The media should respect African American hair

black hair

By Savannah Elahian

People can suffer from insecurities for many reasons such as having too many freckles or a weak jawline. These insecurities can cause people to feel fear of being looked down upon.For some people the issue runs even deeper. Often the physical characteristics of different cultures cause people to feel judged or insecure. 

For example, there is an unfortunate amount of insensitivity towards the black community about their hair, especially in the media today.

Hair is a $9 billion industry; yet, despite the fact that African Americans make up only 13.2% of the population in America, 80% of all hair products go to black women. Black hair is biologically different than hair seen in other cultures. 

However, society tends to think black hair is like any other, and should be styled similarly. Numerous African Americans have purchased and implemented such products as relaxers to attempt to make their hair more mainstream. 

Others have used such products as weaves, braids, twists, and dreads to alter their hair from its natural state. African American hairstyles are uncommon amongst other ethnicities, which can cause those outside of the black community to look down on people with those hairstyles. Some people simply do not understand black hair, and their ignorance can often morph into discrimination.

For example, in 2012 meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from her anchor position on KTBS 3 News, an ABC affiliate in Louisiana, for defending her natural curls after several posts of disgust on the network’s social media sites criticizing her hair.

One viewer questioned Lee’s health and said on Facebook that Lee “needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair…It’s not something myself that I think looks good on tv.”

There’s an obvious lack of knowledge when it comes to black hair culture. In the book, “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America,” authors Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps explain it wasn’t until the 1960s that the afro came into power as a symbol of rebellion, strength, and pride. 

Despite the hair revolution, there is still a lot of discrimination against African American hair today. 

At this year’s Oscars, biracial Disney Channel star, Zendaya Coleman, walked on the red carpet with long flowing dreadlocks. Her outstanding and powerful look was later bashed by the co-host of the television show “Fashion Police,” Giuliana Rancic. Rancic said Zendaya’s hair looks “like she smells like patchouli oil or weed.” 

The host’s ignorance and stereotyping led to a backlash from viewers and from Zendaya herself, who eloquently told Rancic that dreads were worn by numerous African Americans in society and stated that people should not be judged by their locks. 

Professor of Biology & Biomedical Sciences at Syanford University, Anne Tecklenburg Strehlow wrote, “African hair produces plenty of protective oils, called sebum. 

In fact, African hair actually produces more oils than Caucasian and Asian hair. However, due to the tight curls, the oil fails to spread evenly along the hair fiber.” 

To counteract this problem, many African Americans use hair oils to supplement for the lack of natural oil on their scalp. In fact, many black people cannot wash their hair as frequently as people with other hair types because the water would strip their hair of its limited natural oils, thereby dehydrating the hair. 

This leads to the stereotype of black hair as dirty which is untrue. It’s important for society to accept black hair in television today. The media, especially, needs to reflect an understanding of all hair types to give everyone a sense of equality and encouragement to be themselves. 

At the end of the day, black hair is different than Caucasian, Asian, or any other ethnicity’s hair. Society doesn’t have to look alike, in fact people should embrace each other’s differences. It’s important, however, to not only acknowledge one other’s differences, but also understand them. No matter what hairstyle, African Americans should be able to wear their hair with pride, unashamed of their own culture. 

Author: Plaid Press

Granada Hills Charter High School newspaper

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