By Andre Jones
#Black Twitter is in an uproar after beauty magazine Allure ran a how-to article titled, “You (Yes You) Can Have An #Afro, *even if you have straight hair*in their August issue, featuring the actress Melissa Meitling – a white woman – as the model.
While not exclusive to Black people, the afro hairstyle is widely characteristic of, and created by, the Black community. For this reason, Black Twitter found it wildly inappropriate that the model was white and not Black, claiming that it reeked of cultural appropriation. Noting Allure’s predominantly white female demographic, it was observed that they generally ignore Black beauty trends and Black women, yet found the afro intriguing enough to feature as a hairstyle that can also be enjoyed by white women. Echoing the sentiments of most of Black Twitter, one person (@MissWhoeverUR) tweeted, “What a missed opportunity by @Allure_magazine to actually talk about afro hair…to the girls who actually have it.”
This tweet buttresses the cultural appropriation argument, as another Twitter member (@Legs_for_days) pointed out, “@Allure_magazine How are you going to have an article on Afro’s and not mention the origins of the style?afro”. This, not the fact that the model was not Black, seems to be the predominant thorn in Black Twitter’s paw. Like others have pointed out, the afro, associated with Black America, is mired in political activism and social unrest.
Initially, the afro was no fashion statement. It was not worn in an effort to “look pretty”. The afro was an extension of the well known Black Power movement of the late 60’s and pretty much most of the 70’s. It was a daring political statement during a highly charged period that saw the deaths, beatings, and incarcerations of many Blacks, among them the two most famous casualties of the Civil Rights struggle – Black leaders, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.
The afro represented pride in being Black in the face of opposition. The afro became a symbol of the new face of Black America – but it also became a bullseye. People with afros were routinely targeted and investigated by the FBI, the CIA, and the FBI’s subsidiary, COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) – which was created for the sole purpose of infiltrating and destroying domestic political organizations such as The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the NAACP, and other black nationalist organizations.
The afro, or as it was called back then, “the natural” was clearly more than a simple hairstyle, Black Twitter maintains, and the fact that Allure Magazine seemed to appropriate this style while omitting it’s background is why Black Twitter is now in an uproar.