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The Black Hair Effect

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When African American reader Cynthia wrote asking about the safety of the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment and whether “it could help free her from a life of kinks”, I was immediately reminded of a quote from Malcolm X….. “Look around today, in every small town and big city, from two-bit catfish and soda-pop joints into the "integrated" lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria, and you'll see conks on Black men. And you'll see Black women wearing these green and pink and purple and red and platinum-blonde wigs.”

They're all more ridiculous than a slapstick comedy. It makes you wonder if the Negro has completely lost his sense of identity, lost touch with himself.”

When First Lady Michelle Obama attended a countrymusic event last summer with an ‘updo’ the blogosphere exploded with outbursts ranging from adoration to vitriol. Things settled down only when her deputy press secretary clarified that there had been no First Haircut. Anyone “familiar with the amazing versatility of Black hair” would have known that the new summer look was simply “pinned up”.

Many Americans have dismissed this hair gabfest as simply more media-driven noise — like the chatter about Ms. Obama's sleeveless dresses, offthe- rack cardigans and stocking-free legs. Still, her hair is the catalyst for a conversation that begins with style but quickly transcends outward appearance and ultimately transcends Michelle herself — a symbol for African- American women's status in terms of beauty, acceptance and power.

"We have the same spiral in our hair as electricity, tornadoes, whirlwinds, DNA, galaxies!" Nekhena Evans, Hairlocking: Everything You Need to Know African Dread and Nubian Locks.

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) The Souls of Black Folk (1903) “…It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…One ever feels his twoness, - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

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