Is curly hair a race issue?

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I really, really hope that this question doesn't offend anybody i am from the UK and using terminology which is considered inoffensive here but if it does offend in any way, let me know and i can find out how to delete it...

Anyway, since reading CG book and visiting this website i've noticed that in the US it seems that feelings about curly hair are quite linked with feelings about race and ethnicity. Is that true?

Obviously black people have a range of quite specific hair types which white people just don't have, but generally is straight hair more 'white'?

I think of straight hair as more asian - chinese, korean etc. I am from the UK and am blonde and freckly and have curly hair... lots of fellow curlies here are red-haired or blonde and pale skinned and i just had never ever thought about curly hair as being a race or ethnicity issue.
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Perhaps race and ethnicity are more an attitude thing and hair type is really a genetic issue. It certainly is for me as I'm half Chinese, half Anglo-Saxon and have curly hair so where's the dominant gene? I do have a friend who is blond and blue-eyed with 4b hair - her grandfather is from Jamaica.
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It's definitely a race issue in the US. Textured hair has always been associated with people of color here, and discrimination based on appearance here often gets back to race and class.
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I think that that is an accurate perception. They are very linked here. I think it has to do w/ "natural hair" symbolizing an embrace of African American identity. There are other things we, African Americans, may do to our hair that are not always kind, not always healthy but have a greater "blending" effect with the mass population.

I really, really hope that this question doesn't offend anybody i am from the UK and using terminology which is considered inoffensive here but if it does offend in any way, let me know and i can find out how to delete it...

Anyway, since reading CG book and visiting this website i've noticed that in the US it seems that feelings about curly hair are quite linked with feelings about race and ethnicity. Is that true?

Obviously black people have a range of quite specific hair types which white people just don't have, but generally is straight hair more 'white'?

I think of straight hair as more asian - chinese, korean etc. I am from the UK and am blonde and freckly and have curly hair... lots of fellow curlies here are red-haired or blonde and pale skinned and i just had never ever thought about curly hair as being a race or ethnicity issue.
Originally Posted by fluffles
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I think it's a race issue but am hopeful that it is fading. I am a light skinned, blue eyed, blond with mostly 3c hair. When I was younger (4 kids ago) my hair was close to, if not actually, a 4a. For as long as I can remember people referred to my hair type as "ethnic" which I think translates to black/African hair. The very fact that people feel the need to identify my hair type as "ethnic" demonstrates a racial attitude.
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Curly hair is as much a race issue as hair color, eye color, eye shape, skin color, height, freckles, clothing style, accessories we choose...anything and everything can be a race issue when you live in a diverse society. I honestly don't think people are pondering my ethnic origin when they see my curly hair, but I do think they probably are when they evaluate my general coloring (and they're always wrong). People will always stereotype one way or another, with good and bad associations alike. I don't think of curly hair as a race "issue" (it honestly never dawned on me that curly = x , especially since there are so many levels of curl, swirl, wave, straight), but I think there will always be many ignorant individuals that just will never appreciate the beauty and necessity of diversity ...I feel sad for those people...
In the NY metro area, I don't think curly hair is a race issue.

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I never thought of it that way until I tried to make an appointment for a neighbor of mine with 4c hair, who was so frustrated that she'd cut off her bangs at the roots (!), and was told by my stylist that she didn't do "ethnic" hair, even though all three of us are white: the stylist, my neighbor, and I.

I still have no idea what she meant by that. She did my hair (2c/3a), but couldn't handle more curl?

Last edited by ninja dog; 08-13-2008 at 11:04 AM. Reason: clarify
In the NY metro area, I don't think curly hair is a race issue.
Originally Posted by orange
Interesting. I would consider it to be a racial/ ethnic issue here. Along the lines of what amaralice said about "blending", there are many African Americans, Latinos and Jews (among others) here who straighten their hair. Many who don't, true, but still plenty who do. Although individual reasons for this may vary, I don't think it would be as prevalent were it not for the W. European ideal of beauty we have in this country.
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I too was told once by a woman in a beauty supply store that my hair was "ethnic". I thought that was a little forward on her part to even state. I am not African American, nor was I offended if that's what she thought I had in running through my veins-but I thought that it really was no place of hers to insinuate anything. I am a mutt: Italian, Irish, Scottish, German, Ohlone Indian-however I am mistaken for hispanic especially since my last name went from Italian to Mexican when I got married. It doesn't offend me, but sometimes it annoys me because I wish people would not worry about, comment, or bring up things that really are pointless.
I think it goes both ways though. Some probably feel they are being helpful, others are just ignorant when it comes down to it. Like Oprah says "When you know better, you do better."
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Last edited by marinacurlz; 08-13-2008 at 03:56 PM.
It's definitely a race issue in the Hispanic community. I get told often, "oh but you have nice curls," with the implication being that I don't have "bad hair," as people frequently refer to African and black types of hair. It REALLY pisses me off, especially because a lot of the people who tell me this are of African descent themselves and it's just such a casual form of internalized self-loathing. I'm from the Carribean but I'm of Turkish descent so I have Shakira-esque curls. Anywho, it's a really big racial issue amongst people of Carribean descent, especially the Dominican Republic I'd say, but also Cuba and Puerto Rico.
I am caucasian (incidentally, with fair skin and freckles, but dark textured hair).

