Misrepresenting Black Hair

Dilan Gomihm, Yale Daily News, April 10, 2011

Last Friday, the WEEKEND cover story, entitled “Black Hair,” attempted to explain the inner workings of taking care of black women’s hair. I was one of the article’s main sources, and was disappointed with the final product. The article propagated misconceptions while vilifying women who choose to relax their hair. It made black women sound obsessed with hair and mistakenly portrayed them as willing to put themselves through chronic pain in order to feel beautiful. I, like many other black women who have read it, am extremely disappointed by the piece and would like to correct these misperceptions.

Misquotations and statements out of context aside, one major issue with the article was the author’s inaccurate description of the chemical straightening process. The author states that:

“A woman having her hair ‘relaxed’ usually sits with the chemical in her hair until she can’t stand the burn any longer. . . . After the relaxer is washed out, the hair must be conditioned immediately or else it will start to break off just above the root. Soon after, raw spots on the scalp begin to ooze with blood. A couple hours later, scabs form.”

Bleeding? Scabbing? This is not the norm–in fact this is a worst-case scenario, bordering on a horror movie. When the relaxer processes for about 10 minutes, you may feel a tingle, which may be more intense if the scalp has been irritated. Unless your stylist is Satan doubling as a beautician, hairdressers do not torture their clients until they wash out the chemical. I have never bled. I have never met anyone who has bled after a relaxer. {snip}

Another issue was the author’s misrepresentation of the length of the black hair care process. Yes, it can take an average of two-and-a-half to three hours to complete washing, blow-drying and straightening. However, this is once every seven to 10 days. As one interviewee in the article mentions, black women do not wash their hair every day because oil takes time to build up in our hair. Every morning, it only takes three to five minutes for me to comb my hair and walk out the door. The cumulative time saved more than makes up for the periodic treatments. All women have to take care of their hair. It is unfair to characterize one type of beauty regimen as outlandish and sensational when it is simply different.

As for the allegation that black women don’t want their hair to be touched, there is a very simple explanation: it takes a long time to fix! {snip}

Finally, the author seemed quite biased towards natural hair in the article. I agree that natural hair is beautiful–but other forms of hair are too. {snip}

{snip}

[The article the author is referring to can be read here.]

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  • sbuffalonative

    “It made black women sound obsessed with hair and mistakenly portrayed them as willing to put themselves through chronic pain in order to feel beautiful.”

    Black women are obsessed by black hair and will do anything to get the hair they want. Chris Rock noticed it and he did a documentary on it called Good Hair:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Hair

    There are university professors who teach courses on the politics of black hair and endless articles on the subject written by blacks.

    Blacks are obsessed by black hair. It’s one of those pesky stereotypes that’s true.

  • Anonymous

    An article about an article about hair, complete with many apologies. And yet black girls and women are harassed daily by black men and no one says a thing. Because saying-things about any group or ethnicity is limited to condemning white men and their racist and sexist societies. .

  • Hematite

    Look at a black hair forum (there are many) and see for yourself how much time, money, and effort they put into their hair. You’ll also get an idea of how often it is washed. “Not every day” is right.

  • Anonymous

    If she learns nothing else at Yale, Ms. Gomihm has learned that the news media are concerned much more with entertainment than facts. In this case entertainment was more important than promoting political correctitude. For the sake of amusement, Black women, a group that liberals hold in great esteem, were made to look foolish and narcissistic.

  • Spartan24

    As far as harsh chemicals used in hair products, most of the dyes, permanent wave solutions and bleaches used by Whites are pretty harsh and can cause severe reactions if used improperly. Many salon operators have to quit after years of having to handle the chemicals used to process hair after developing sensitivity.

  • olewhitelady

    Even some poor women spend a ridiculous amount of money on weaves. On TV cop shows, I’ve seen black women much too dark and/or old to be donning long blonde hair, but there they are with their silly-looking weaves. I’ve read that at every modern-day black brawl, the street will be littered with torn-out weave tresses!

    The aforementioned film Good Hair is a great way to learn about weaves.

  • HH

    Apparently that first article came a little too close to revealing some uncomfortable truths about Blacks and this whole Black-Hair phenomenon…and we all know how those folks are put off by the truth about themselves.

  • WbuMongo

    “However, this is once every seven to 10 days. As one interviewee in the article mentions, black women do not wash their hair every day because oil takes time to build up in our hair.”

    I’m curious Dilan, how long does it take for dirt to build up on black women’s heads. I wash my hair every day because it’s part of my head, and it gets dirty. Does this mean that black women only wash their heads every 7-10 days? Gross.

  • kgb

    I can’t wait for this woman’s comments on the obvious lightening of Beyonce’s skin tone. The woman used to be as brown as cafe-au-lait; now she’s as beige as Jessica Alba. Next stop — Gwyneth Paltrow whiteness!

