White Women Don’t Belong in Natural Hair Spaces

The title of this post sums up what I’m going to write about here. Twitter is abuzz about a post on Curly Nikki, featuring a Q&A with a white woman named Sarah talking about how she has learned to embrace her curls. This seemingly innocuous post features this woman musing about how she’s learned to accept her texture, and doing everything from co-washing, hoarding products to sleeping in a satin bonnet to protect her texture.

Sounds familiar?

So a site that was started by a black woman as a guide to help other black women with natural hair or those who were transitioning to natural hair decided to once again (I’m told it’s not the first time a white woman was interviewed) feature a white woman discussing her curly hair. What’s more offensive is they didn’t even alter the questions to account for the fact that Sarah never transitioned or “went natural.” However, Curly Nikki is a lot different than what it used to be. It’s now a brand owned by TextureMedia, a company that offers “dynamic social platform that empowers & engages a multicultural community of female influencers – the largest in the world of haircare.”

Oh…

Anyway, I am beyond exhausted of seeing white women propped up in spaces traditionally reserved for black women as a way to add credibility to our issues. I’m tired of seeing the use of white women employed to appeal to the masses, as this does nothing but silence and eliminate the experiences and voices of black women. I’m sick of white women coming into black women’s spaces, with what they call an attempt to learn and create solidarity, only to use their privilege to take over and ignore our plight as they work to bolster their own brand.

White women and their hair stories do not belong in spaces that cater to black women with natural hair. The term ‘natural hair’ has always been connected to black women and our hair stories, not that of white women. White women, while they can have curly hair, can not refer to their hair as natural without engaging in some form of cultural appropriation. This white woman did not start wearing her hair natural nor did she transition. She simply wore one hairstyle while growing up, and later decided she would wear her hair down. That decision by this woman featured in this blog post can NEVER compare to what black women face when we decide to transition from chemically relaxed to natural hairstyles.

The faux struggles curly-haired white women face when they “embrace their texture” is nothing like the social, political, personal and economic fallout inflicted upon black women when we shun the relaxer. Curly-haired white women don’t know what it’s like to have your boyfriend (or girlfriend) flat out say he (or she) prefers your hair to be straight (because of that whole white Eurocentric beauty brainwashing thing); when you family asks you, “You going to keep your hair like that?” Or “What do you plan to do with it?”; when white women ask you all kinds of ridiculous questions about your hair routine (because we can’t possibly use the same shampoo and conditioner as them, right?); when people are so brazen and arrogant to believe they have the right to ignore your humanity and run their grimy fingers through your coils; when your boss comes up to you and tells you how unprofessional your Afro is and that it does not belong in the workplace; when fellow black women talk about how brave you are to go natural, to embrace your kinks and wish they can do the same; when you spend hours upon hours on YouTube watching self-appointed natural hair stars demonstrate their tips on how to get the perfect twist out (because having a frizzy twist-out is not cute, apparently).

I’m sure there are some who couldn’t care less about Curly Nikki featuring this white woman in her Q&A. I know there are some of y’all who believe appropriation by white folks is flattery; that this is a nonissue and black women will find anything to be upset about. This white woman’s appropriation of the natural hair community’s terminology and framing those experiences as comparable to what she went through in her “journey” is indicative of her and Curly Nikki’s disregard for black women and our humanity. It ignores the gritty and sobering issues black women who wear natural hair face — those issues white women can bypass and brush off because they are, well, white.

Furthermore, the use of this white woman and her hair story further perpetuates the trend in natural hair circles to center experiences around women who have a looser curl pattern or, for those who are obsessed with hair typing, the 3a, 3b, 3c, etc. Black women who have tighter coils, kinks and naps — 4a, 4b, 4c, etc. for those keeping score — are constantly told through marketing campaigns that our texture is not the kind of natural hair we should embrace. It’s not a coincidence that we see an abundance of curl enhancers/definers being peddled towards black women who aren’t yet comfortable with rocking their frizzy undefined afros. Obsessed with chasing the ever-elusive curl, black women spend countless hours on YouTube and blogs such as Curly Nikki looking for ways they can make their 4z texture appear more like a woman rocking 3c curls. Some of us spend hundreds of dollars each year on hair products that promise to give us curly, defined styles. We spend hours each week twisting and stretching our hair to make sure we don’t wake up the next day looking like Don King’s shrunken down Afro. But we are supposed to look at this Q&A featuring this white woman and feel inspired to embrace our naps because her curly hair experience is just like ours!

We should not want or need white woman and their loose curl patterns in natural hair circles for black women. We should not promote white women picking and choosing which parts of blackness they can mold into their life experiences while simultaneously erasing and invalidating the lived experiences of black women who can’t leverage white privilege to make our journeys easier to navigate.