Dear White People? Is it So Hard To Tell Black People Apart?
Because really, Beyoncé and Viola Davies don’t look one bit alike
I started braiding my hair when I was 13, not because I wanted to, but because at the time — we’re talking late 80s, I couldn’t find a Black hairdresser who would do my hair without asking my mother to pay upwards of 600$. So, one summer, I sat in front of the TV and made tiny micro braids on my 4c afro-textured hair. The result was amazing. So much so that I continued to braid my hair to this day. At times, I’ve also braided my sisters’ hair too.
When I entered the workforce in the mid-90s, I was told more times than none, by my white bosses and colleagues that I should drop the braids — that they were dirty and unkempt, that they weren’t professional, that they made me look like a slacker. I was devastated at having to give up a piece of my identity but acquiesced because those were the rules of the game at the time.
What I love about the times we live in right now, is that Black people are fighting to keep their identities. Legislation such as the Crown Act in the US makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their hairstyle. Here in Europe, a court recently ruled against the French aviation company Air France, for firing an air steward because he refused to cut off his dreadlocks. Slowly but surely, we are making progress and it can’t come soon enough.
Not so long ago, I was so eager to get back into my braids, that during a trip to Senegal, in West Africa, I went out of my way to find a hairdresser who was willing to braid beautiful tresses into my hair. As her expert hands worked their way around my scalp, I felt as though I was coming back into my own, as though I was coming back home, to comfort, to authenticity, to me. Hours later, we were done and I rushed to the bathroom to inspect her work. It was fine, intricate, a masterpiece. She asked me for a meager 30$ and I gave her double.
“But you don’t have to pay me this much”, she protested.
“I’m so happy with your work, and besides, this session has been almost therapeutic for me. It has given me back my power”.