Black women have always been experimental with their hair. When we look at history and date back to ancient Egypt and different artefacts from around Africa we see that Black women had different hairstyles on their hair and spent lots of time of their hair. Hair was different from tribe to tribe, culture to culture and even from class to class.
Over the years we have seen different hairstyles that have evolved or that have repeated themselves over the ages for an example, The Afro was a very popular hairstyle in the 1970s it then went away for some time and is back as the mainstream popular hairstyle today.
One hairstyle that has been part of black culture for centuries are braids. A braid, also known as a plait is a pattern formed by two or more strands of hair or extension or material to create a style. Braids date back to the 1400s and are still a very popular hairstyle worn today. Braids are useful for women of all ages, they vary in price depending on the style and structure of the braid. Most braided hairstyles take a very long time to complete, it can take from 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on the hairstyle.
Braids have always been a hairstyle that black women wore, but over the years we have seen white women wearing braids. Braids either done with their own hair and with extensions. This has raised a lot of awareness around cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when one culture adopts elements of another culture, it becomes very controversial when people from a previously advantaged culture to appropriate or adopt from a previously disadvantaged culture. This is also controversial because previously disadvantaged cultures are becoming a lot more accepted and have a lot more opportunities than they did before, but if a previously advantage culture adopts something from a previous disadvantaged culture it overpowers where that culture came from and usually credit has not been given.
For an example, A saree is a garment worn by Indian women, it is part of their culture and has a lot of meaning behind it and history attached to it. Many Indian women around the world do not wear their Saree to the mall or to work because it is too associated to culture and does not fit in to the Western white culture upheld in society. If a white person wore a saree as a fashion statement, that is cultural appropriation because a saree stems from culture and if it is used to raise awareness of some sort it should be worn by the people from where the culture comes from – which are Indian women. However it would be less controversial if a white woman credited the Indian culture.
Watch video below to see examples of when some celebrities were dragged for cultural appropriation.
So Is Cultural Appropriation really a big issue?
There are many people who have different opinions when it comes to the topic of cultural appropriation specially when white women wear black women’s hairstyles.
Speaking to a few people, here’s what they had to say.
Comfort: I personally don’t see anything wrong. It’s like saying we can’t wear weaves because we weren’t born with natural straight hair. I think anyone can wear whatever look they want to at anytime.
Nonku: I see no issue if white women wear their hair as black women do. We should all be free to wear any hairstyle we like. Black people do not owe braids.
Nkazi: I don’t think there is anything wrong. I mean who defined braids as a “Black girls hairstyle”. I mean yes the hairstyle is done by black women but it doesn’t mean a white girl cannot wear braids. I will admit that whenever I see a white girl with braids I usually think she wants to be black, otherwise I do not think there is something wrong.
Sthe: White women who wear braids are wannabe gangsters.
Peter: No white women should not wear braids; they must just wear their hair naturally loose the way it is.
Thandeka*: Cultural appropriation is wrong! We were told by white people that our hair was untidy and unprofessional. Now our hair is cool when the same race does it, all of a sudden it’s trendy, not untidy?
Cultural appropriation is a big issue for some people and for others it doesn’t matter.
We live in a world where anything goes now, and we are all free to do whatever you want to express ourselves as long as it does not bring harm to others.
I think women of all races should be allowed to wear their hair in whatever way they would like without any judgement from other women with what they choose to do. However when it comes to white women, I think they should give credit where credit is due. Braids do come from black culture and black people should be credited for that. But it does not only end with braids. Cultural appropriation goes far as to what you wear, how you talk and different cosmetic procedures. There are a lot of things we are seeing in society that white women are doing who are making it look like it’s now a trend, it’s now fashion when certain stuff have been around for years such as thick full lips or laying down your baby hairs. White women come and make as if it’s their own and that’s cultural appropriation. It’s also not okay for me when white women are profiting and making money off cultural appropriation in beauty, advertising and mainstream media. When that could have just been giving to black women or any women of culture. For an example, When a fashion magazine puts out a picture of a white model with super teased hair to look like an afro, I ask myself why not use a black model who has an afro?
We all need to be well aware and educated when it comes to cultural appropriation. We need to understand it and try deal with it. The more conversations we have we each other and with other races we will then begin to see the world from each other’s eyes and be able to move forward into a better world.