Don’t Touch My Hair: How Hair Discrimination Contributes to the Policing of Black and Brown Identities While Upholding White Supremacy
In order to engage in a meaningful conversation of the significance a person’s hair holds, we must begin by understanding the root of hair discrimination. In the fifteenth century, the transatlantic slave trade took place that robbed individuals of their freedom, rich cultures, traditions, and values. With this came the emphasis around European characteristics, such as light skin and straight or wavy hair that took away from the beauty of darker skin and tightly coiled hair textures. Slave masters contributed to the assimilation of Eurocentric beauty standards by ridiculing Black features and imposing a hierarchy as slave masters only privileged those with lighter skin and straight hair. Black hair in particular was viewed as “dirty” and “unkempt,” while white people during this era would degrade the texture of Black hair and describe it to be as “rough as wool.”
The 1770s would go on to birth the term “good hair,” which was associated with white hair and highlighted that Caucasian hair textures were softer, longer, and more “kept” whereas, Black hair textures were the anthesis of this. Later in 2016, this term would surface again reopening a centuries old conversation around hair, when Beyonce so eloquently vocalized in her 2016 album, Lemonade, “You better call Becky with the Good Hair.” Well, who is Becky with the good hair? Becky is a white woman with soft, long, sleek hair that is viewed as more “desirable.” Becky with the good hair contributes to the struggle that many Black women face: the damaging effects of colorism that places Eurocentric features on a pedestal.
Gill, Deepali, "Don’t Touch My Hair: How Hair Discrimination Contributes to the Policing of Black and Brown Identities While Upholding White Supremacy" (2023). Golden Gate University Race, Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice Law Journal. 17.