When Shahs of Sunset star Golneasa “GG” Gharachedaghi debuted her box braids this week, I personally approved her wearing them but in doing so got into yet another RIDICULOUS debate with clueless fans who insist on dismissing the cultural significance of African braided styles.
The topic of cultural appropriation is exhausting.
Not exhausting to the extent that the topic is not a worthy thing to discuss, but mentally draining when those of us who are well versed in the discourse are forced to constantly and continuously explain it over and over and over again to those who do not understand it.
I usually scroll past the comments from the very LOUD and BOLD people who denounce accusations of cultural appropriation in public, usually in social media.
I mean, the people who dismiss the history of cultural appropriation are literally the most VOCAL and UNINFORMED on the topic.
It truly baffles my mind how bold these folks are and how quick they are to BUTT IN to pontificate their UNEDUCATED perspective on a topic they know absolutely NOTHING about (and when I say NOTHING, I mean nada, zip, zero.)
To them, when a people tied to a culture that has historic links to a hairstyle, article of clothing, tradition speak out, they are quick to JUMP IN and SCREAM,
“it’s just hair!” or
“that bindi on Selena Gomez’ forehead is ok because she’s paying homage to Indians!” or
“So what, Kim K is trademarking an article of clothing tied to an entire culture and tradition with deep historic meaning. It’s just clothes!”
“No one owns Hair! No one owns a style! Nothing is original! Go ahead and wear what you want and how you want it and ignore anyone who has anything to say otherwise.”
These ANGRY VOICES most of the time have done LITTLE TO NO RESEARCH on the cultural dress or style in discussion and are BLISSFULLY IGNORANT to it, yet feel perfectly fine inserting their IGNORANT opinions in the conversation.
LOUD and WRONG is how they usually come off to me.
Well…what’s the point in all of this?
I recently inserted myself into such a debate when Bravo TV star of their hit show Shahs of Sunset Golneasa “GG” Gharachedaghi decided to wear box braids while vacationing and share a little video of herself in her new style.
Now, a few months ago, she wore Senegalese twists which originate in Senegal, West Africa and even though she properly credited the origins of the style, and acknowledge the stylist and all, the 37-year old reality TV star and owner of cannabis company Wusah, took a lot of heat for it. I mean a lot!
Naturally, when she decided to share on Instagram, her look this time around, she made sure to preface her first post by explaining her intent.
“Yessss, loving my braids while in paradise! Now y’all know I mean no disrespect to any culture with my hair. I simply love the style and I have curly, frizzy hair and that sh*t ain’t easy in the island humidity. Only love, please! #Wusah #OneLove”
Why I think GG Gets a pass
Because I am passionate on this topic and an advocate for ethnic braided style and founder of this blog, I decided to insert myself into the fray and jump in to comment that, personally, I support GG’s wearing of African style braids because
1) she is one of the few non-black celebrity women who acknowledges the history and the fact that Box braids are uniquely AFRICAN; and
2) unlike other people who just rip styles from marginalized groups, communities and cultures without giving a flying F what those people go through to survive in the world, GG actually stands up for black and marginalized communities and people, has always had black friends and gets a lot of heat, and loses followers for it when she does stand up for the oppressed. See social media examples HERE and HERE and HERE.
I commented as such in her original post and was met with a bunch of blow back from white women and a Middle Eastern woman who IGNORANTLY insisted:
1) “it was just hair”;
2) that she has no duty to respect or acknowledge black women who originated the style and has no duty to stand up for black women before wearing a style we wear and get persecuted over; and
3) all races of people wear braids; black people do not “own” the style.
First, let me address that last uninformed nonsense.
Yes, other cultures in history have and do wear braids but ONLY BLACK women wear BOX braids the way GG wore them.
Only BLACK women wear Senegalese Twists.
THAT’s IT! Cut it out trying to make a false equivalency that doesn’t exist.
THIS is traditionally0 how non-blacks wear their hair in braids:
THIS is how BLACK women wear braids:
Even in history, the way Vikings, Indians, Native Americans, 18th Century Brits, and even fictional middle earth women like Daenerys, Queen of the Dragons, wore braids…
is way different than the elaborate multiple braids wearing way AFRICANS have n history and continue to.
