BY Petiri Ira
Black hair has a history of being politicized. Even though the natural hair movement has successfully encouraged people of African descent to embrace their natural afro-textured hair, the movement has failed in accepting the afro-hair with the tightest curl patterns—4C Hair. By continuing the discrimination against 4C hair there are Black people who are sketched out of the representation of Blackness.
What is Black hair and who gets to be the face of it? Due to Eurocentric idealization being the center of society, the looser the curl pattern the more “admirable” and “respectable” Black hair is to onlookers and Black people themselves. One of the main weaknesses of the natural hair community’s efforts in loving afro hair in its unmanipulated form is the self-hate that exists within the natural hair hierarchy. There are Black people with looser curl patterns who tend to exercise self-hate by shaming 4C hair for not having enough bounce, definition and length.
Texturism is the idea that certain textures of hair are indicators of superior status in society. Texturism specifically targets 4C hair because it is the texture with the tightest pattern which many individuals believe to be less desirable and more difficult to style. This notion stops 4C hair from getting the respect Type 3 hair has for example. As a result of this limit of desirability, 4C is less likely to be acknowledged in natural hair conversations pertaining to acceptance, self-love and the self-confidence surrounding embracing Afro-hair textures.
Because of the hold Western beauty standards subliminally have over the natural hair movement, 4C hair is brushed over by white-out. It is not given the space to exist freely like looser textures of Black hair that are deemed more “professional”. This has a bearing over what society views the image of Black hair to be. For 4C hair to exist, individuals with the hair type are told to find a way to tame their kinks so that they are less loud and beautiful in society’s gaze. This kind of discrimination towards 4C hair is linked to internalized Blackness due to the societal conditioning people have in their approach to Black hair. Due to the effects of colonialism that continue to live on today, Afro-hair has been associated with hate and Black people have been taught to believe that our has to be “fixed” and “manipulated” in order to have a place in society. In the modern day, Black people are working to decolonize the stigma surrounding our natural hair texture and to embrace our hair for what it truly is. Though even when 4C hair is in its truest form, it is met with discrimination because of the contempt that still lies within society’s conscience. The idea that 4C hair is difficult only bars the Black community from accepting kinky hair and treating it with the same love and care as looser curl patterns. The continued contempt towards 4C hair only fosters the removal of 4C hair from conversations surrounding natural hair acceptance.
On social media, 4C hair often gets named and shamed by users debating which featured clients have 4C hair according to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System. The hair chart system has given stylists who discriminate against 4C hair the opportunity to create a hierarchy within Afro-textured hair; placing 4C hair at the bottom like the worst-behaved child compared to its peers. Because of this notion, Black hair is often bullied out of salons and appointments with hair stylists who explicitly state they do not work with 4C hair because it is too coarse, thick and hard to manipulate. Placing criteria and add on’s onto 4C hair to be treated with respect is texturist because it pushes 4C hair out of the realm of Blackness and it places limits as to what is seen as “real” Black hair whilst removing tighter textures from the diversity that exists within the race.
Since texturism is a product of racism, it is bound to be at a crossroads with its cousin; colourism. Individuals with 4C hair who are also darker-skinned face more ridicule for the way their natural hair grows from their scalps. In the natural hair community’s journey to accepting Black hair, people with afro-hair textures have received empathy and acknowledgement for the discrimination they’ve had to endure. Although, when you are darker-skinned with Type 4 hair the sympathy quickly erodes. Those who are at the intersection, are told that they are “dramatic” and “sensitive” for having more tender scalps and the experiences they’ve had with their hair are dismissed. This comes from the belief that darker-skinned Black people are “strong” and have the capacity “get through it.” By not extending grace and love towards Black individuals who bear the brunt of colourism and texturism, these individuals will further get written out of what Black hair is deemed to be.
The reality is that 4C hair is Black hair and singling out 4C hair is too difficult to manipulate and take care of only removes kinky hair from natural hair discourse to give rise to looser curl patterns being the face of Black hair. The negative rhetoric surrounding Black hair is a symbol of the ideals Eurocentrism still has on Blackness and bullying 4C hair for being a tighter pattern only fosters the “respectability” complex society believes Black people need to have to be humanized.
Petiri Ira is a Race, Society and Culture writer who writes on issues pertaining to the Black and African diaspora.