Nappy by nature and not by choice.
It is common nowadays to see Caucasian celebrities talking about and wearing hair extensions. Many white women now also braid their hair or have dreadlocks. Bo Dereck made cornrows mainstream when she wore them in the movie “10” In the 1970’s. What non-black females may perceive as simply imitating an African American hairstyles is far from the truth of the matter. Black women do not take the time to braid their hair, grow out their dreads or utilize extensions as a fashion statement. These styles are a necessity for the tresses because of the texture of black hair. There is an old adage that imitation is the best form of flattery, but many African American females are offended rather than flattered. There is a legitimate reason why they feel this way.
Caucasian hair, for the most part, is straight and if it gets wet there are a few tangles. This type of hair can dry naturally without any problem. The majority of black women have hair, that back in the day was referred to as “nappy” or kinky when in its natural state and looked like an Afro. When I was growing up in the 1960’s all black women straightened their hair with a metal comb that had been heated. I assumed wrongly that straight hair was what nature intended and that black women’s tresses needed a little help in getting there. In later years African American women began using chemical relaxers to straighten the hair but now there are studies that indicate the chemicals can cause cancer. For this reason, alternate styling is a necessity.
Kinky hair reverts to form
When black women with coarse hair sweat, get in the swimming pool or are caught in the rain, the hair that is not permed reverts back to it’s the natural state. Because most African American women have the coarser hair it can be difficult to maintain a particular style. It is also a waste of money to sit in the beauty salon for hours, having the hair dried and straightened only to have it revert to its natural form when you do not want it to. The tighter curl pattern also often results in the hair not growing out very long. Hair extensions can help those who desire to add length. Most non black women can simply choose to allow their hair to grow as long as they desire because the strands of their hair are straight. If they cut it the tresses will grow back without a problem.
For this reason Caucasian women do not need extensions. Certainly, they can choose to add to the length of their hair if they choose but many black women do not have the same choice. Without extensions, they would not be able to enjoy a variety of styles. Braiding and dreadlocks are a way for African American women to manage their natural hair without simply wearing an Afro. Dreads and sometimes braids allow natural hair to grow without chemicals or heating it to straighten it. This makes the tresses basically carefree and is why it baffles the minds of black women that their white sisters will choose to dread their hair,
Knowing the purpose
I liken this situation to someone using a cane because they are a fall risk and another person walking with a cane because they want to be cool. Black women who have hair that is less course wear it as is just like white women do because they don’t need assistance. Women of every culture except African Americans have hair that grows without any problem and they can style it however they like. My granddaughter has hair that touches her rear end: My daughter, her mother spent countless hours giving her a style that is similar to dreads but more curly. She recently was in a ballet recital and could put her hair in a bun just like all the other girls who were white, Asian and Arabic.
Those other girls had long hair because that is natural for almost ever race except African Americans. Non black women can have coarse unruly tresses but most of those who have descended from Africans enslaved in America are the ones with the difficult hair. I thought about a few little black girls I knew who would have had no way to put their hair in a bun because it is too short.
If any of those children were required to put their hair in a bun, their parents would have to sew in, clip-on or glue extensions in. These are not free will choices but necessary in specific situations. When I was a child my great-grandma would wash my hair and while it was drying it looked like I had used. The Afro blowout kit. Think Michael Jackson or the singing Sylvester family with the huge natural styles in the 1970’s. When the white lady who sold butter and eggs was coming my great granny called me captive wild woman and told me to hide.
Back in those days, we had black girls using heat so their hair would be straight, and easy to comb just like the white girls. Now we have Caucasian women braiding and dreading their hair to immolate African American styles. Coarse hair is difficult to comb and many young women of color cried as their mom or grandma tried to get the comb to go through their tightly curled hair. The idea of anyone wanting their tresses to be tangled is simply beyond me. Dreadlocks allow black men and women’s hair to grow the same way as people of other cultures. I know women whose hair was so short they looked like boys when they were young. Now that they have dreadlocks their tresses are growing down their backs.
Women of other races don’t need that type of assistance in order to get their hair to grow. This is why some black women are offended when they see white women with braids and dreads. What we are doing out of necessity, and through trial, error, and sometimes pain, both emotionally and physically, they do for a fashion statement. There is an old saying that when you don’t understand the purpose of a thing, you will abuse it. This is why it is important for women who are not black to understand the history of what they now have adopted. Many African American women have no choice but to accessorize and invest in time-consuming styles that complement their unique hair texture.
The bottom line to all of this is that younger generations of women of color are choosing to embrace their unique hair texture and wear styles that leave it in its natural state. Older black females like myself grew up in an era where we were taught about good and bad hair. Those whose tresses required no heat and resembled that of white girls were considered to have good hair, This term is now considered offensive and may black women want to rock the hair they were born with. We all have free will choice to do with our manes what we desire but some African American women consider it as culturally inappropriate for white girls to copy these ethnic hairdos.
wiserworld on October 01, 2020:
Have you tried French braiding? I just published a hub on it if you'd like to check it out...
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on June 05, 2020:
Interesting hub :) Thank you for sharing your perspective :) I would like to say that many causcians do not have that perfect straight hair that does not tangle that you speak of. Most of everyone are mixed with different ethnic groups making their hair unique. I for one have thick, curly hair that fluffs up horribly during humidity and if I desire straight hair it takes forever and I have to use expensive products to acheive that look and if it rains, God help me. I really do appreciate your emphasis on how your ethnic group can have problems growing their hair. I did not know that dreadlocks were a technique/style to encourage hair growth. I can only imagine the frustration, of wanting longer locks and not being able to have them. I also wanted to express that I appreciate how you explained why some black women are offended by white women using their hair styles as trendy because quite honestly I would never have thought of that way. But with that being said, it would be lovely to embrace all hair styles. All are beautiful. Afterall we are wonderfully made :)
Holley Rich Coleman from New Orleans, LA on May 01, 2020:
FYI dreadlocks originated from INDIA from the god Shiva......not African culture.
Holley Rich Coleman from New Orleans, LA on May 01, 2020:
I respect your article. However, dreadlocks are not a "black thing", especially an American black thing. I think it's ridiculous for anyone to say that I cant have a certain hairstyle because I'm not black. Hispanic. Whatever. Who cares? If it looks good on that person, great. If they are happy, awesome. You should be stoked that other races and cultures embrace each other and want to emulate that look themselves.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on January 31, 2020:
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on January 31, 2020:
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on January 02, 2020:
He Ms. Dora. Unfortunately I was told I was racist for writing this. So sad people misunderstand what writers are trying to convey.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 02, 2020:
I just wish that both black and white girls would take the time to understand why they do what they do with their hair, and not just engage in blind imitation. At the root of all the frenzy is their need to respect their innate (God-given) value and purpose.