around for enough conversations to know that there is a discussion that needs to be had. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities that I know of, but it is a city of neighborhoods. Some parts of town are racially and ethnically diverse, but most areas are not. I believe these areas were more defined in my youth and before my time than they are now. Back then I never knew of cultural appropriation or what instances it would apply to. Now, I know about it, but I think the term is misused or overused. I understand why, but the idealist in me wishes we could simply accept each other and not get caught up on ownership of ideas and styles.

One example of this that I’ve seen, braids. I wasn’t born yet when Bo Derek had her hair braided, so I have no idea what the response was in real time. However, over time I know that she was viewed as someone appropriating Black culture for that hairstyle. I have seen firsthand several rail thin White guys with locks and dirty clothes get clowned too. My reaction to them is not quite the same as my reaction to Bo Derek’s braids, but in both cases I don’t care at all. I’ll address the elephant…I’m not unconcerned because I would lack a respectable hairline if I let it grow or as I have been told my hairline extends back to my inner most thoughts. My bald noggin doesn’t kill my concern at all. I legitimately lack concern because I don’t view these things as something to be upset about. I have never seen a White guy with locks wearing the style as a means of mocking or disrespecting anyone. Furthermore, no one owns a hairstyle…wait I think there may be one or two with a patent on them, but who’s collecting for violations?

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval

Mark Twain

A Theory of Why

Going back a few hundred years, on the western coast of Africa, a few people had this bright idea to take some people to the “new world” and make them work for free. Sure, in most cases these wise guys paid someone of that West African community for the people they kidnapped, but the horrors those people, my ancestors, endured in real time was unspeakable. It remains unspeakable because there are a few White people that know the truth and want to ensure the White masses never learn it. It’s quite simple too. In the event too many people learn the truth of what happened they will begin to feel empathy for those people and that empathy leads to understanding the current Black condition. With too many people feeling empathy, the seeds of change get WAY too many nutrients and begin to blossom and bear the fruits of change. Those people continue this crusade for American ignorance fear any form of equity because the very act of leveling the playing field in any way puts them at risk for not being better than the people STILL viewed as the slave class.

Black people know what time it is, and as a result, we continue working twice as hard for half as much. Some of us have done well and forgotten conveniently the struggle that others endure. The Clarence Thomas’ and Ben Carson’s of the world. There are a few of us that have done well that understand change in the fashion we seek is not an overnight process nor can it be legislated into existence. There is a lot of pain in the little bit of progress we’ve made as a country and quite honestly, Black people are growing tired of the slow progress. Unfortunately, the powers that be don’t want anyone knowing or understanding this, so when any attempt to educated the masses comes up, the teacher is either vilified, killed or both. From Rosewood Florida to Tulsa Oklahoma, when Black people make too much progress the reset button is pressed to set us back a few decades just so we “stay in our place”. This isn’t my conspiratorial mind at play, this is basic observation because I truly care about the subject. Black Lives Matter popped up and the first act was to discredit…not listen. So as Black people, we have grown accustomed to having everything taken away when we make advancements. That is something no other culture in the U.S. has had to live with.

If you could see yourself the way others do, you’d wish that you were as beautiful as you

Jon Bon Jovi

Why I Don’t Care

Not every White person wearing braids or locks is doing so because they care about the culture. I’d argue many of them don’t think that deeply of the hairstyles they select at all. However, their selection of any style implies something more important. They see the beauty in that style and believe they’d look good with it as well. I believe one of the reasons those old atrocities were so easily digested is the willingness and ability to not see oneself in someone physically different. Humans categorize things for good reason all the time, but race ain’t one of those good reasons. It’s here and inescapable now, but the idea of race is just as divisive as religion…but I won’t go down that rabbit hole. When a person chooses to wear something, they do so because they feel like they look good in that state…doesn’t mean they do, just means they feel like they do. 

The only hairstyle that I was able to find a patent on is the dusty ass, old fogy holding on to a pipe dream, comb over. It was patented in the 1970’s by a delusional man apparently, and only delusional men since then have continued wearing it. However, that delusional person paid more for the patent than he ever made for the style…because no one is collecting royalties on momentary hairstyles. A hairstyle is a hard to own thing. Imitation is easy, proof of violations is hard to come by and policing for monies due is impossible. So why waste valuable energy on judging someone’s decision to wear a style, solely on their race? Why perpetuate the inability of White people to see what we perceive as Blackness in themselves? Why concern oneself with someone else’s hair choice at all, especially when none of us owns a patent on the style? The reason I don’t care is because I don’t personally think there is a good answer to any of those questions that would justify judging anyone for their style choice. But then again, I am bald so maybe I’m missing something. 

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