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I’m kinky, you’re wavy, we’re all sisters, AND?


The hair typing schema has become quite popular amongst naturalistas. For those who don’t know, Andre Walker (Oprah Winfrey’s famed stylist) developed a hair typing schema to categorize hair texture. The types are:
Type 1: Straight hair, Type 2: Wavy hair, Type 3: Curly / Spirally hair, Type 4: Kinky/ Coily hair. Mr. Walker states that he developed the hair typing schema so that women could determine their hair type and thus decide the best way to care for their specific hair type (http://andresays.andrewalkerhair.com/). Note that Mr. Walker developed four broad hair types. Subsequently, there has been a proliferation of sub-hair types, specifically in the curlier categories. For example, according to this visual depiction, there are EIGHT sub-categories of type 4 hair. Woowwww. How did we go from one broad category to eight sub-types?

First, let me say that I think it’s important that women learn how to care for their particular hair type. As you know, I am on that journey myself. Second, I think that communities of understanding can develop around hair type (I know that I’ve scoured the internet for teeny, weeny afro and type 4 hair to get ideas about products, styles, etc.). Having said that, I wonder if this hair typing is beginning to resemble color typing?

We’ve talked about how straight or wavy hair is widely viewed as a beauty ideal and that kinky hair has been deemed less beautiful (or downright ugly according to some). Whenever a particular identity trait is considered less than ideal, it seems that we develop gradations of that trait, or that we make miniscule distinctions as a way to distance ourselves from the offensive trait. For example, I once blogged about colorism and how in Brazil there are 134 skin color gradations. Think I’m joking? See this: http://www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm. Is it just me or is there something to this?

Skin color and hair are two key identity markers. In fact, during slavery some have argued that hair was a more significant marker of status than skin. In other words, you might have had white skin but if your hair was kinky, the gig was up.

I found this visual depiction of hair types and wonder what you all think about hair typing in general? What are the pros and cons?
Tomorrow: stay tuned for more about my visit to NY and immersion in the natural hair care industry!

Image found at: http://www.vissastudios.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/hairtypechart-1.jpg

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Colorism

Image found at: http://uppitynegronetwork.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/light-skinned-vs-dark-skinned-2.jpg?w=300&h=293


Based on your comments, it seems that you all agree that Dark Girls (http://vimeo.com/24155797) is bound to make a big contribution to our ongoing discussion about self-acceptance. My blog primarily focuses on hair and identity but skin color is also a strong identity marker. I love the fact that we are discussing these topics! One thing that was also brought to my attention was the fact that light-skinned Black women also encounter colorism (discrimination based on skin color), being treated as “less Black” in some instances, oftentimes by other Black people. A post from Tamara Harris, one of my high school classmates illustrates this point:

“The Color Game is alive and rearing it’s ugly head in full force! As a product of a “blended family” my skintone/hair texture/etc was, and IS, an issue for some people. My family never even discussed color/race as we are all shades from white to brown. No one was any more special than the next. Everything I know of racism I learned from the black community once I left the comforts of home/family. Growing up it was made clear to me by others that I was “different” and they never missed an opportunity to point it out…and make their assumptions based on my shell without getting to know me. Sadly, the only people that felt the need to treat me differently were people of color…my own so-called people. Unfortunately, for some, it never goes away; the giving and receiving of “color hate” (my own term). I was at work not too long ago having a conversation with a coworker (who is brownskin) and another lady we work with walked by and said hello to my coworker (by name to make it clear who the intended was). I mentioned that the lady had NEVER said so much as hello to me. The response: “That’s cause you aren’t really one of “us”…most people aren’t sure what you are.” (said with laughter and a smile, of course) But, even at my age, it was hurtful because there was more than a little bit of truth in her statement. Perhaps I’ll never fully understand the reason behind the color barrier within the race, but I certainly know what it feels like to be treated differently simply because of the color of your skin.


I also had an Indian woman proclaim that colorism is a HUGE issue in Indian society (see my earlier post where I talk about skin bleaching in India: http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-talk-about-ethnic-hair.html). I’m sure we all have our theories about what led to colorism amongst African-American people: field Negroes versus house Negroes, economic access, social mobility, education, ability to pass versus inability to pass, etc. I love to dig into history to understand the present. However, I am keenly interested in how we can overcome these issues. What do you think? Will we ever be able to overcome colorism and discrimination based on hair texture?

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