Must Blacks Try to Look Like Michael Jackson to be Accepted
by Whites and by Ourselves?
The Vancouver Sun is reporting that some color-aroused extremist whitosphere blogs are up in arms that Malia Obama, the president's daughter, has appeared in public without first chemically straightening her hair to make it look more like white people's hair.
The thread was accompanied by a photo of Michelle Obama speaking to Malia that featured the caption, "To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds." Vancouver Sun
I think we all have been consciously or subconsciously watching the hair of the Obama daughters as well as Michelle Obama, to see what political statements they would make, and how they would be received. Malia Obama could have disavowed an obvious part of her particular genetic code and straightened her hair as Michael Jackson did. America has never complained when Blacks straighten our hair -- only when we don't so.
It's worth noting that one of Michael Jackson's heroes, also straightened his hair, beginning in an era when it was almost as "stylish" (obligatory in a color aroused society) for Black men as for Black women.
Instead, Malia did something that very few Black women have the audacity to do: she appeared in public with unstraightened hair. That's when all hell broke loose on the extremely color-aroused whitosphere blogs, where whites were apoplectic. 'Everyone knows that straight white hair is the only acceptable way for Black girls and women to wear their hair,' so why is Malia Obama throwing gasoline into the furnace of America's color-arousal illness by wearing her hair in a natural black style? Doesn't she know that curly hair is a color-associated physical characteristic of which she must try to rid herself? We can't help it if our skin is not white, but the LEAST we can do is to try to make our hair straight, right?
On June 25, when Michael Jackson died, there she was again: colorism, that sub-category of racism and prejudice based on skin color, staring us right in the face.
By the time Jackson died, he was perhaps whiter than any white man that you know. Those who looked at the constant stream of replayed televised interviews, at the pale skin, the thin lips painted red, the straight hair, saw in his face the psychological wound that has scarred so many in the black community. Washington Post, Sunday, July 12.
We all agree that Michael Jackson was progressively more freakish as he tried ever more determinedly to make himself look like a white person. And yet we show our (often unconsious) hypocrisy when we criticize Malio Obama for NOT making her hair look like that of a white person.
Judging from the reaction reported by the Vancouver Times, you would think this was the political equivalent of giving the Black Power salute during the medals ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games. (See photo above) And maybe it is.
We Blacks have Black people's hair and yet most of our women folk and some of our men are compelled by employers, family members and even members of our churches to do the Michael Jackson thing to our hair.
Perhaps what happened to Michael Jackson is akin to what happens with anorexia: a suggestion by mother, father or friends that we might be slightly overweight leads to a (short) lifetime of trying to rid the human body of all signs of weight.
The color-aroused illness is profound and is not found only among people whose skin is white. A Black man here in Brazil told me that when a Black woman goes for a job interview, the least she can do to make herself look presentable, acceptable and beautiful is to straighten her hair.
Even the name given to Rastafarian Locks (Dreadlocks) is said to have originated with British people who called Jamaican style hair was "dreadful".
In other words, Malia's hair triggers responses of revulsion from some Blacks as well as whites. If nothing else comes of the Obama presidency than the understanding among Blacks and whites that curly hair is just as acceptable and natural as straight hair, then we may even save the life of the next Michael/Michelle Jackson of the Malia generation - a generation apparently not equally willing to do to itself what Michael Jackson did.
Teresa Holland with beautiful wavy Locks.
My wife, who, (wears Rasta Locks), and I were wondering when the First Lady will be seen in public with a traditionally Black hairstyle, such as braids, Rasta Locks or an Afro. By looking at her children's hair, we know where her sympathies lie. And yet we also know that Michelle Obama may not want to make the equivalent of hairstyle Black power sallute at this partcular time.
Nonetheless, I am hoping to see the First Lady in Braids, perhaps after Obama wins reelection. Some people believe, and perhaps correctly, that merely leaving one's hair alone is a revolutionary statement if one has brown skin.
Meanwhile, "Free Your African Hair," as Malia has done, if you have the courage and the socio-political and cultural space to do so.