The mat­ter of hair is here again

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

THERE IS al­ways this big hul­la­baloo about bleach­ing and the chastis­ing of peo­ple of the lower eco­nomic strata of so­ci­ety for the bleach­ing of their skin.

Bleach­ing is not only com­mon to Ja­maica but is a phe­nom­e­non all around the world. While the lower eco­nomic group can only af­ford cake soap or cheap creams, more af­flu­ent mem­bers of the so­ci­ety will go to their der­ma­tol­o­gist where the more ex­pen­sive bleach­ing prod­ucts can be pre­scribed. Maybe, the dif­fer­ence is that the cake soap was not meant for skin and there­fore dam­ages the skin.

Many rea­sons are given for bleach­ing, from a cool com­plex­ion to ac­cep­tance by the so­ci­ety. While some may scoff at the idea of the lat­ter, we are only fool­ing our­selves, and in de­nial, if we say other­wise.

In the same way that chil­dren look at the hypocrisy of adults who preached hon­esty and in­tegrity to them and run the red light with the child in the back seat of the car be­fore curs­ing when they are stopped by po­lice, it is the same way that the lower strata of the so­ci­ety look at the hypocrisy of the up­per ech­e­lon who do not ac­cept them but keep telling them to ac­cept them­selves.


While this big furore is on­go­ing about bleach­ing, there is a gen­eral ac­cep­tance of the long flow­ing curly or straight hair some of our women wear, which ob­vi­ously isn’t theirs. Yes, their long curly hair is to­tally ac­cepted. This is how we should look. We em­brace this Euro­pean look.

It is no big deal about the dam­age caused by the dye, paste, and glue to the skin. Some women have to wear a wig per­ma­nently be­cause of re­ced­ing hair­line or be­cause of dam­aged hair, but this is ac­cepted by a peo­ple who do not ac­cept them­selves at dif­fer­ent lev­els of the so­ci­ety. What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween this and bleach­ing? Can we not see the hypocrisy?

On the very day we were cel­e­brat­ing 56 years of in­de­pen­dence, it ap­peared in The Gleaner, ‘Court clears way for dread­locked child to start school’ A child, well-groomed and wear­ing her God-given hair, is be­ing given ul­ti­ma­tum and os­tracised. Our hair is not good enough. Our hair is not ac­cepted by the same so­ci­ety that is de­nounc­ing bleach­ing. When will we get it?


I find it rather dis­turb­ing to think that, as black peo­ple, we find time to be­labour is­sues such as a mere Afro­cen­tric ap­pear­ance of our peo­ple. It is very sad to know that we have been in­de­pen­dent for 56 years and we still have not ac­knowl­edged our true and nat­u­ral selves, and our her­itage.

Gone are the days when locked hair was left to grow nat­u­ral, now it is well-groomed and styled. This is now an ac­cepted cor­po­rate hair­style in Ja­maica, a hair­style that orig­i­nates in Ja­maica, and we should be proud of our­selves.

This is a hair­style that is en­vied and copied from North Amer­ica to South Africa. Why are we proud to don a wig that models our colonis­ers and is still afraid to walk tall with our nat­u­ral hair?

Why are we ashamed of whom we are as a peo­ple?

Why are we still strug­gling with an iden­tity is­sue?

Why are we forc­ing and/or en­cour­ag­ing our men and women to rep­re­sent some­one, or some­thing, other than them­selves?

The rest of the world is so en­cour­aged by Ja­maica, so proud to as­so­ciate with us, so proud to model us, but we still can­not cel­e­brate our­selves. We are still suf­fer­ing from in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex. Our kinky hair does not look good, our hair look too tough and ugly, we have ‘bad head.’

Ladies and gentle­men, we need to grow up.

I am hop­ing good and proud Ja­maicans will stand be­side this child and not al­low her to be ex­e­cuted by a sys­tem of in­tol­er­ance.

Ober­lene Smith-Whyte re­tired from the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force re­cently, hav­ing risen to the rank of su­per­in­ten­dent. She was also re­cently named among the per­sons to be ap­pointed as a Mem­ber of the Or­der of Dis­tinc­tion in the rank of Of­fi­cer for 2018. Feed­back: ed­i­to­rial@glean­


In this 2005 photo, chil­dren with dread­locks share lunch with their friends.

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