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Friday, May 14, 2021

Opinion

Black women birthed today’s trends


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Black women have long carried the burden of society’s judgement of them as mothers, professionals and regular people. Now, the same style choices Black women were ostracized for are the latest fashion trends.

The kinky and curly hair types of Black women have birthed a plethora of creative styles that are meant to protect their hair from damage while still appearing neat.

As African Americans became more comfortable expressing themselves through their appearance, systemic racism was used as a tool to curve this.

The Tignon Laws of 1786 emerged in Louisiana to stop women of African descent from decorating their hair and head wraps with jewels. Their exotic appearance made them stand out from white women and attracted the attention of white men. 

Today, this type of discrimination is still allowed to exist in schools and workplaces across the U.S. Just last year, then 18-year-old DeAndre Arnold was threatened with not being able to walk in his high school graduation if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks.

Although his school’s rule prohibiting males from having hair past their earlobes wasn’t directed at Black boys, Arnold’s dreadlocks were not an example of messy or neglected hair. In fact, dreadlocks require hours of hair care.

With stories like Arnold’s happening all over the U.S., it’s no surprise that Black people have become even more deeply connected and protective of their culture.

Unlike non-Black people who wear cornrows, box braids or long acrylic nails, Black people can’t just decide to take off the labels that society tends to associate them with.

Beauty standards from the ’90s and early 2000s were based on tall and thin supermodels and low-rise-jeans-wearing pop stars. There wasn’t room on magazine covers for Black women who weren’t Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks.

In more recent years, the standards have shifted. Now, social media influencers and celebrities are paying to look more exotic with fuller lips, a bigger butt and curly hair. Sound familiar?  

When one of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters braids their hair back in rows or over lines their lips to make them appear fuller, it’s hailed as the newest fashion trend that everyone must try. In contrast, Black men with the same style are labeled as thugs.

Black women have spent centuries learning to tame their nappy hair with chemical perms, hot combs and fake hair in an effort to fit the Eurocentric image of the professional world, but now the same styles they’d never dare wear to work are on a runway for Marc Jacobs.

When Miley Cyrus decided to trade in her guitar for a gold grill and Air Jordan’s, she was praised for her new edgy look. Her twerking antics stirred up a lot of conversation, but she didn’t invent the dance nor did she popularize it. She just introduced it to her majority white audience.

There are ways to appreciate Black culture. It’s possible to explore and learn about interesting cultures without completely hijacking something that many people hold dear. However, there are just some things that should be left alone.

In Cyrus’ case, instead of changing her image and actively trying to achieve a “Black sound” in her music, she could’ve lent her voice to Black hip-hop artists who would’ve benefitted from a feature with such a big name.

She could’ve used her access and privilege to help the Black community since she admired it so much, but instead she used the good girl gone Black schtick until it no longer benefitted her.

Cyrus isn’t the first or last person to slip in and out of the Black community at their own discretion, but as cancel culture grows more popular, more celebrities are being called out for their actions.

Danielle Bregoli, also known as Bhad Bhabie, saw her interview with “Dr. Phil” go viral in 2016 for her loud and disrespectful antics. She threatened her mother and the audience with violence, and used African American Vernacular English throughout the show. 

Bregoli managed to launch her rap career from the popularity of her video and still maintains the same “hood” persona she had on “Dr. Phil.” In 2020, however, Bregoli’s look shifted from pale skin and red hair to a dark tan and black hair.

To some people, it’s just hair and a tan, but when Bregoli decides she no longer wants to be seen as Black, she can take out her extensions and scrub away her fake tan. The Black women she’s imitating will always have their dark skin and the disadvantages that come with it.

Generations of Black women have suffered for the little progress made in the fight to not be seen as uneducated, unprofessional or ghetto. Black women of today should not have to fight against culture vultures stealing their styles and taking all the glory.

Jordan Hart is a journalism junior who can be reached at [email protected]

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