21st Century

“I Am Not My Hair” ~India Arie

India Arie’s “I Am Not my Hair,” speaks to the notion of monoliths as she challenges the belief that a singular attribute can characterize the entirety of an individual. Throughout her song, she talks about how specific hairstyles are assigned to personality traits and behaviors, and how those ideas are very limiting, especially for black women. For example, she talks about the social setbacks black women faced because of their hair choice, and how the generalizations and misconceptions of others fail to examine the full experience and individuality of the person wearing the hairstyle.

Also, India Arie’s video “I Am Not My Hair,” truly speaks to the issue of internalized racism and hyper generalizations or monoliths. For example, she says,”good hair means curls and waves, bad hair means you look like a slave.” Arie’s inclusion of this verse is quite provocative as it challenges the internalized racism of the black community and the rest of society. She challenges the idea that kinky hair is bad, because it is a more black attribute than curls and waves which are more commonly “white.” Also, the idea of “nappy hair” is associated with poor maintenance, slavery, and poverty. As a consequence of that belief, we exclude and marginalize specifically black women with this hair type and create a set of biases and assumptions against them. By carrying on these biases and false perceptions, we then carry on the colonial legacy that seeks to portray black women as inferior.

Throughout a lot of her video, Arie wants her audience to reevaluate their own biases, through telling the story of individual experiences with their hair. She also wants us to acknowledge that hair is conditional. Something as simple as a hairstyle should no longer entrap black women into narrowed perceptions and monoliths, but should be worn freely however the individual chooses. Conclusively, hair should not be a sole identification of the being of a person, but a an accessory that the beholder chooses to self define.


By Na’imah Jones-Charles