Saturday, March 03, 2012

On magazine ads, Afros, Viola and Wendy

On a recent grocery-shopping trip, I picked up a few magazines: Upscale, Uptown, Ebony. Doing my affluent Black culture thing.

As I started flipping through them, I saw this:

And this:

And this:

And within five minutes, I had a transformative moment: Suddenly, I was tired of seeing Black women with straightened hair. Gut-tired. Deep-down-in-the-bone tired.

What I said to myself was: "I don't care if I ever see another Black woman with straight hair in my life."

I ain't mad at Queen Latifah (come on - she's gorgeous) or anybody else for their choices. But I'm really, really tired of the assumption that Black women need to do all that much to their hair. I want Black women to wear the hair God gave them.

Wear it short. Wear it long. Wear twists, locks, braids or rock a downright dangerous 'Fro like Angela Davis or Roberta Flack did back in the day - y'know?

That feeling has been coming on for a long time, and there have been times when I have approached total strangers, women who do not know me from a can of paint, to thank them for wearing the hair God gave them. In fact, I did that just a few days ago. On Sunday afternoon, I volunteered at the August Wilson Center, helping to staff the ticket table for the performance of the HIV/AIDS-oriented stage piece, "Who Me?" I noticed that a security guard there was a lady with an Afro, and I told her about my transformative moment, and thanked her for her hair.

That night, for the first time in a long time, I watched the Oscars broadcast. When the camera panning the audience focused on Viola Davis, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Aibileen in "The Help," I noted that she was prettier than she looked in the movie - so much prettier that I didn't recognize her.

I didn't realize that I was watching a culturally significant moment, that Ms. Davis' appearance at the Oscars would be a matter of controversy. And by "appearance," I don't mean her being there. I mean the way she wore her hair.

Now, thanks to this piece by Kimberly "DrGoddess" Ellis, I've learned that there's a whole thing going about how Viola Davis wore her hair on Oscar night. Apparently, the always-bewigged talk show host Wendy Williams made disparaging comments about Ms. Davis natural look, comments that sparked an Internet firestorm.

Really, Wendy? In 2012, you have a problem with a Black woman wearing a natural hairstyle to a formal event, a hairstyle that even the L.A. Times said was "a hit"?? Really???

Dr Goddess (and on YouTube, beautifulEhuman) have responded eloquently as Black women. As a Black man, here's my ineloquent response: stuff a sock in it.

Black women, is there a Natural Hair Day? If not, let's declare one. Let there be ONE day out of the year when Black women everywhere feel free to wear the hair God gave them.

Who's in?
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