Commentary: My Black hairitage is my voice


Mehar Rangi

For Black women in America, hair has come to symbolize more than just something on top of their head. It has come to symbolize their ancestry and their culture.

She took the podium with might. Her presence itself was a powerful symbol, the prestige she would receive for just standing there was evident. 

The radiance of her smile, the glow of the yellow beaming off her skin and her red headband that accentuated her crochet braids was beautifully tied together. 

Amanda Gorman reciting her passionate poem on January 20 at the United States Capitol would be a special moment for African-American women of all ages.

The message of her poem “The Hill We Climb” would elicit hope from just about anyone. She symbolized unity, beauty, ambition, sophistication and elegance. Gorman’s poem was overall powerful and greatly written. 

“There is always light,” Gorman said in her poem. “Only if we are brave enough to see it. There is always light only if we are brave enough to be it.” 

What makes this occasion so special is not only Gorman’s words but also the fact that out of all the different hairstyles Gorman could’ve chosen, she picked crochet braids. 

Throughout time, Black women have constantly received an enormous amount of backlash for wearing their hair naturally, in braids, wigs, weaves or colored hair. As a dark skinned girl,  I couldn’t step out into the world with bright colored hair without being deemed as “ghetto.”

Already there is a stereotype shaped by society basically saying that if you wear your hair a certain way or in a certain style, you’re just the typical loud-mouthed Black girl. It’s sad but true and I see it all the time. 

When I scroll through social media, which is sadly very often, many make black women a joke. The first thing that comes to mind when people think of a stereotypical black woman is her hair. They usually imitate hairstyles like braids and wigs.

When I scroll through social media, which is sadly very often, many make black women a joke.”

— Trinity Jones

Let’s not forget the “blaccent” which is a type of voice that has been created to mock Blacks. Society has blatantly made standards revolve around one race without even taking others into consideration.

Multiple women have reported discrimination the workplace for their hair.  

They can’t even walk into their job facility without their natural hair being considered inappropriate, distracting or hearing my favorite phrase, “Tone down. It’s too big.”

It’s sad when a little girl who ‘s excited to return back to school with her new hairstyle is told by her administrators,  “Your hair is unacceptable, you either change it or leave.’ 

Why are we as Black women so ostracized? I don’t understand. 

We are continuously pressured to straighten our hair,  to fit the very standards that weren’t designed for us. 

When I hear these stories I find them not only extremely insensitive but also demeaning and disrespectful. The core message I hear from these tales is “Tame your hair down, your heritage is too loud.” 

When you take hair away, the only thing I have left of my heritage, it is indeed a slap to the face. 

My ancestors used their hair to symbolize freedom; it was identity and power.  So when that is taken away what do we have left?

Simply nothing. 

So when I saw Gorman on that platform proud as she could be, it was relieving. It was like we could finally start heading in the right direction.

She set the tone.

I could only imagine how ecstatic one must have been when they saw someone that looked like them on national television with braids. This was and is a very big deal.