The other weekend a post on CurlyNikki, the top natural hair blog, featuring a White woman discussing learning to embrace her natural curls went viral. In this piece a young woman, who also has a YouTube channel on curly hair care, discussed how she learned to embrace her natural hair by taking her bun down and not always wearing her hair in a french braid when asked if she transitioned or if she big chopped. And then the internet exploded.
So we can acknowledge some basics about CurlyNikki.com. The actual person CurlyNikki does not write much of the current content featured on the site, the bulk of it is filtered through NaturallyCurly and the Textured Media network. NatuarllyCurly is owned by White women who openly acknowledge that they started the website for women with curls regardless of race, Black women came to them and they expanded to include the full spectrum of textured hair. They saw an opportunity and took advantage, ain’t no shame to be had here. NaturallyCurly was one of the first sites to acknowledge and provide information for 4C and Type 4 in general natural hair. So it’s contrite to quibble over CurlyNikki being owned by NaturallyCurly.
Let’s start here. I think the feature of the White woman on CurlyNikki.com talking about accepting her texture by taking her hair out of a bun was trolling us for pageviews. Basically that post was five ways to clickbait and whomever clicked publish either wasn’t getting paid enough to care/be aware or folks was just trying to up their AdSense revenue. The issue isn’t whether or not White woman can jump into the natural hair community, even though that’s what the argument has been watered down to. The issue is the tone of the article and how it was positioned.
Sarah, the White woman who was featured, does not have the same reference as Black women when big chopping or transitioning to natural. CurlyNikki could have featured Sarah with a whole lot less controversy just by changing the tone of the article and saved Sarah from quoting Urban Dictionary definitions.
— Sarah @:-) (@waterlily716) June 29, 2014
The natural hair community was created to inspire Black women to go natural. There are White women who are mothers of Black children and who like Rory of ChocolateHairVanillaCare have been vocal about inspiring their daughters to be proud and knowledgable about their hair, compared to other Black women who are still conditioning their child to think that hair is too nappy to work with. And then you have to consider that the diversity of who classifies as a Black woman is a wide spread and there are women of other ethnicities who have kinkier or more textured hair than some Black women. So I find it silly to argue whether white women have any right absorbing “our” information or participating in the forum. Especially when you consider how much the natural hair community of today lives in the fringe of shiny curls and looser textures while some folks continue to promote the lie that Type 4 or kinky coiled hair is a rarity. You can pluck out some of the popular YouTube natural hair vloggers and find White women with kinkier hair then them. So that argument is nascent. While White women are free to join the natural hair community what they can not do is simplify our experience to make it equal to their experience and that is exactly what that CurlyNikki post did.
Mariana Ortega wrote a piece, that exactly encapsulates my feelings on that CN article, entitled Being Lovingly, Knowingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color. All my #smartbrowngirls definitely need to read it, but this quote is the pinnacle here:
Arrogant ignorance is arrogant perception that does not make any attempt to understand the object of perception; loving, knowing ignorance is arrogant perception that involves self-deception and the quest for more knowledge about the object of perception-the perceiver believes himself or herself to be perceiving lovingly even though this is not the case, and the perceiver wishes to make knowledge claims about the object of perception, even though such claims are not checked or questioned
What that post featured was quintessential loving knowing ignorance. Sarah submitted herself as a NaturallyGlam feature with loving intentions and out of wanting to be a part of a community. Sans her tweeting after the article when viral, the fault can’t really be placed on Sarah. She as an outsider submitted an article to what she thought was an insider, a Black woman. Whoever selected Sarah, saw that she was White, so when she answers the questions as best she could, she figures that CurlyNikki, the Black woman who is an authority in the natural hair community, would edit the article to make it an appropriate feature for the natural hair community. She doesn’t have the knowledge to make that call that her talking about taking her hair out of the bun is not similar to a Black woman who big chopped after years of relaxing her hair to ‘make it more manageable.’ Two different shoes. What CurlyNikki or whoever edited the article at NaturallyCurly could have done was use this as an opportunity to show how valuable our community is to others; ‘look at all the cool tips I (Sarah) learned from the natural hair community and how it helped me to achieve healthy hair’. So often as Black content creators we are overlooked for opportunity because companies think our demographic is too specific — only Black women. We won’t even get to them eschewing the diversity within Black women, because the real point is that we are often told we don’t have a wide enough reach.This would have been a great way to show how wide our reach is. But happy things don’t get pageviews like controversy…so I get it.
To end, I just want to give a shout out to the #babyhairbrigade who all took time to repost and directly @ Sarah words of encouragement about being a part of the natural hair community. The same folks who have been talking about just getting over it and loving you while entirely dismissing the lack of representation of Type 4 naturals and how that impacts the core of the natural hair community who to this day are being told that their hair texture ain’t it. Girl….I see, let me hand Sarah some eco-styler and a tooth brush and welcome her into y’all clique.