"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

The Politics of Black Hair: An Australian Perspective

When I used to be growing up in a village in Kenya, we kept our hair short. Sometimes my grandmother cut it with scissors, sometimes with a razor. My grandmother insisted. We never questioned why we weren’t allowed to grow our hair. But in almost every school assembly we were punished if we didn't shave our heads.

We were told it was to maintain us clean. The irony was not lost that our feet—bare, covered in dust after school—were more “untidy” than our heads.

The author as a toddler.
Provided by the writer.

Looking at this era of your childhood with fresh eyes now reveals a difficult history. When colonial education began in Kenya, most faculties were run by Christian missionaries who developed a single narrative about black hair: that it was ugly, ungodly and untouchable. They demanded that girls attending their “religious” schools cut their hair to the scalp.

Cutting girls' hair in some way diminishes the evidence of their femininity. It was a covert move to cut back the need of African men, who were created as primitive beasts with no sense of sexual control.

Artistic hairstyles were banned or criminalized in class and church. By enforcing these laws, missionaries were in a position to successfully sexualize hair and use it as a tool of control and punishment in a way that Africans never had. Such a historical understanding exposes political significance.

Ball and Black Panther

For Africans, hair means greater than appearance and sexuality. For example, hairstyles within the Maasai community and Peak patterns Marital status, class, age and other social roles locally generally is a clue.

In a Marvel movie Black Cheetahused as natural hair A social identifier which defines characters. Queens and old women wear elaborate dreadlocks, warriors are bald and daring.

Nakia, a undercover agent and love interest of the king, wears bantu knots, an inventive African hairstyle. Shuri, a young tech genius, wears braids, that are popular amongst young black women. The film also uses black hair symbolically to defy the patriarchal and racial expectations that shape beauty standards.

Letitia Wright (Shuri) in Black Panther (2018)
Marvel, Disney.

In one particularly powerful scene, Okoye, a warrior and military general, rips off his wig and Throws it away On an opponent during combat. In doing so, she rejects accessories, which are sometimes used to melt women's blackness by hiding their natural hair.

Policing black hair in Australian schools

Talk about hair in Australia and The ink are coming forward. I last 12 months Melbourne, two Sudanese girls at Bentleigh Secondary College were asked to remove their braided hair, because it didn’t comply with the varsity's “strict uniform policy”. The school's principal later offered him an exemption from the policy, following media reports.

After a while this information was received Another student At Mildura he was told to chop off his dreadlocks or be expelled because they didn’t comply along with his school's uniform policy – which forbids “extreme styles”. These kinds of incidents highlight the necessity to review uniformity policies and draft recent policies which might be more cognizant of Australia's growing diversity.

In the past few years, salons catering exclusively to black hair have begun to emerge in Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne. Yet despite the growing presence of black hair in Australia, it stays threatening – an indication of difference – or an object of curiosity.

Black hair is political.

Black hair is personal, but so is that this Political. It shows how Black consciousness And identities of race, gender and sexuality are constructed, reinforced and represented. The 'fro' has been defined as an announcement of resistance against white supremacy, particularly resulting from its association with the US-based Black Panther political movement.

A straightforward one Google search “Unprofessional hairstyles” are dominated by black women's kinky and “nappy” hairstyles. “Professional Hairstyles” searches for white women with straight hair. Social and cultural messaging The obvious about hair and wonder: Presentable, attractive, skilled, black women must care for their hair.

In his book Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness, Ingrid Banks argues that “for black women, desirable and undesirable hair is measured against white standards of beauty”. To this present day, black women lament the continuation. Hair bias They face during Interviews or me Workplace When they wear their hair natural. Policing And Prohibition Black hair is a way of enforcing conformity with white beauty standards.

Because of those messages and internalized disgust for his or her “nappy” hair, black women resort to using Harsh chemicals And extreme heat to manage them “Unruly” hair. These methods can’t only Damage to hair Rather the explanation Physical aches and pains. identical to Skin lightening creamsHair straightening products have flooded the market – firms are capitalizing on the message that black women must be healed.

Author with him from today.
Provided by the writer.

Random hair toucher

My hair now reflects my growing black consciousness. Two years ago, I cut off my chemically straightened hair from my scalp – and for the primary time in my life, I let it grow naturally. My various artistic expressions through my hairstyle at the moment are often met with questions and curiosity.

Perhaps probably the most interesting aspect of growing hair in Australia that appears “different” is learning the way it perceives the constant attention it draws to me – from unnecessary touching to “just feeling my hair”. From “doing” to limitless questions on whether it's “real”.

The random and constant touching of my hair (and by extension my body) reveals how whiteness can operate within the politics of hair. There is an almost implicit expectation that black hair be available to white audiences as an object of curiosity through touching and questioning its authenticity.

Hopefully, through the powerful and positive imagery shown in Black Panther, black hair will stop being perceived as a threatening symbol or a foreign “mark of difference” – because representation matters.