In the Year of Our Lord 2023, some of yinz are out there apparently still critiquing Black people for the hair God gave them.
Royce Jones, a New Kensington native and Point Park grad who now works as a reporter and anchor for KDKA-TV (2), writes on Facebook:
I get a lot of comments about my hair.
Many people (most notably those who look like me) often thank me for the representation and for not being afraid to rock my super fab head of curls, on TV.
This is not a movement I can take credit for. People have been advocating and making space for natural hair in TV and media for eons.
Other not so cool people (who typically tend NOT to look like me) have had some pretty interesting critiques and comments including but not limited to comparing me to a chia pet …
They’ll make jokes or ask questions like “What is going on with your hair?” or “What are you going to do with it?”
Comments such as these have caused a great deal of introspection, sadness, stress and disappointment for me.
Jones go onto write that while he tends to just ignore trolls,
These are actual human beings who lack the knowledge and understanding about the significance and beauty of Black hair texture and styles.
My choice to grow my hair was initially just that, my choice. No statement. No political undertones. Nothing. BUT it’s clear to me now more than I ever that I need to use my voice + platform to further the discussion about hair equity for (Black people and persons of color).
Good on Royce Jones. As for my fellow light-beige Americans, have we ever thought about shutting up and minding our own business?
(No, the irony of my writing these words — I’m clearly not minding my own business — isn’t lost on me.)
There is a long history of Black persons being told their hair was “too Black” or “too ethnic.” There are Black children who are still being sent home for having an “Afro” or dreadlocks or braids (examples here, and here). There are still white people who say to Black folks, “can I touch your hair?” or, worse yet, just stick their grubby fingers into someone else’s hair without even asking.
Honestly, this was an issue I thought we had settled around the time “Hazel” went off the air and “Maude” debuted. But we haven’t.
Setting aside the way Black people are “othered” and criticized for something as simple as wearing their hair without a bunch of junk or chemicals to straighten it — and it’s a topic I’m not qualified to address (not the least of which because I’m bald) — of all of the many poisons that Donald Trump unleashed into the American bloodstream, perhaps the most toxic has been the idea that every one of our most bigoted inner thoughts deserves to be heard — and that others must be compelled to listen to them.
A lot of what passes for criticism of “wokeness” is actually from people who want to make racist, sexist or anti-gay jokes without fear of retribution, or who want to interfere in other people’s personal lives.
And a lot of what is dismissed as “wokeness” or “political correctness” is, in my experience, what was called “being polite” a few generations ago.
If someone tells you their name is “Steve,” you shouldn’t call them “Fred.” That makes you rude and a dumb-ass. Similarly, if someone tells you their pronouns are “him/his,” don’t call them “her.”
The First Amendment guarantees you freedom from government censorship or retaliation. It doesn’t mean that private companies need to give you a platform to say horrible things. It’s also not a magic shield that protects you from criticism from bystanders who overheard the horrible things you said.
You’re not being “censored” if you said something racist and someone else called you out. Quite the opposite.
Royce Jones’ hair looks fine to me. Even if it didn’t — it’s none of my business. It’s also none of your business.
It’s a shame. The comment sections on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — and, apparently, Jones’ email box — seem to be more or less populated by people who watched reruns of “All in the Family” and said, “It’s amazing, that Archie guy was right about everything!”
I like to visit the 1950s and ’60s on my radio show. I don’t want to live there.