This question has been asked for a long time.
Can a white girl get box braids without stepping on cultural toes?
I’ll try to cover both sides, but the answer is yes.
However, there are a few factors to consider; you must be sensitive to the history behind box braids and truly understand why it’s such a big deal.
It’s better to be well-informed.
Because at the end of the day, we need to be empathetic and understand why people feel offended.
This post discusses the thought process behind box braids – so I implore you to read this post with an open mind.
Let’s dive in.
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What is the significance of box braids?
Box braids have a rich and culturally significant history that dates back centuries.
They are deeply rooted in African and African-American culture.
In many African communities, braids were not just a fashion statement but also had cultural, spiritual, and social significance. They often conveyed a person’s age, marital status, social status, and even their tribe.
Additionally, most people of African descent have coily curly hair – which is prone to dry quickly – so braids also serve as a protective hairstyle and protect the hair from harsh weather conditions.
It saves from daily grooming and is less time-consuming.
During the transatlantic slave trade, Africans were forcibly brought to America, bringing their cultural traditions and hairstyles with them.
Braiding techniques continued to evolve in the Americas among enslaved Africans, with styles adapting to the available resources and circumstances.
During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest in African culture, including hairstyles like afros and braids.
The Black is Beautiful movement celebrated natural Black hair and played a role in popularizing braided hairstyles as a symbol of pride and identity.
Thanks to celebrities like Janet Jackson and Brady, box braids gained worldwide popularity in the 80s and ’90s – I remember wanting them when I watched those music videos.
So, it’s very important to understand that box braids hold a very large cultural and social significance for Black communities. When discussing and wearing box braids, respecting their historical context is essential.
It’s so much more than a fashion statement.
Why do people get upset when white women wear box braids?
Growing up in the 90s as an Indian with curly hair, I was often criticized for wearing my hair naturally.
We’ve been made fun of and coerced into straightening our hair.
I have several friends in Rwanda and Nigeria, and I’ve asked them why people get upset when women wear box braids.
They told me that they’ve had similar experiences.
When they wore their box braids or afros, they were often criticized.
The world wasn’t so inclusive and forgiving in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.
People were quite ruthless with their comments.
And people of African descent were criticized or mocked for their natural hair and protective hairstyles.
They were judged and mocked – and they’ve had to get used to it. Many people with curly hair straightened their hair and tried to blend in lest they get called unprofessional in the workspace.
Black women have been shamed for their natural hair for a long time. Centuries of feeling embarrassed for something as natural as their hair has caused irreversible damage.
Natural hair, curly hair, and coily hair were never considered conventionally beautiful. I grew up hating my hair.
I hated the bullying and the unnecessary comments – I was told to straighten my hair or asked to brush it (people didn’t understand that curly hair cannot and should not be brushed). I was bullied in college (people called me “Pubes” because my hair is curly, like hair in the groin region.
If I had to go through something like that in a country that’s fairly sensitive to this subject, then I can only imagine what Africans or African Americans had to endure in white countries.
I was able to amass over 200,000 followers on Instagram by simply creating comics around my curly hair struggle.
It evoked an emotional response.
It’s taken a long time to help people understand that all hair is beautiful and beauty is very subjective.
People are now learning to embrace their natural hair, and we are beginning to see that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
So, this movement is taking a while to spread to all corners of the world – many people around me still straighten their hair and style it to make it look “straight” because they genuinely want to look beautiful.
It’s not going to happen overnight.
So, some people might feel hurt or offended when white people or caucasian people wear box braids and are celebrated for doing so.
It stings because they’ve had to go through their whole lives being rebuked for the same hairstyle.
Is it okay for a white girl to get braids or cornrows?
It’s just hair, and you can wear it in any hairstyle you please.
99% of the people around you will not have a problem – nobody will stop you on the street and tell you that you’re misappropriating black culture.
However, if you are online and decide to showcase your hair, you might face backlash.
This isn’t your doing, and it’s not something you should feel bad about.
But by now, knowing the history, you can come from a place of understanding and love.
So, if you get the backlash, know that this is not something you can do much about.
You are on the internet, and social media can be cruel.
If I declare tomorrow that my partner and I don’t want children on Instagram, I’m sure I’ll get tons of nasty comments from people saying children give meaning to your life or they’re God’s gift to the world.
It’s very hard to please everyone on social media.
And that’s okay.
As long as you’re sensitive about this issue and know why people are upset over this issue, you have nothing to worry about.
The fact that you’re reading this post, proves that you’re already kind and are trying to understand why this is an issue – this itself sets you apart.
So kudos, on being so kind and sensitive.
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