Combing Through The Deeply Rooted Politics Of Black Hair Issues

In today's New York Times, Catherine Saint Louis attempts to get to the root of the politics surrounding black hair. She touches on "good hair," the "creamy crack," Malia Obama's twists and Chris Rock's new documentary. She writes:

Straightening hair has been perceived as a way to be more acceptable to certain relatives, as well as to the white establishment…

In the face of cultural pressure, the thinking goes, conformists relax their hair, and rebels have the courage not to. In some corners, relaxing one's hair is even seen as wishing to be white.

We've covered this issue many times, as has the Times, and the discussion is ongoing. Frankly, the debate does get tiring. Saint Louis writes that many people of color ask: "Why can't hair just be hair? Must an Afro peg a woman as the political heir to Angela Davis? Is a fashionista who replicates the first lady's clean-cut bob really being untrue to herself?"

But a quote from Noliwe M. Rooks, the associate director of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton, struck me as as close as we're going to get to an answer. She was asked about what it meant when the hair of Sasha and Malia Obama was sometimes pressed straight, and said: "There's a complexity to who we are now. There wasn't an easy answer to why."

Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics [NY Times]

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