It is so important for the natural hair community to democratize and normalize our natural hair styles and methods. Nonetheless, there is a big difference between normalizing/democratizing natural hair and this thing we call ‘cultural appropriation.’ So lets make clear distinctions between democratizing/normalizing natural hair vs appropriating it. The democratization and normalization of natural hair is to encourage the conversion of more individuals to take the natural hair leap, to fill the work-spaces with our natural hair, our public spaces and to desensitize the viewing eye to natural hair. It is to exchange beauty tips, styling methods, hair tools, recommend hair accessories, and natural hair methods with non natural hair wearers from various communities and cultures. It is to say, although we wear our hair differently, it doesn’t mean we don’t use the same organic hair products, hair tools, or hair jewelry to dress up or dress down our hair. In other words, to democratize/normalize natural hair is to embrace our similarities as well as our differences, and to have an honest and open dialogue about it. On the contrary, to appropriate natural hair culture is to exploit it, it is to refrain from an honest conversation on natural hair, it is to commodify it without empowering it or the cultures affiliated with it.
The ability for a black owned business to create products for natural hair wearers, products that contain the intricate details, the functional needs that make the natural hair life that much easier is a great thing. The ability for this same black owned business to create the same products that meet the specific needs of the natural hair wearers and to be able to sell that same product to customers of various backgrounds and cultures who are not naturalistas, this here is the democratization, the normalization of the natural hair industry and lifestyle. Nonetheless, what this is not, is cultural appropriation. Sometimes it is expected for black owned businesses within the natural hair industry to only sell within their own communities, to have products that reflect only those within the communities. However, the ability for this particular black owned business to expand their customer base to other communities is a great thing. This allows for the black owned businesses to extend the conversation of natural hair and its lifestyle outside the community and into the broader society that we all exist in.
Why is extending the conversation of natural hair into the broader society a good thing? Well, because it doesn’t make the idea of a person wearing their beautiful natural texture such a foreign concept nor does it make the view of this so striking. It reaches and educates various business owners, companies, and institutions and tells them that it is completely normal, professional and should be expected for all people to wear their natural textures including their staff, consultants, management and team. It informs the schools, the teachers, the school coaches and administrators that wearing one’s natural texture whether it be thick, curly, coily, straight, wavy, or a variety of other looks - is perfectly normal, in addition to being one’s right. Essentially, this process further normalizes the experience of natural hair.
The democratization of natural hair empowers black businesses within the natural hair industry. It enables them to have a broader customer base, which further enables their business to not only expand, but to either create or distribute the specific products that meet the particular needs of the natural hair wearer. Let’s be honest, it is only recently, that members of the natural hair community have been empowered to become the makers of their own products within the natural hair industry, and who would better know how to create a natural hair product than the one using them. With all this in mind, it is important for them to be able to sustain their businesses, this means selling to a broader more mainstream consumership. Diverse representation within the beauty and hair industry is essential. The progression of diversity within these industries and the innovative leaps that have been made in developing products for people within the natural hair community allows there to be an experience of chemical free and heat free hair care, and to dump the toxic ingredients.
There has been immense controversy surrounding the term ‘cultural appropriation’ and rightfully so. Cultural appropriation is a form of exclusion, this is done by taking a culture, selling an aspect of that culture and excluding the communities of that culture from the industry or consumership by which that culture is being sold. It is non-members of a culture profiting from the culture being sold and not redistributing some of the profit back within the communities of the source culture. It is the lack of partnership or collaboration with members of the community of the culture that is being commodified. It is a method that further disenfranchises primarily communities of color and sets our society back with regards to equity. The inverse of cultural appropriation is to be an ally of culture, or more specifically to be an ally in business. What exactly does this mean ‘to be an ally in business’? It means to share your resources, information, and tools that are often excluded from people of color who run small business. It means if you’re a non-person of color, support the success of your friend’s black owned business either by purchasing from them, helping them to bring their business to the mainstream, or helping them acquire resources that can bring profit to their business.
In conclusion, there are many benefits to normalizing/democratizing natural hair, it benefits small businesses run by people of color, it benefits the worker who chooses to wear his/her hair natural, it benefits the children, and athletes and many more. As we move further into the future, there are various ways that we can engage the conversations on diversity and inclusion, among them is accepting folks as they are, even something as mundane has hair texture. Nonetheless, it is this very hair texture that is leading in the hair industry of what is identified as Natural Hair. So with all this in mind, it is even more important that the conversations lead to an equitable share in the profits and developments within this natural hair industry, because as we all know economic power is real power within a society.
Thanks for reading and for your support! To further support our small business & innovative natural hair endeavors, check out our latest development - a natural hair stretching tool called the Hair Weight, click here for details!