Wednesday, October 16, 2013

'Black' hairstyles on white women

By Tenisha Mercer

We've all seen 'that' girl -- the white girl who will rock the hell out of Black hairstyles, wears Black styles better than Keisha, talks Black lingo better than folks 10 shades deeper and just loves Black - period.

Close your eyes and you'd swear you were talking to a Black woman and honestly, she thinks she's black, anyway; she's just light skinned, LOL.

Yet, for all the admiration and love of Black culture and the many things that define it, that usually goes out the window right about the time the corporate climb happens. For some, that's during college or right before it, but it's at the point where many, though not all, choose their ethnic heritage in favor of moving up the career ladder.

Always Bet on ... White?

It must be a strange dichotomy to be white, but to look, act and sound like you're Black in corporate America. Maybe they pull your 'white' card, I don't know, but many cast Black to the side like a dirty dishrag and err on the side of the heritage they were born with (i.e. white). They suddenly become Becky, not Brandy.

Nothing quite like privilege, huh?

Which is why this collage of white women with Black hairstyles is hilarious, a cultural project by artist Endia Beal. Participants (white women) were required to get Black hairstyles and be photographed in traditional corporate photos.

Most were in their 40s -- and the results were nothing short of phenomenal.

"I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space,” Beal, who is Black, told Slate Magazine. “And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had.”

The Elephant in the Room

Many participants wondered about Black hairstyles, but felt uncomfortable asking.

Beal knows first-hand a bit about taking uncomfortable topics and turning them into projects. Beal, who studied photography at Yale, wore a bright red afro during an IT internship at Yale. Later, she heard a rumor that many white men in the office wanted to touch  her hair.

She invited them to not only touch her hair, but to pull it, and videoed their responses about what it was like.

Some of Beal's black hairstyles on white women are styles that haven't been worn in years, like early 2000s, and I don't know how many 40+ Black women in corporate America would wear some of these styles in corporate photos (seemed a bit childish).

But, I get it.

What do you think about this cultural project? Do you think there's a deep mystery about Black hair among white women?


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