Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Black Hair Neocolonialist Agenda

The promotion of terms like "good hair" and "kinky hair" has perpetuated the colonial system into neocolonialism, with black hair being a key factor in this survival.

Neocolonialism is control through indirect means of a perceived powerless homogeneous group of people by a larger or stronger one. To date, practically every aspect of the ex-colonized society still harbors colonial influences. Hair on the surface may seem unrelated but it has indeed continued survival of the colonial system by continuing to promote the terms good hair and kinky hair.
Kids plats are an easy hairstyle.
Kids plats hairstyle.

It's worth noting that the desire for weave and wigs in Africa is just as prevalent as it is in the USA, despite the geographical distance and cultural differences. The love for hair extensions transcends borders.

Neocolonialism refers to a form of control exerted by a dominant or stronger group over a perceived powerless group, typically in a post-colonial context. Unlike direct colonization, neocolonialism operates through indirect means, allowing the dominant group to maintain influence and control over the perceived weaker group. Even today, many aspects of formerly colonized societies bear the lingering effects of colonialism. It is important to recognize that these influences extend beyond political and economic spheres and permeate various aspects of daily life, including seemingly unrelated areas such as hair.

While hair may appear to be an unrelated topic, it has played a significant role in perpetuating the colonial system. The concept of "good hair" versus "kinky hair" is deeply rooted in Eurocentric beauty standards imposed during colonial times. This dichotomy creates a hierarchy where certain hair textures, often resembling European hair, are deemed more desirable and acceptable, while other natural hair textures are devalued and stigmatized. This perpetuates the notion that conforming to Eurocentric beauty norms is the ideal, reinforcing the dominance of Western culture and ideals over the ex-colonized societies.

The promotion of these hair standards serves to maintain the power dynamics of the colonial system. By valuing and privileging European hair textures, it perpetuates a sense of inferiority and self-doubt among those with natural or non-conforming hair types. This psychological impact, coupled with societal pressures, can lead individuals to invest time, money, and effort into conforming to Eurocentric standards, such as through the use of chemical straightening treatments or extensions. Consequently, industries catering to these beauty ideals thrive, further entrenching the economic influence of neocolonialism.

Understanding the influence of seemingly unrelated aspects like hair within the context of neocolonialism is crucial for recognizing and challenging these power dynamics. By questioning and rejecting Eurocentric beauty standards, individuals can reclaim their cultural identity and challenge the norms imposed by the colonial past. Embracing the diversity and beauty of natural hair textures, irrespective of their conformity to Western ideals, can contribute to dismantling the neocolonial system and promoting self-acceptance, cultural pride, and the celebration of diverse identities.

Moms, daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, and friends, all may have different opinions on the accepted way to style hair. The decision to wear natural hair, whether it is Afros, dreadlocks, Nubian twists, or braids, means that you are outside of the norm. It seems that the styling of black women's hair has never been such a topic of national conversation. However, some feel the elitist feeling that is growing with the natural hair movement is just another way to divide women of color.

The decision to wear natural hair, whether dreadlocks, Nubian twists, or braids, means that you are outside the norm. Natural hair supporters go one step further to say natural hair is a nod to being a real African. Black hair has strong negative political implications because of the historic devaluation of kinky hair and the association of hairstyles such as Afros and dreadlocks with revolutionary thinking and militancy. 

Nubian twists hairstyle.
Nubian twists hairstyle.

The historic devaluation of natural hair.

Black African women have been discriminated against for centuries because of skin color and nappy hair. Therefore, white characteristics such as bone-straight hair are seen as superior. When a black woman in mainstream media is shown in movies or on TV, she usually wears either a weave or has bone-straight, relaxed hair. Happily, hair acceptance is changing slowly.

On the continent itself, Africa is a prime market for Indian hair. Its market for weaves, wigs, and extensions is currently estimated to be worth $6 billion a year and growing fast. 

The hair market is so big that global giants such as Unilever and L’Oreal invest heavily in African hair care products. Many African Americans believe wearing natural hair means getting in touch with African roots; however, due to the influence of China, Africa’s cravings for weave and wigs are just as strong as it is in the USA.

The natural hair movement is a celebration of Black women’s beauty. Some choose to focus on individual expression and argue that whether a Black woman’s hair is worn kinky, curly, or straight, or with wigs or weaves, the hairstyle does not automatically determine if the wearer is self-loving or self-loathing. 

The natural hair movement is a celebration of Black women’s beauty.

However, people such as Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, "Relaxing your hair is like being in prison," she wrote. "You're caged in. Your hair rules you." "You're always battling to make your hair do what it wasn't meant to do."

Clutch magazine writer, Shahida Muhammad, asserts, “Instead of debating on what’s better, let’s applaud the fact that we now have options in hair care that will inspire the next generations of Black girls to embrace their hair in ways that suit their preferences, and not imposed social ideals.” Playing into the neocolonial agenda by dividing women culturally hurts us all. 

Weave hair or natural hairstyle helps you achieve a beautiful inner and outer style. Or is it both weave hair and natural hair protective styles. It is true that hair weave is a style for women who want to lengthen their hair or add volume to their natural hair or is weave a way to erase being black. 

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