Follow my favorite cousin (one of them!) on TikTok —@cfstory—for all other history tea. Thank you for all you do, Sis.
What do you think about his grapevine a debate in 2021 it’s just how crazy it got! This conversation about whether not black women should wear bonnets outside has sparked conversations of tone policing, generational trauma, misogyny, misogynoir, and beauty standards as a Black women.
This conversation has also led to that five-dollar word for policing: respectability.
In seeing this debate play out in real time, I cannot help but wonder and think about what I grew up with. My parents are both Baby Boomers. I was taught to be pretty my hair had to be straight a.k.a. ‘done’ and I couldn’t leave the house with my ‘hair wrapped up’. That was not allowed! My father, the proud Black man he was, knew the value of imagery and projection! The unwritten rule of Black girlhood—you can’t do what White girls do!
My father knew that in order to equip me for the world to handle the conscious and unconscious White Gaze was to give me a name first off that did not sound intimidating (read: sounded white) and be able to sculpt my growing up, and my aesthetic in such a way that I would be more palatable to white folks around me.
In the raising of being raised as the Respectable Black Girl, they were certain things I just knew I couldn’t do. And not just wearing bonnets outside! When Brandy Norwood in the mid-1990’s came out with her braids (Brandy Braids or Box Braids) I asked my parents if I could have them!
I was told no. I’m still not quite sure as to why I couldn’t get them. The Paul Mooney quote about White people being relaxed when your hair is relaxed comes to mind…
But yet in the comments section of some of these TikTok accounts and DM’s of their creators, is the dirtiest kind of war! There are Black folk fighting other Black folk like Voltron! They are fighting each other with the same slurs and coded language racist White people use to describe, discriminate against all of us!
From being told that Black women look ratchet, tacky, ghetto, unkempt and classless, to name a few. With the idea being, “When we go outside with bonnets, who’s gonna take you serious?Which leads to the other great debate (as always): what Black women do with their hair!
It was devastating to see other Black people denigrate, pile on, and rip apart Black women just because we choose to wear what we were we go outside. It just confirmed my deepest fear: There is no safe space to truly we just Black and woman! Now, I understand that Black people in this nation have been in a place where everything about us has been police or controlled—including how we look and how we look at ourselves.
The one thing that needs to happen to come back to civility, there has to is the radical accepting of self! This can only be done one life, one generation at a time! Even if I as a Black woman choose not to go outside with my hair wrapped up in certain cases, and then cannot judge another Black woman who does.
The world judges us both when they follow us through Macy’s anyway.