afro allure

They’re at it again! “They” being white people and “it” being taking something Black people have been doing for decades and suddenly deeming it trendy. So what’s the latest cultural appropriation offense? White girls being taught how to wear afros.

You can thank Allure for this latest stunt, which at this point is almost comical – almost. In the August issue of the mag is a tutorial on how straight-haired, i.e., white women, can get afros using a racially nondescript model who obviously has a little color in her but could easily pass for an Anglo-Saxon with a blowout. If you’re feeling a sensation of déjà vu reading this, there’s good reason. Just last month Teen Vogue felt the wrath of every Black woman with a Twitter account when they ran a story on Senagalese Twists and chose, for reasons beyond me, to showcase the style on a model of Fijan, French, American, Tongan, and English descent who could be the sister of Allure’s afro model, all of which begs the question: Are white people that dense or do they just not care?

The issue with the Allure feature goes beyond the routine criticism for not using an obviously Black woman and the missed opportunity to reach beyond what clearly must be a predominately lily-white readership and offer tips to Black women on how to style their afros rather than steal a style not meant for them. When it comes to the afro, the offensiveness of this suggestive cultural appropriation is far greater than others in recent memory because the origin and popularity of the hairstyle runs far deeper than anything that belongs on a beauty or style page. Black women didn’t start wearing afros to be cute. Afros were an extension of the Black power movement of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The hairstyle was a way for Black men and women to tell America they didn’t care what caricatures they put out about them in society, Black was beautiful and that included the thick, coarse, kinky, curly hair that naturally grew from their heads and was combed out into an afro that, big or small, couldn’t be ignored. It took another 40 years or so for that idea of beauty to re-infiltrate Black women’s psyche with the natural hair movement that flourishes today and it’s for that reason and the others outlined above that white women simply have no business rocking “the natural,” which was another name for an afro back in the day, or being told how to – unless, of course, they’re Jewish. That part was a joke.

What’s not funny though is how white America continues its history of taking from a people from which it does not belong nor respect enough to credit its influence on pop culture. We’ve given folks a pass on putting white models on runways with baby hair and offering explanations for Rihanna’s 2013 AMA hairstyle, which, if you were actually a part of the culture, would know was just a doobie wrap, and in some ways we’ve even said OK to cornrows, depending on the wearer of non-color. At some point though, enough is enough and given the increasing frequency of these events against our current racial climate, I’d wager that point is now. White women out there, don’t let Allure get you caught up in these streets. No You (Yes You) May Not Wear An Afro, even if you were born into white privilege and told there’s nothing you can’t do, have, or take as a result.

Image Credits: Allure/Twitter

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  • Buckaroo Lennox

    OMG! I can’t believe what I just read in this article. I am actually copying it for proof that some editor actual thought it was acceptable to publish this in a day and age when most of us are trying to bridge the racial barrier. This does article does the opposite. I am also copying the fact that so many comments are deleted, as I assume mine will be too, while so many severely offensive comments are left up. One day, if this publication ever gets any notoriety, you will have to deal with your mistakes of the past. They will be held against you. Maybe a change of tune is in order? Seriously, here is a good way to determine if a comment or attitude is offensive: Pretend it was said or addressed to you. For example, those happy black women were recently and unjustifiably thrown of the Napa Valley Wine Train. What if the person throwing them off included a statement like “Are you black people that dense or do you just not care?” No one should be able to get away with such ignorance. What makes you think you are the exception to the rule?

  • Serenity Jewel Dance

    People can wear whatever freaking hairstyle they want. If white women aren’t complaining about black women using relaxers, dying their hair blonde, or wearing blue contacts, then black women should shut up about freaking afros. Cultural appropriation is a myth. My wearing a Native American headdress doesn’t stop Native Americans from performing rituals sacred to them. My wearing prayer beads doesn’t stop Catholics from praying. There are so many real, critical issues facing Black women and girls, like sexual abuse and domestic violence, that this article does us all a disservice. The more time we spend talking about other people’s hair, the less time we have to focus on real issues of substance that could actually empower our community.

  • Serenity Jewel Dance

    PS The model can not pass for a white woman. She looks like a biracial woman, which is a woman of color. Black people come in all colors and for a woman of color to dismiss another woman of color because she doesn’t look black enough demeans us all.

    • Raykel White

      She’s White. Marissa Neitling, she’s a White lady. lol. The irony is with her hair styled like that she became biracial to you. If that ain’t the best example of cultural appropriation. smh.

  • billy colello

    Dense really first of all so white people can naturally have an afro this is not culturally specific nor racial… Blacks are hard pressed to label Evey culture of people as white based on their skin color even when they’re not actually white Italian & Greeks to Name a few .when the texture of Thur hair can very from afro curly to sleek and straight….. Further if a white woman with Straight hair gets a perm and rocks a fro is that different from black girls perming Thur hair straight or wearing a blonde weave like white girls… double standard much ….

  • Raykel White

    Think about it like this. What if a Black model was used and had her straightened and dyed blonde. What would the title read?

    “You too can get Caucasian hair!”

    Let that sink in for a moment.