It can be argued that Black American’s suffer from self hatred at the hands of the majority White society. History makes it easy to blame White people for African- American’s desire to permanently and chemically change their hair and skin. This blame can actually be placed on Black Americans themselves since they are the ones that are deciding to permanently alter their hair, and sometimes their skin, to have their features appear more European. The identity crisis of Black people is not the fault of White people.
For the most part, generations of Black people, specifically women, in America have dealt with the problematic social struggle of meeting the ideal beauty standard in this country when it comes to their hair. Black women who wore their kinky hair naturally are considered less feminine then those Black women who straightened their kinky hair. Black women straightened their hair with a flat iron, a hot comb, or straightened it with relaxer. This was when Black women, and some men, used hot combs and a harsh, alkaline chemical with lye known as relaxer to tame their hair. Whitney Bellinger writes about young Black children in “Why African- American Women Try To Obtain Good Hair,” and says that around the age of three years old or four years old, young African American children start to understand the concept of “good hair” means for themselves and they understand the social hierarchy it can create within the black community. Hair relaxers are a creamy chemical placed on hair to make it appear straighter and less texture permanently. They known to be extremely damaging for the hair and scalp of the user as they contain harsh chemicals such as lye, calcium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide and others chemicals that can easily burn through metal. Hair Relaxers are also known for causing breathing problems, skin burns, permanent scarring, baldness, temporary or permanent blindness if it gets into the eyes an other known and unknown health problems. Black women choose to do this to their hair to appear more like White women.
This particular social struggle is a battle between not being White, but trying to look as though they fit in socially with the Eurocentric beauty standards of this country. It also includes a battle with wanting to look and feel a part of the upper class. Bellinger’s social experiment and essay, “Why African- American Women Try to Obtain ‘Good Hair’,” explains that Black people as a culture have experience a mass issue with an identity crisis. This identity crisis has literally impacted the hairstyle of Black men and women for decades.
The media portray’s what is considered attractive and beautiful. Magazine covers and television commercials stream the type of beauty everyone wants to see. It is up to the viewers to know that they do not have to look and act exactly like the men and women in the media. Even though the media portrays White women as primarily more attractive when it comes to hair and skin, it is not their fault if it makes Black people hate their appearance and chemically straighten their hair to look similar.
Colorism among Black people has deemed darker colored complexions unattractive and undesirable; the darker the skin, the more unattractive you are considered within the Black community. Black women especially feel pressure to be more attractive and desirable and feel as though a lighter complexion is a way to look good. This hierarchy of skin color was created by African American men and women and is still present within the black community because they still believe that lighter colored skin is the equivalent of having a beautiful skin tone. In Alicia Jackson’s “Attempting Whiteness: Black Women’s Expected and Actual Results of Skin Bleaching”, she talks about how skin bleaching has been a practice among many cultures for centuries for the purpose of obtaining a lighter skin tone because darker skinned women hate their skin color. Skin bleaching is not a knew phenomenon; this practice has been around for centuries. Skin bleaching or skin lightening is a way to decrease the pigmentation in skin. This ultimately makes one’s skin shades lighter than it naturally appears. Lynn Okura’s “Inside the Controversial Skin bleaching Phenomenon,” of Huffpost writes about how even in modern times, the practice of skin bleaching is still common, but is socially looked down upon within the Black culture of this country.Those who participate in the practice of skin bleaching are doing on their own, freewill and want to appear lighter and Whiter. The practice of skin bleaching or skin lightening causes skin cancers and permanent skin discoloration. These people are deciding on their own to destroy their skin and this decision cannot blamed on White people.
In today’s society, a Black person’s need to conform is not the fault of White people. It is the fault of whoever feels the need to chemically straighten their hair. The oppression of slavery and segregation caused White people to feel shame in the presence of all Black people, who reminded them of the crime of previous centuries. Black people straightened their hair to ease White consciences by appearing to assimilate and following their beauty standards. When Black people maintain chemically straightened hair, it makes them and the White people around them comfortable since straight hair appears as a way to conform with others. This is still a personal decision that is made on their own and is not caused by White people.
Whether you are Black, White, Asian or Latin, no one of any race or ethnicity chooses to look different and to not conform. The average person desire to fit into their culture’s mainstream beauty standards and fashion trend- this is not new. People within this society will do anything to conform to the standards set by our culture and to minimize their resentment of their differences. Self-consciousness will cause one to seek an opportunity to alter their difference in the direction of the set societal beauty standard. This is not evidence of self hatred; it is natural to want to conform to society and to look similar to everyone else. Black people are discontent with how they look in comparison to mainstream White beauty standards.