I recently saw the article There's Still a Stigma Against Natural Hair (This Study is Proof) and I almost skipped over it.
I thought to myself “Of course there is a stigma against natural hair--I don’t need a study to tell me that!” Despite my initial reaction, however, I decided to go ahead and read the article anyway. I am so glad I did. Now I get to share it with you and you can share it with your friends! And perhaps, you can find out if you have a hair bias and didn't even know it.
Perception Institute created the Hair Implicit Association Test (Hair IAT) in association with popular natural hair brand, SheaMoisture. The test is the basis of The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair. Conducted in 2016, the study states:
“a consortium of researchers, advocates, and strategists that use cutting-edge mind science to help organizations reduce discrimination linked to race, gender, and other identity differences. Working in sectors where bias has the most power to create harm—our schools, workplaces, hospitals, justice system, and media—we translate findings into interventions and workshops, customize research, and develop strategies to communicate across difference and disrupt the cycle of bias and harm.”
The institute is committed to increasing awareness of solutions to the challenges of discrimination that are a part of real life and the real world. Alexis McGill Johnson, the Executive Director at the Perception Institute wrote an article titled The Beautifully Complicated Reason I Created a Quiz That Tests Bias Against Black Hair which was featured on Essence. In it, she explained the inspiration behind creating the quiz along with a personal narrative embracing her natural texture.
“And yet with respect to my hair, the very race conscious values I hold have not translated into a shift in my hair straightening regimen. As the natural hair movement, has grown, I have celebrated the affirming young women who are pushing hair boundaries, but at the age of 44, amidst an unplanned hair transition, I find myself confronting my own hair paradox. Having let go of chemical processing, embracing the real texture of my hair seems to require something more--challenging the deeply embedded 'hair-eotypes' I have about my hair. “–Alexis McGill Johnson. This statement underscores the fact that for black women, hair is never just about hair and there are many complex beliefs and emotions that many of us deal with when it comes to our natural tresses.
Some of the study's key findings include:
across all demographics, the study suggests that “a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair,” this is true of all demographics and white women were found to hold the strongest bias.
Natural hair disdain results from societal teachings and can be undone if people are exposed to positive images of natural hair in the traditional media and social media. Diversity matters. Representation matters.
Millennials showed “far more positive attitudes towards textured hair than their older counterparts,” regardless of race.
Women with natural hair demonstrated either “no bias or a slight preference for natural hair.”
What it was like taking the test
"Your data suggest a very strong preference for textured hairstyles over smooth hairstyles."
The test is really simple and very user-friendly. It emphasizes both speed and accuracy. If you are too slow to choose your responses, then you won’t be able to generate any results. You also have to keep your fingers on the keyboard at all times and you must read and follow the instructions. The test asks you to choose good or bad for a series of photos of black women with natural hair and straight hair.
The interesting part happens when it places the images in categories on either side of the screen: it tells you one side is good and the other side bad, like straight hair as good hair versus natural hair as bad, and vice versa. During these sections, you should also indicate good and bad with your selections based on the instructions, not your own views. This is where I suppose the biases become apparent. I had a little difficulty when I was required to select bad for the natural hair images because my brain kept saying good and it took a lot of effort to control that. Even when I thought I was thinking one thing, my fingers selected something else. It was a bit like battling myself and it was also super fun.
Do you have a hair bias?
Find out your own hair bias by clicking here to take the test. In about ten minutes, the results could surprise you. Let us know your results in the comments section!