A retrospective on the discrimination and dethroning of natural Black hair through the ages
It’s no secret that black people still, to this day, endure discrimination because of the texture and style of their hair. There are countless stories of Black people being rejected at their jobs, schools and other public places because their hair is seen as offensive, an experience that has been historically unique to people of African descent.
In 2019, a referee forced a New Jersey High School wrestler, Andrew Johnson, to cut his locks before he could compete in a match. The incident caught the attention of the media nationwide and the referee was suspended for two seasons thereafter. Lawmakers claim legislation is needed to end implicit and explicit biases – like hair restrictions – that black people face. “This is not just about hair, it’s about acknowledgement of personal rights. It’s about checking bias,” said California State Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat who wears locks and proposed the state’s law named Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN. “Our hair has always been a source of either pride or embarrassment, a sense of power or a sense of unequalness.”
Institutions all over the world have created and enforced policies that annihilate and penalise black people for wearing their natural hair. Stripped of their crowns, Black people have widely accepted some of these narratives that their natural hair textures and hairstyles are inappropriate, unattractive, and unprofessional. Walking down memory lane, we dig deep and explore these mystical strands. Sankofa!
The concept of “Sankofa” is derived from the Akan people of present day Ghana. “Sankofa” is expressed in the Akan language, Twi as “se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenki.” Literally translated, this means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”.