There IS a difference and to ignore this difference is either arrogant and dismissive ignorance, willful ignorance or a combination of both but I do note that those who respond as such are usually TOTALLY UNEDUCATED.
It’s Not Just Hair: There are Historical and Cultural Significance to Our Braids v. Other Types Of Braids
Also, there is more than just similarities, there is historical link to our braided hairstyles.
It is indeed MORE than just a hair style!!!!!
During slavery, maps of escape routes to the free North were braided in black children and women’s hair.
Thus, one cannot credibly claim that “it’s just a hair style” when said hairstyle was also once a map to FREEDOM from SLAVERY! [Read about that here!]
It’s Not Just Hair: There is a lot of pain because of the policing of Black People’s Hair compared to Other Races
2) There is also a lot of MODERN pain to Black hair and it is a tradition and part of a bonding ritual and again “not just a hair style!!!”
It is a FACT that Black Braids and Black Hair is often and commonly POLICED in society and culture. Only our hair. Our type of Black hair braiding, twists and styles.
Not white women’s, not Native woman, not Hispanic women, not Middle Eastern women, only black women of African descent! Just us.
In fact, black hair :
(a) has unique cultural reference and significance not shared by other cultures. [see a blog post about Serena Williams paying homage to the cultural significance of the black hair braiding experience];
(b) has traditionally given us anxiety about fitting in the workplace, and being forced us to apply dangerous chemicals, wear weaves, wigs and the like just to blend in [See this post about hair bias we face when we wear braids here];
(c) has been a basis of kicking us out of schools [see this post as an example] or [and here];
(d) has cost us our jobs when worn because our hair as it grows out of our hair is deemed unkempt, unprofessional and unacceptable for professional settings [see post about a beauty blogger denied a job over her braids here];
(e) has been determined by a US. federal court as something that can legally be the basis of denying us a job [read about that here];
(f) has taken over a decade to become accepted in corporate culture as was the recent case of this TV anchor who was finally able to wear it at work after 10 years in the business [read about her here]; and
(g) has only been protected by two states out of 50 in America [read about NYC and CA banning natural black hair discrimination here]!
(h) was only recently allowed to be worn naturally in the US military. [see post about US Marines finally allowing twists and locs here]
That’s a lot of pain and history that is linked to braids when WE wear it. It’s not just another “cute” hairstyle.
Personally, I’ve blogged on this topic in this blog [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
So as you can see, as the owner and publisher of this blog, which is the only one on the entire Internet dedicated solely to Black Ethnic Braided styles, I am an EXPERT and among the online institutional memory n this area and do not take too kindly to know-nothing people chiming in with their rude, unlearned and uneducated responses.
That’s why I went in and stayed engaged on GG’s post for a few more days than I intended to…
Why Black Women Wearing Weaves and Blonde Hair is NOT the same thing as Cultural Appropriation.
I see a lot of people often clapping back to cultural appropriation claims by pointing out that black women wear straight wigs, and weaves of dye their hair.
First of all, while only black women wear their hair in the ethnic braids we do, there is NO RACE of people that can claim blonde or straight hair. There are plenty of Black people born with obne straight hair. Also, there is a tribe in Africa with natural blonde hair so it is not something that it not natural for us.
Second, because of history of telling black women their hair, as it grows out their hair, kinky and such, is unprofessional, unkept and unacceptable, in order to get work, go to school and be accepted in American society, black women have been FORCED to adjust by doing these things.
It’s one thing to wear a style because you think it’s cute and a totally separate thing to be forced to chemically straighten your God-given hair in order to get a job and put food on your table.
Assimilation v. Acculturation. One is a necessity. The other is optional.
I really despise this false equivalency the most. Sadly, I see a lot of younger people and black men spitting that defense out whenever we complain about cultural appropriation. I wish they would just get educated and shut up!
