Love the Locs: Detangling Ethnic Politics

 

The internet is in a daze with post-Oscar buzz. But no, not about the talented performances or who came home as big winners. Unless you’ve been off the grid, you’ve heard of Giuliana Rancic’s ignorant comments about Zendaya Coleman’s locs at the glitzy event.

While discussing Zendaya’s Oscars ensemble on Fashion Police, the E! News reporter stated, “I feel like she smells like patchouli oil…and maybe weed.”

Since, Rancic’s comments on Zendaya’s hair have made headlines and have been splattered all over social media. Rancic’s “joke” has enraged many, as her statement was not only hurtful, but it also epitomized the blatant prejudice and stereotyping of African American hair.

Zendaya took to social media to respond to the comment, and very elegantly described the racism rooted in Rancic’s remark.

The young starlet stated,

“There is already harsh criticism of African American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair. My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.”

Zendaya’s words hold very true, as African American hair is extremely stigmatized. So much so that the sight of locs automatically illicites thoughts of “weed.”

African American hair is connotated with being lazy, messy, and unprofessional. These are obvious prejudices, but they still run rampant in our society, although it may be subtle to most.

For example, stars like Kerry Washington, Jennifer Hudson, and even Beyonce do not wear their hair naturally. It has become normal for African American women to change and alter their hair to the point where no trace of their native curls (or their stigmatized baggage) remain.

In most professional settings, African American hair is actually forbidden to be worn naturally. African Americans feel immense pressure by corporate America and society to change their hair: to leave their natural-born locs and use harsh chemicals and relaxers to make it straight, more “acceptable” — essentially, more white.

Not only do African Americans need to go through the cost and process of changing their hair to be even considered for a professional position, but the chemicals used are extremely dangerous. These products usually contain active hormones and chemicals that could lead to reproductive defects, heart disease, and cancers.

African Americans, especially women, need to go through a whole ordeal, put themselves through self harm, and, for some, deny their heritage for their hair to be accepted by white society.

There is a clear double standard that exists here. African American hair is seen as unkempt, but if it’s adopted by someone else, someone white, it becomes “edgy.” There’s a reason why when Kylie Jenner gets locs, she’s “trendy” and “pushing the boundaries” while Zendaya apparently smells like patchouli oil.

These “jokes” about a person’s hairstyles only perpetuate these prejudices that essentially initiate the racist policies that prevent someone from wearing their hair naturally. A big thank you goes to Zendaya for making the statement that African American hair should be something to be proud of.

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