Who should be represented in #teamnatural? It’s a debate that’s raged for days now — here on BGLH and on other natural hair and black women’s blogs and vlogs. BGLH writer Christina gave our official response — while we understand the need for multi-racial spaces celebrating curly and textured hair, we also feel strongly that spaces — like BGLH — that focus on representing the black natural hair experience are absolutely essential and necessary. Another one of our writer’s Jc, had a different opinion, and described this exclusion as “apartheid.”
BGLH has always had a small but significant percentage of followers who are not black, bi-racial or Afro-Latina. Many of our white followers are mothers of bi-racial or adopted black children. Some are hair stylists who cater to a multi-racial audience and want to educate themselves. And others are just women who love the ingenuity and creativity of natural styles.
As this discussion has raged on, the voices of our white followers have been largely missing from the debate. That is until two days ago when a white BGLH reader, Ali, sent me this email;
I started to post a comment on the blog but felt like I may be imposing so I thought it might be better to email you one on one! I am a white lady who usually follows along silently to learn from this site.
It would be sad to see this particular community shift focus. I came here because a coworker was sharing about her big chop and I wanted to learn more. I hang around because the site has helped me clarify more points of privilege I have while I learn more about hair care (I have curly hair too).
Y’all have something special here. It isn’t offensive (to me anyway) that it is a community for a specific group of people and I am not a member of that community. I feel lucky to know about this corner of the internet and I’ve shared the site with a lot of people when the topic of natural hair comes.
Thanks so much for all you do. This site has, in all seriousness, helped me be a better person/ally.
I asked Ali if she could clarify her stance, and present it to our audience. Thankfully, she agreed. So I sent along a few questions and asked her to speak freely and honestly. Now, I know that Ali can’t speak for all white BGLH followers — or all white women who follow and participate in natural hair blogs. But, to date, she is the only long-term white BGLH follower who has weighed in on this debate. Here are her replies;
As a white curly, what kind of struggles do you face with your hair?
My struggles have mostly been aesthetic. My hair is frizzy and I live in a very humid part of the country so it never looks polished. I’ve also got a mix of curl types so it is just as much work to make it look cute curly as it is to straighten. If my hair is short, forget curls.
My hair is also incredibly dry so I have to choose products wisely to balance out my color treatments (yes, some of this I’ve done to myself) and naturally dry hair.
I want a hair type I don’t have and I’m still working to accept that.
When you are struggling with your hair, where do you get help or advice?
First and foremost, the internet. I’ll google for suggestions on how to moisturize and how to style. My awesome colorist is also a good source of information on how to take care of my hair.
How did you come to discover Blackgirllonghair.com?
A coworker mentioned starting her own subscription business of natural hair care products and that same coworker was talking about her own big chop. I started googling to learn more about what she was doing and found this site!
I want you to be totally honest here — and you can! — has anything we’ve written ever offended you, or made you feel excluded or unwelcome?
Not that I can recall. The name of the site is “black girl long hair” so I figured this wasn’t a place for white curlies and that was fine with me. I read here because there is so much good information and I actually think the community is pretty special. It’s an inspirational place and has helped me realize that I do want to grow my hair back out to wear curly again.
I’ve also learned more than I can articulate about my own privilege. There have been so many “Oh!” moments when reading articles about things I’d never had to think about. Reading here has genuinely helped me see more of the small things that are easily lost in a larger conversation about race and beauty. You think about other topics differently when you listen to the stories shared here.
I liken being here to participating in technical groups who teach women to code. I’m active in a large women’s group for female tech workers but I write checks to Black Women Who Code because their organization is reaching out to a very small niche in the tech community. I think BWWC is vital to the health of the tech community but it isn’t designed for me and my physical presence could be counter productive. Black Girl Long Hair is serving a specific community. As someone outside that community, I’m welcome to learn but I need to know that there is someone else who should be in the spotlight.
When you log onto a site like Blackgirllonghair.com, is your expectation that you will be represented as a white curly? Do you think it’s racist or exclusionary that you’re not? (And you can be totally honest!!)
I’m pretty sure the title sets the expectation! No, I don’t expect to be represented here and I don’t care. I have serious issues with the term reverse racism. This is a space for a specific experience and I have no experience to bring to the discussion, so why would I care?
What do you like most about the blog?
I’m worried this will sound cheesy but my favorite part of the blog is seeing a wide range of women who aren’t represented in more mainstream media (including certain sections of blogging!). It’s nice to have a place to go where I can learn about beauty and see a wide range of women represented.
Do you wish there were more spaces where curly haired white women could gather to discuss hair topics? Why or why not?
I’ve been to Naturally Curly but didn’t hang out for whatever reason! I’ve been on the internet a while and feel like a lot of hair sites do have some information for white curlies. Given that I’ve got color treated, 3c curly hair, I’ve found more helpful information on sites like BGLH. I’m going to sound like a jerk but there really doesn’t seem to be a *lack* of space for white ladies to talk about our hair.
Have you faced any kind of discrimination personal or professional because of your hair (guys not finding it attractive, feeling the need to straighten at work, etc).
Omg, yes yes yes.. I feel the need to straighten-ish my hair (I wear it wavy at shoulder length, where it unfortunately is right now) so it looks, as my mom would say, styled. I’m fine at day-to-day work with curly hair but I always do my hair [straight] for pictures that are going out to the web.
Multiple boyfriends have asked me to straighten my hair in the past. My partner now doesn’t care either way. He’d probably prefer I quit complaining about my hair above all else.
I have my own internalized curl-hate to contend with.
Who are your curly haired “idols”? Are there any celebrities or social media gurus that you look to for advice?
Hrm. That is a hard question because I usually assume people have professional stylists- ha! I love Alicia Keys when her hair is curly and I’d like to have Debra Messing’s curls.
This was a heated topic. There was a lot of emotion and even pain on both sides of this issue. As someone who is part of the BGLH community, but a different race, what would you say to your fellow curlies?
Every community needs a safe space where they feel like their voice and their experience is highlighted. BGLH offers a home for people who are poorly represented in internet and published media spaces to be heard. I can only speak as a tattooed-blue-haired-early-
The heated arguments over this topic serve to show us how deep historical hurts go and that this site means so much more to many of us than hair care. As women who are clearly represented outside of this space, it is our job to be quiet until invited to speak, learn from the community where we still have personal work to do, and use our voice in other places to help pave a path so others have the chance to use theirs.
I know I sound a bit harsh and overly political about hair but the personal is political. Nobody would be fighting this hard if it were *just* about hair.
So there you have it. Ali will be reading through the comments. So if you have follow up questions or reflections, please feel free to share!