Thoughts on Afro Appropriation

Last week the trending news topic of the natural hair world was an article Allure published proclaiming that everyone can have an afro. Twitter and other social media sites went crazy and everyone had an opinion.  Some black women thought the article was harmless while others were up in arms over the audacity of the magazine. So what are my thoughts? I wasn’t happy about the article, but I also knew it was only a matter of time. The natural hair movement is in some ways just as much a curly hair movement and we have ourselves to thank for that. The obsession with curl definition within the natural hair community means inclusion and curly hair crosses all ethnic and racial boundaries.

The issue with Allure’s article is that it makes specific mention of the afro. If it had simply been a piece on curly hair and achieving definition with the same model, there would not have been an issue. However, we know a true afro can only be achieved by those blessed with kinky hair. The density of it, the fullness of it, that’s something not everyone can achieve.

My afro and I.

My afro and I.

One thing the Allure article does show is just how mainstream natural hair is. Anytime Allure – or any other fashion and lifestyle magazine – wants to feature something originating in any community besides the majority the trend has surpassed all boundaries and is crossing lines. We’ve already seen this with braids and extensions so it is only natural that the afro comes next. This is far from the first time main stream has latched onto something native to the black community. Think Elvis Presley and Justin Timberlake rocking cornrows. Black culture is often seen as trendy but it is most likely not mainstream until someone outside of the “group” (the group being black people) appropriates it. Think Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs or Jennifer Lopez’s booty mania. When video chicks dancing backup for rappers are twerking, no one cares. Let a skinny Miley Cyrus twerk (if you can call it that) and it is all the rage.

It makes sense that the afro will be no different. Some will argue that there are people who are not black and have natural afros. After all, the idea of the jew fro has existed forever. Yes, anyone can have thick hair. Anyone can have curly hair. Anyone can have hair that doesn’t exactly do what it wants. This does not mean they sit and do twistouts though or acknowledge their “afros.” My answer to those who will try to use this excuse is that the afro is native to the African-American and deserves some respect.

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