When I was in high school my hair was easily 3c or tighter, plus there were no "curly friendly" products, so it was what it was. One day I found out that the rumor was that I was bi-racial; the theory being that I couldnt possibly have that hair unless one of my parents was "black". I never corrected it, as it seemed irrelevant, not to mention nobodys business and slightly exotic. Plus, I was not brought up to see "color" (or income or religion, etc) I was brought up to see the person.

I think we all make assumptions based on perception, upbringing, experience etc. My general rule is that of tolerance, respect and acceptance. There is good and bad in every culture, etc.

I hope this post is taken in the spirit in which it was written.
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I completely agree! I remember my Dad telling me when I was a teen that I asked him when I was around 5 or 6 what he or my Mom would think if I married a black man someday. Here's what he told me "As long as they love you in return, their color does not matter." I remember feeling so proud and loved that he an my mother raised me that way. My husband is mexican and very dark at that. He was teased when he was little in Mexico because he was darker than his siblings, and other children. So if it's not hair, then it's skin, clothes, and so on.

Whenever someone tells me of "this race" or "that race" acting and being this way or that way. My response is always "EVERY race has it's a-holes." Besides we are ONE race...the HUMAN RACE. But we are classified under NATIONALITIES.
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Gel: Herbal Essences Set Me Up/Aussie Tizz No Frizz

Last edited by marinacurlz; 08-13-2008 at 04:39 PM.
I am caucasian (incidentally, with fair skin and freckles, but dark textured hair).

When I was in high school my hair was easily 3c or tighter, plus there were no "curly friendly" products, so it was what it was. One day I found out that the rumor was that I was bi-racial; the theory being that I couldnt possibly have that hair unless one of my parents was "black". I never corrected it, as it seemed irrelevant, not to mention nobodys business and slightly exotic. Plus, I was not brought up to see "color" (or income or religion, etc) I was brought up to see the person.

I think we all make assumptions based on perception, upbringing, experience etc. My general rule is that of tolerance, respect and acceptance. There is good and bad in every culture, etc.

I hope this post is taken in the spirit in which it was written.
Originally Posted by rudeechick
Wonderfully expressed!
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Another prove that there are NO races from the biological point of view. Someone may have very curly supposedly "ethnic" hair and light colored skin and hair. There are no distinct groups of people that could be called races.
I think it depends on the part of the country you live in. I grew up in Idaho and live in Montana and have never heard reference to race or ethnicity with curly hair. We have Native Americans with beautiful long black straight hair which I love, and lots of people of all types of European descent with all types of hair curly and straight. There are a few "high maintenance" with straightened hair women, but most people are laid back and casual and don't get too flapped about their hair. I don't think race enters into it, granted we are not as culturally diverse here as most of the country; however, big hair and curled up bangs never really went out of style with the cowgirl population! I work primarily wth the elderly and most of the women wear curls (permed)!
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Almost everyone in my family has curly hair. We're of Italian and Germany descent.
lots of fellow curlies here are red-haired or blonde and pale skinned and i just had never ever thought about curly hair as being a race or ethnicity issue.
Could it be that either you are not seeing the curly/textured heads that are other than red-haired, pale and blond skinned, or not thinking of them as curly? There have got to be plenty of them in the UK.
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Could it be that either you are not seeing the curly/textured heads that are other than red-haired, pale and blond skinned, or not thinking of them as curly? There have got to be plenty of them in the UK.
Originally Posted by Suburbanbushbabe
that could be it.
lots of fellow curlies here are red-haired or blonde and pale skinned and i just had never ever thought about curly hair as being a race or ethnicity issue.
Could it be that either you are not seeing the curly/textured heads that are other than red-haired, pale and blond skinned, or not thinking of them as curly? There have got to be plenty of them in the UK.
Originally Posted by Suburbanbushbabe
I'm in Scotland so not very many people here of african or carribean descent. Lots of italians, eastern europeans, indian, pakistani, chinese and other people....

generally i'd say the curlies are half fair haired and half darker haired... which is why i found it strange when people here and in the CG refered to curly hair being 'ethnic'.

In my experience here people who are 'ethinic' (whatever that means, it's not a term we use here but i think it means not of northern european descent) are no more likely to be curly than people who are of northern european descent.
Started trying low-poo in early August 08:
MOP C-system shampoo and conditioner
CO washing most days, poo about once a week
Boots curl creme and Umberto Giannini Curl Friends Scrunching Jelly after washing

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