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Remember my previous post many moons ago, when I went trolling for pictures of what I considered to be the phenomena of Asians sporting afro’s, braids and dreadloc’s. However, it appears this has been a trending style in South Korea for more than a score, and perhaps even longer in Japan than I originally imagined.

S. Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Myung Bak’s Afro from back in the day

It hasn’t escaped my notice that it is that post in particular that has lead many to my blog and which has gotten the most hits, linkbacks, and ‘likes’, included search terms with the tags ‘asian afro’, ‘afro asian’, ‘korean dude with dreadlocks’ ‘asian afro perm’ ‘afro hair’ ‘natural afro hair’ and many other variations and combinations. As the internet term goes, it’s ‘trending’ the web so to speak.

Having read through some of the discussions on different websites, forums, and blogs, there is some stigma among some Black people that this emulation ‘natural’ Afro-American hair is to be considered a mockery of ‘black culture/people’ or an offense.   As a Southern black woman who not only wears my hair in it’s natural state, but also ventured on my own loc journey 5yrs ago (after wearing my hair in an Afro for 3yrs) that resulted in a spiritual re-evolution of my holistic inner-self, I can certainly tell the difference between admiration/inspiration and mockery while even keeping an awareness of the ‘posers’ (the ones who aggravate a bad name for everyone else).  With that in consideration, i wanted to give some insight to my perspective, and I thank Regina at the ExpatJane blog for providing her personal and thoughtful insight into the queries of the trending Asian Afro from the Korean peninsular, having lived in South Korea for many years.

Regina makes an excellent point about how ‘afro textured hair’ has been so throughly vilified both historically and even now in popular media (remember the Don Imus controversy) that even within the Black Diaspora ‘afro natural hair’ is looked upon as subversive and sometimes just ‘undesirable’.  Regina rightly points out that “Let’s just say that while almost every race of people have no problems wearing their hair as is, in black culture it’s looked upon as odd and subversive. That’s not to say that other races don’t seek to change, enhance or otherwise just play around with their hair. It’s just a bit different when the texture of your hair has literally been vilified……..[thus] the eventually internalization of the “super coily Afro hair is bad” aesthetic within the black disapora.”

And so it seems that, those who would see this as some kind of Asian appropriation of black culture is right…but I however disagree that it is a just out-right mockery of black culture. It’s my opinion that it is only a mockery or offense to those who are still not comfortable enough to wear their ‘own natural hair’ It’s like…..”how dare they admire or fashion trend something I myself as a black person wouldn’t even be caught dead wearing”  While some black women give more excuse than a guy going to jail as to why they chemically straighten their hair, everything from “girl…my hair is too nappy for that” (when in reality they have been conking their hair since they were 4 or 5yrs old and don’t even know what the real texture of their hair is)..or I even heard this one before “Seriously, are you like on some ‘going back to Africa’ thing?” (when in reality, relaxers and weaves are all over the place on the African continent and Africans themselves are no more immune to the internalization of ‘eurocentric standards of beauty than black americans are perceived to be’.) And my favorite has something to do along the lines of preference (when in reality, so much of ‘personal preference’ has been programmed into people via popular media images and the pressures of societal ‘norms’ and standards of beauty that places European aesthetic above all in terms of perceived ‘desirability’.)

In conclusion, I want to end this post with an observation that fickle minds have yet to consider.  Many aspects of Asian culture has been appropriated for western audiences many times over.  I see people with Japanese Kenji symbols tattooed on their body, with no valuable insight to it’s meaning and connotations. All the anime and manga fans simply miss the point.  It’s ironic that those that complain about the narrow-minded view in which black people are view fail to also sympathize and articulate the shared experience in which Asians/Asian Americans are typically viewed.  Impacts of European colonialism and globalization can be found around the globe, including Eastern Asia and the pacific where the market of cosmetic’s and the pursuit of ‘ideal standards of beauty’ (which are markedly Western in orientation in some regard) is a very large and lucrative business.  In likeness..the industry behind black hair care in the West, (with all the chemicals, products, and of all things weaves (human hair comes from Asia mind you) is a billion dollar industry that the demographic that are the targeted consumers have no tangible investment in.  So, if we are going to   be offended by the appropriation of ‘black hair styles’ on non-black people, and have presumptuous opinions of Black people who do and/or want to embrace a more natural self, then perhaps we should be taking back our ‘blackness’ and appropriating our own culture and setting our own standards of beauty.  Just a thought!!!  Perhaps getting rid of this learned ‘shame of black aesthetics’ is the first step.  How can one love and appreciate others with out fully loving and appreciating ones-self, and most importantly, how can you expect others too do the same of you?

Perhaps India Aire put’s it into song better than i can in words…

Decolonize your mind and free yourself from mental slavery.

with love in mind,

Afroetry

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