…and the last of the women who responded to me (as of the penning of this post) honestly, tried to equate having frizzy hair and needing to experiment with different styles, (a common problem a lot of women endure) with the systematic and institutional discrimination that black women and ONLY BLACK WOMEN have endured because our society insists on policing our BLACK HAIR.
Like lady, having to buy a different shampoo or experiment with a new style for convenience sake is NOT the same! Good grief!
This woman actually said she is tired of having to be sensitive to other cultures, and to the pain and discrimination others have faced. Like, give me a break!
I wish the only problem I have to endure with racism is having to “talk about it” or “tiptoe around the topic.”
What a major inconvenience and nuisance in your privileged life, woman!
I wish that was the only thing I had to endure when it comes to racism.
I mean, I’d rather not be racially profiled while shopping or driving or doing pretty much anything, fear for my life during routine traffic stops or have to change my name when looking for a job to avoid discrimination, or endure higher mortgage interest rates or be subject to living in a community that is redlined for everyday utilities, conveniences and services. You know, like real, real racism and racial discrimination.
Please, let me just have your “race problems”.
I’d gladly take the problem of being silenced on the topic I know nothing about or being forced to be sensitive and apologetic when I do accidentally offend another cultural group.
Give me a break!
The amount of privilege that drips out of these women’s mouths just astounded me this weekend!
I did get a DM or two from some who wanted to be better educated and tried to empathize and be better informed. I appreciated it and did not mind sharing my thoughts via a series of voice notes with one.
Each one, Teach one.
At the end of the day, I know for certain that this topic will continue to be debated and the concept misunderstood and dismissed into infinity.
So long as we live in a culture that traditionally, routinely, institutionally and systematically continues to undermine and diminish the experiences and voice of black women, we will have those loud voices insisting on shutting us down and attempting to shut us up whenever we speak up on this topic.
I invite anyone reading this who will eventually bump into someone who insists “it’s just hair” to hyperlink this article for them to take a look at so they don’t have to do the heavy lifting to explain to them that “no, it’s NOT just hair!”
And so it goes on… we who are on the kicking end of harsh treatment always have the burden of EDUCATING those doing the kicking so they will Cut that shit out!
RECAP: THE OFFICIAL CLAP BACK:
- Yes, box braids, micro braids, individual braids, certain styles of cornrows are indeed uniquely and distinctively a black woman’s thing because historically and in modern times, 97% of the people wearing those styles will be a black girl or woman. Stop with the false equivalency to pig tails and Viking braids, already!
- It’s not just hair. There is cultural and historical significance to our way of braiding our hair. Just because you are unaware and uneducated on the importance doesn’t give you the right to dismiss and diminish it. Just quit speaking out about topics you know nothing about!
- It’s not just hair. There is a painful history of black women’s hair being overpoliced and deemed unkept, unprofessional and unacceptable when we wear those styles. It is an absolute inslult when people compliment non-blacks for wearing those styles and totally ignore how utterly Shitty they most likely personally have looked down on (and probably clutched a purse, called the police on or cross the street) when they saw, a group of black teens for example, wearing that exact same style they called “cute” and “adorable” on the head of a Kardashian.
JUST CUT IT OUT! NOW YOU KNOW. I DONE FOR NOW!
GG has since gone on to share more videos and I’m certain people are debating under each but I’m out. I had time last weekend to battle folks over this topic. Not today and now that I’ve penned this post, I feel like I’ve stated my peace on it for now.
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt can be heard nightly at 8pm on DCRadio/WHUR 96.3HD4 on "Coming to America with Wayna and Friends. She is an editor at Techyaya.com, founder of the Digital Publiching Academy and JayJayGhatt.com where she teaches online creators how to navigate digital entrepreneurship and offers Do-It-For-You Blogging Service. She manages her lifestyle sites BellyitchBlog, Jenebaspeaks and JJBraids.com and is the founder of BlackWomenTech.com 200 Black Women in Tech On Twitter. Her biz podcast 10 Minute Podcast is available on iTunes and Player.fm. to Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks. Buy her templates over at her legal and business templates on Etsy shop!