I started writing a blog post last Friday about the Curly Nikki debacle but stopped midway because I felt like I would be beating a dead horse. I said this on Twitter and intended to leave it at that until a lady, from Switzerland, explained that knowledge that is presumably common might not be so and a lot of people might not know why people are up in arms about this situation. My first instinct was to write it off as white-splaining but I got to thinking and this thinking led to this blog post. I’m feeling charitable so I am going to let this be a teachable moment for people that might find themselves under fire for barging their way into a safe space. I think marginalized people feel protective of these spaces because of two reasons:
The world doesn’t validate “minorities” so we create our own affirming spaces.
Black people have been in the Western hemisphere for centuries and it has been a rough time. We have been subjected to ridicule, abuse and humiliation and anti-Blackness is international disease. We are still being fed an ideal that deems European features the most beautiful. Black women have done everything we can to fit this ideal even though our Africaness prevents us from truly reaching it. In addition to society, our family and community members influence our perceptions of ourselves. Men flip noodle when their woman cuts her hair and mama might hurl the “what are you going to DO with it” question at a cute twist-out or bomb ass fro. My own grandmother told me she preferred my hair the “other way” when I went natural. It’s real out here and natural hair spaces give Black women a break from Eurocentric foolishness. The same can be said of ball and drag culture for queer people of color, predominately Black organizations and so on. So, when a privileged person insists on being included, it is irritating. The world is already customized for certain people but their entitlement tells them it isn’t enough. They have to have everything and throw a tantrum when they don’t get it. Meanwhile, the lower classes are unable to get their break because they’re too busy trying to accommodate people. Curly Nikki can put anything she wants on her blog but she needs to remember who was there when she was trying to build her brand.
The privileged have appropriated and stolen from marginalized people for profit.
Proponents of Curly Nikki’s inclusiveness have argued that it could benefit the natural hair community. Outside of a few more product options, the mainstreaming of the natural hair movement hasn’t done much for Black women. Corporations hopped on the bandwagon and found a way to line the pockets. The wealth isn’t being fed into the Black community so we’re not the main benefactors but hey, at least our hair looks good.
There are plenty of other examples of this phenomenon. Madonna’s appropriation of ball culture via her hit Vogue didn’t do shit for the poor queer people of color that created voguing. The contributions and culture of the oppressed remain stigmatized until the ruling class takes it and claims it as their own. Black Twitter had to school Variety after they attributed the invention of rock music to Elvis Pressley. The internet even created a term, Columbusing, for people who discover something that wasn’t lost in the first place. Point is, we have a reason to be sensitive about our shit and it isn’t because of basic pettiness. For many of us, safe spaces keep us from being another casualty of this heavily prejudiced world.