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To many a naturally straight-haired people often of European descent, seeing Black women in unnaturally straight, long hair is the most stupid thing about them. “Whey can’t these women just keep their hair natural and curly? The Afro is so beautiful, don’t you people understand?”, I’m often confronted with this yet another example of patronizing attitude, portraying extreme ignorance with respect to knowledge and understanding of imperialism, as well as colonialism history.
In order to totally subjugate subjects of new territories, imperialist powers through colonialist forces and mechanisms will at best seek to incapacitate the subjects’ ability to reproduce themselves. European/ Western imperialism with its attendant effective colonial brutality had free game in Africa from about the 16th century AD onwards.
Other than creating genocide conditions as a tool for total elimination of the unwanted dominated people, mass sterilization can be used. Through cultural imperialism though, various social and cultural institutions are used to promote cultural hegemony. The latter strives to change the worldview of the subjugated to be in synch with that of the imperialist powers’. That way the oppressed shall cease to reproduce their condemned faiths, values, beliefs, and other cultural practices; giving rise to a new personality, assimilating into the imperialist’s own cultural, political, and economic mainstream.
For at least 400 years, African people have through various instruments been made to believe that they are inferior to Europeans. Being Black, and everything about being Black was a curse from God, I was taught at school in the then apartheid South Africa. Though in a not so direct manner, the same message would often be repeated in my church. The only way to be saved, and therefore have a chance of ending up in heaven after death was to think, act, and look like Europeans. If you are pitch black like me, with my kinky hair, not forgetting my flat nose, you were in deep trouble indeed (I wonder which side of God Michael Jackson is sitting). Power and success in life came with getting as much as possible of Eurocentric stuff into our thick black heads, we were told. So, you (will) rule if you are light-skinned, have a not so flat nose, and you have straight hair.
Therefore, before criticizing and ridiculing my sisters’ and mothers’ apparent cosmetic idiosyncrasies, it is important to take into account the dehumanizing effects of imperialism and colonialism on the people’s sense of identity. That the ladies have just blindly fallen victim to false definitions of modern beauty ideals by homosexuals is not entirely true. The colossal magnitude of the Black Beauty Products industry has grown out of a need that has been built, developed and sustained over a period of at least four centuries.
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August 03, 2012