*Please note that “anti-blackness” has multiple definitions.
In this post and video, the writer/speaker refers to the term as “anti-Blackness” with a capital B pertaining to racism against the Black community.
This post covers this problematic term in the context of hair textures.
“Anti-blackness” with a lowercase b pertains to colorism as it relates to skin color and features of indigenous people, who also have a range of hair textures.
You are encouraged to explore how both definitions have played a role in your lived experiences.
Before I started my curly hair journey, I knew what anti-Blackness was. I’ve experienced it. I’ve witnessed it.
Then, when I started my curly hair journey, I can’t say that I was conscious or educated enough to talk about anti-Blackness.
And yet, anti-Blackness is CRUCIAL to the conversation about curly hair within the API community.
Which is why I want to be vocal about this and frame it in a way that helps more people understand how the two are relevant, why we need to take this seriously and why this needs to be part of the curriculum when someone from the API community decides that they want to start embracing their natural hair patterns and textures.
I specifically remember that on multiple occasions, ever since my hair became curly, I have had Cambodian elders tell me that my hair made me look more black and that it wasn’t OK. That my skin color, which was further darkened by my love for being kissed by the sun, made me look more black and that it wasn’t OK. That My curves on my body, specifically my butt and breasts which are naturally full, made me look more black and that it wasn’t OK.
The issue with statements like that is it implies that:
The body I was born with, the amount of time I spend outdoors in the sun, and my natural hair pattern and texture negates my identity as an Asian woman, and it also implies that I should be disassociating my appearance from anything that resembles Blackness/blackness.
Within that, there are 3 important concepts that our community needs to discuss and dismantle: texturism, pertaining to hair, colorism, pertaining to skin color, and featurism pertaining to certain body features.
This is all connected and intertwined. There is an intersectionality with the concept of beauty. In this post, I’m primarily focusing on hair texture and identity.
The reason why anyone would want to instill that concept in me is to maintain standards and hierarchies that support multiple forms of racism.
This is a problem because:
- It further perpetuates a division between communities
- It misleads and miseducates people into believing that curly hair is only available, acceptable or possible to certain communities of people
- It reinforces unrealistic and outdated beauty standards not only for the asian community, but for other communities as well
- It encourages the use of stigma and micro aggressions based on texturism, which pertains to different hair patterns and textures
- And most dangerously, it allows for discrimination to take place
Using anti-Blackness is one of the ways that women who identify as API have been discouraged to embrace their natural hair textures and patterns.
So you might be thinking: Rosie, I don’t practice anti-Blackness so I’m good and I’m safe from being criticized on this.
Are you sure?
Are you having conversations with your fellow friends and family from the API community about why they wear their hair the way that they do?
Are you teaching youth and children that all hair patterns and textures are acceptable, even if theirs may change and may not fit into the beauty standard?
Part of doing better for the community includes unpacking and unlearning.
Have you unpacked the reasons behind why some of your friends continually straighten out their hair?
I’m challenging you to reach out and talk to 10 friends who identify as API about the relationships between anti-Blackness, curly hair and the beauty standard.
If you talk to someone who identifies as a man of API descent who is attracted to women, ask him to describe what an attractive or ideal woman of API descent looks like. Challenge his learnings.
If you talk to someone who identifies as a woman of API descent, ask her what physical traits make her feel most worthy, and if the appearance of her hair is important to her identity. Challenge her learnings.
It’s not just hair and it’s not purely coincidental that these are all linked together.
We can’t do better or claim allyship if we haven’t done the inner work.
So tell me, whether you have curly hair or not, whether you identify as API or not, how has anti-Blackness been used to shape your perspective of the world?