Letter from Africa: Fighting ‘uniform hairstyles’ in Kenya

The spillover effects from the colonial era can clearly be recognized in the context of Kenya and its strictness on uniformity. Hairstyles are a unique identifier for different races and this is no different from that of Africans. However, high schools in not only Kenya but other African countries see these hairstyles as forms of distractions to academic success. This notion began during post-colonial Kenya when most of the teachers were still white. As such, there is no surprise when these young children are made to aspire to Eurocentric beauty norms as they are asked to brush their hair in order for it to be straight.

Similar stories have surfaced in the United States, with black children being expelled from school for not accommodating to white inspired rules. These oppressive practices hinders cultural expression, degrades Afrocentric cosmetic norms, and implies that the natural beauty of blackness is unprofessional, unkept, and unapt. Through this, Black people gradually lose this freedom of expression and encloses them within the confined spaces of these Eurocentric views. Professionalism then becomes a space of whiteness leaving no room for blackness. The irony of this beauty mishap is that African and African American beauty practices are used to popularize major fashion industries. Black beauty forms are only accepted by society when it’s not on black bodies. In prescribing a solution for the issue, society would need to acknowledge the implicit bias of black beauty being inappropriate.  Also, we must all realize that diversity is important and not everyone must conform to uniformity.





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