  • NkHk5

    “University professors teaching course on black hair”…this is higher education?It’s a humorous and rather stupid subject ina newspaper to be read when sitting on the “throne”.higher education?-no way!!

  • Spartan24

    @NkHk5- If someone wants a class on “black hair” I suggest they go to a local beauty school! It would certainly be cheaper and the student would actually have a usable trade after graduation. I have a friend who went through beauty school in the late 80’s and they had to have a unit on black hair although she lived in rural Ohio with little to no black population. She said it was the grossest thing she had to do and would not want to ever work with black hair.

  • Mary Marie

    I am a cosmetologist and I can tell you there are Major differences between a white person’s hair and a black.

    Black hair has the feel and texture of wool, it is easy to work with and open to many styles but it is not like a white person’s hair in the least bit.

    My daughter works for a large insurance company and they had her come to a meeting where white females were told, not to twirl their hair or shake it about BECAUSE it made the black females feel slighted…

    And it offended them. Is there anything on the Planet Earth that doesn’t OFFEND them?

  • Anonymous

    “Bleeding? Scabbing? This is not the norm—in fact this is a worst-case scenario, bordering on a horror movie”

    I worked with a lot of black women for 30 years. I never heard anything about blood and burns. They didn’t talk much about their hair at work. They just took care of it and didn’t carry on about it. Once in a while when they got a compliment they’d say its just a wig.Hair care is just part of their life. Their Mothers start the braids when they are 2. They grow up with it, not much different from men having to shave every day.

    This really shows that the geniuses at Yale have nothing to write about.

  • Anonymous

    I am a white woman with long blond-red hair (middle of my back). I am also a high school teacher. I cannot tell you how many times over the last five years some black male student has threatened to cut off my hair. More recently, black female students have started saying things like, “What would you do if I cut off that hair?”

    I reply, “I’d call 911, have you charged with assault with a weapon, and then I’d call my lawyer.”

    When I’m at school, I’ve started wearing my hair in a bun or French twist. I really think some of them would try. (Yes, I’ve reported the threats to administration, who just chuckle. They are not taken seriously at all.)

  • Spartan24

    Blacks are facinated by White hair- I have had a black coworker walk past me and “flip” my waist length light brown hair. I complained and was moved to a new department. Recently in church I had my daughter (3.5 years old) in Sunday school, when I went to pick her up the teacher told me about some African refugee girls who were touching her dress and hair constantly and seemed facinated with her blond curls and pink dress. I was glad that she was not frightened but I am seriously considering going to another church.

  • Diversity = Adversity

    I never heard of black hair as a political thing, before joining AmRen. I have never even heard of chris rock’s movie until now. But growing up I knew a mulatto girl who did all sorts of crazy beauty rituals to fix her hair. I personally prefer to leave my hair alone for the most part only washing and conditioning it when need be, brushing it frequently and leaving it to grow long, natural wavy, and blonde. The mulatto liked to use pink extensions, and she (unfortunately) prefers White men (if only her white mother had, then we would not have this problem).

    @#14 That is terrible those blacks just come up to you and say they would cut off your hair! Figures, though doesn’t it?

    @#15 PLEASE go to a different church!

    @#7,8,9,10,1,2,3,4,5,6,11,12,&13: LOL and good points, thnx for posting, good read. It Is hardly amazing anymore that this is what passes for higher education these days

  • Anonymous

    14 — Anonymous wrote at 6:59 PM on April 14:

    I am a white woman with long blond-red hair (middle of my back). I am also a high school teacher. I cannot tell you how many times over the last five years some black male student has threatened to cut off my hair. More recently, black female students have started saying things like, “What would you do if I cut off that hair?”

    I reply, “I’d call 911, have you charged with assault with a weapon, and then I’d call my lawyer.”

    When I’m at school, I’ve started wearing my hair in a bun or French twist. I really think some of them would try. (Yes, I’ve reported the threats to administration, who just chuckle. They are not taken seriously at all.)

    Back in the 60’s long hair halfway down the back was the standard style for young White women. NYC subway system was plagued with blacks setting White women’s hair on fire. It was hushed up a lot, but word spread as the other passengers on the platform could not help but notice.

    I well remember several times being told by black bus drivers, subway token sellers etc to tuck my long hair under my coat and next time I took a bus or subway to “tuck it up”.

    You know there was a real problem when black transit employees told White women to hide their hair to avoid it being set on fire.

    Wigs were in style in the 50’s and 60’s. Lots of women had their wigs stolen by black thugs. Lots of White women who were not wearing wigs were practically scalped when blacks thought the women were wearing wigs and tried to tear their natural hair off.

    Then there were the White women who wore gold and silver necklaces and were throttled when black thugs tore them off.

    And of course the feminazis said nothing. Just one more reason why I, a woman think the Taliban has some good ideas about the proper place of women. Most White women are nothing more than race traitors.