Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Colonialism to blame for hair disdain

Published:Tuesday | September 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I must confess that I was not surprised that a preparatory school insisted that a prospective male child, with long Afro/African kinky hair cut that hair in order to conform with the principal's idea of being well groomed.

I do not condemn the principal either, as her aesthetic sense and ideas about grooming would have been developed in a postcolonial era - a context where everything overtly African - and long, kinky hair is as African as you can get - is bad, dirty, disrespectful. Just think back on the shearing of Rastas like sheep in Coral Gardens - their hair offended the status quo!

I was not surprised that a child's kinky hair was rejected out of hand, because it is obvious to me that the average Jamaican's aesthetic sensibilities do not, or cannot, see beauty in kinky hair, especially long, kinky hair on a boy. Long, kinky hair on a boy is viewed as unkempt, dirty and ungroomed. Jamaicans can only appreciate a boy's kinky hair if it is cut so short as to be almost invisible.

That Jamaicans cannot see beauty in themselves is sad, but understandable. We are not really conscious that we have really deep-seated, implicit biases against our own African appearance and do not see ourselves as we really are. When we look at ourselves, we measure our own beauty by how 'close' to European or Indian or Chinese we appear - no one wants to look African because African is ugly.

It will be many years before Jamaicans can look objectively at a boy's long, kinky Afro/African hair and see it as beautiful and groomed.