Fear of the Black Woman's Hair

Now we have all heard about the controversial cover of the latest New Yorker. The cable news talking heads spent most of yesterday criticizing the magazine for "satirizing" Sen. Barack Obama by dressing him as a Muslim militant with the American flag burning in the fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden's likeness on the wall.

But very little has been said about Michelle Obama's portrayal. While I agree that magazine covers are much ado about nothing, as previously noted, I do find this cover to be particularly interesting in how the mainstream media views black women. As you can see, Mrs Obama is wearing military fatigues with a rifle strapped to her back. Most important, she is sporting an Afro.

Again, while the magazine says that it was "satirizing" the Obamas, it is very clear that in this society black women are still judged by the their hairstyles.

Natural black hair (Afros, dreadlocks, braids) has always been demonized and seen as a sign of non-conformist behavior compared to Western ideals of long straight hair. Last year a editor at Glamor got in hot water for saying that natural black hair was unattractive and unprofessional.

The following are terms I have heard about hairstyles over the years:

Natural hair = angry, militant, uncivilized, ugly, too black
Straight hair = nice, genial, civilized, beautiful, competent

Oh, what do they know. While I don't wear my hair naturally myself (by personal choice, not political), there have been a lot of really cool chicks I admire who have gone au natural without shame.



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