Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Seo Young Park
© 2021 Amalia R Barrett
This ethnography details the experiences of discrimination and reconciliations of cultural appropriation among Black women and those perceived as Black women at the Claremont Colleges. 26 semi-structured ethnographic interviews were conducted over Zoom video conferencing to collect responses to questions including: How do my participants wear and describe their hair, and what experiences in their life do they relate to their hair? What challenges related to hair do my interviewees perceive in life outside college? How do my participants actively reconcile and critically rationalize the dynamic between Black hair being worn by Black women and by non-Black women? What patterns appear in my participants’ logics regarding why non-Black women desire Black hair and are rewarded for wearing it? Interviewees described their hair journeys and personal experiences with Black hair discrimination, as well as described a larger narrative of intersectional discrimination against Black hair in American culture. Participants detailed their understandings of cultural appropriation and discrimination, and this ethnography works to categorize some those schematic prototypes of reconciliations. These experiences and subsequent reconciliations show that discrimination against and the appropriation of Black hair feed into a system that detaches Black hair from Black culture, devalues it, and commodifies it for the benefit of non-Black observers. Discrimination and cultural appropriation of Black hair are not in any way separate or contradictory, but rather my participants see them as purposefully and viciously coexisting to create a compounding effect that results in the negative treatment of Black women with Black hair and the positive treatment of non-Black women with Black hair, as they are two parts of the same mechanism within anti-Black racism in the United States.
Barrett, Amalia Raquel, "Detangling Black Hair: Hair Journeys, Discrimination, and Reconciliations of Cultural Appropriation Among Claremont College Students" (2021). Scripps Senior Theses. 1656.