Friday, October 26, 2007



Put aside the concept of conspiracy for a while and deal directly with the monumental, destructive psychological effects of Madison Avenue's racist/colorist exclusionary insistent advertising to our multi-colored/cultured women that they're not glamorous unless they're wearing shiny straight hair.

You'd think - even these days - that the only 'worthwhile' threadlike growth from the heads of huemans should be straight shiny ones - like one elder Black woman working at the Apollo Theater in NY's Harlem said, "...that good white stuff..."

(Connect those vicious dots: Black children - in 2007 - preferring white dolls over "ugly" Black dolls: early damage to little egos)

Here I am in my latter seventies, still fighting, every damn day, society's conditioned urge to straighten my kinkly hair - resisting the overt brainwhitewashing waves of insistent straight-hair advertising in not only TV and cinema but also magazines galore. (Although some welcome exceptions to this onslaught show up in Black magazines)

I've also had to - continuously - refute the sick familial conditioning which surfaces too frequently that echoes my own mother's remarks that she 'couldn't handle' my hair. My father was the one who brushed, combed and braided my hair into "manageable" condition.* Then, as I reached an age/stage where I could 'contain' my 'unruly' locks, I also tried mightily to 'tame them tresses' - pulling, stretching, oiling and confining my offending kinks.

It was when I became the first "Negro" U.S.A. Airline Hostess/Stewardess (now we say 'Black Flight Attendant') [actually first Black - males or females] - that I started smearing the white man's white cream - lye - onto my Black hair, to 'pull out the kinks' to make myself more 'acceptable' to white and other brainwhitewashed people of color.

Little did I realize at the time that years of using those stinking white chemicals on my scalp would seriously damage the nerve endings on my head making it difficult to feeel hot/cold shower water! To this day, there are no warnings on bottles/jars of hair straighteners - even though years ago I asked a New York City Ombudsman to ensure that all hair straighteners carry warning labels. So much for caring about the physical health of folk who are convinced that they aren't 'acceptable' without thermally or chemically-altering what God gave 'em - naturally beautiful 'nappy' hair.

Now, aside from actual physical attrition, breakage, scalp damage, balding, etc. - consider the continuous psychological damage mainly white male Madison Avenue adfolk do to people of color from early childhood on. (The concurrent psychological damage done to white kids - encouraging them to feel 'superior' because of their 'white' tresses is not my immediate concern here - but deserves at least mention because of its potential for undergirding racist/colorist societal erosion as whites become teens and adults and enter careers like law enforcement, education and medicine, etc.)

Who can even adequately determine, describe, monitor the horrendous psychological undermining occurring- not only in children of color who exhibit their self hate/low ego status as they self-destructively eschew Black dolls looking like themselves and embrace white dolls not looking like themselves - but on the millions of thusly-damaged folk of color who haven't been doll-or-other-tested for levels of self respect?

Does low self-image/respect have anything to do with school achievement, career success, family relations, drug/child abuse or incarceration rates? Does the fact that Madison Avenue whites routinely exclude actors/models who wear skins of dark, dark Black - if we must use white as 'the norm'-, issue a continuous message that "white is right - Black stay back" in this colorism-ridden society?

Now, every time I see a Black Sister-of-color with her Black Afrikan hair greasy, stringy, bleached, straightened, an ineffable sadness floods through my consciousness and, I do admit, equally do frustration and anger arise at what may or may not be a white male supremacist conspiracy not only to make the 'big dollars,' but to consolidate a white minority hegemony over a three-quarters-people-of-color world.

All of this over 'good hair - bad hair?' Is this hair issue but a symptom of society's larger counterproductive colorist malaise? Where do "nappy-headed hoes" name callings, nooses, bat-attacks or cop-killings of Blackfolk come from? OH OH!

*For many years now, I've worn what my Black Sisters with "hard" hair say is my 'easier-to-manage' hair "natural;" I win! - no more worries about humidity or spaghetti pots of boiling water or 'nappy kitchens!' I can twist it, 'dread it,' part it, link it - look out, Bo Derek!

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