Yesterday Twitter and Facebook were abuzz about a recent Nivea for Men advertisement that features a clean shaven African-American male throwing away a hairier, afro sporting version of himself. The ad tells men to “Re-Civilize Yourself” and to “Look Like You Give A Damn.” Take a look for yourself:
People are calling the ad racist and, in my opinion, with good reason. As a proud naturalista I’m offended. I don’t rock an afro, but my big curly coif does turn heads and will certainly help you find me in a crowded room. Am I somehow not civilized because my hair isn’t sleek and straight?
I know, I know. You’re thinking, this ad is just suggesting that the guy shave and get a hair cut not an S Curl. But when I look at that ad I can’t help but wonder why it’s not civilized for this black man to let his hair grow out, but white celebrities with long locks are considered sexy.
OK, so no one reading this blog probably thinks Fabio is hot, but you get my point. I look at this ad and it’s as if it’s saying “Boy, you better not let that nappy, African hair grow out.”
But before we black folks start complaining about “the white man” let’s be real. In my years of being natural I have NEVER had a white person suggest that I need to straighten my hair, yet my so-called black sisters and brothers have often encouraged me to get a relaxer so I’d have a more professional look.
Likewise, I’ve interviewed several women who have received disparaging comments from family, friends, and co-workers about wearing an afro or some other voluminous natural hair style. They’ve been accused of not taking care of themselves or not taking pride in their appearance (in other words, not giving a damn) or have been warned that they aren’t going to be taken seriously at work or won’t be able to get a man because of their hair. And in all cases, the culprits were African American.
As the author of the natural hair blog Naturally Obsessed mentioned on Twitter yesterday: “…there are a lot of black people who feel the exact same way about afros and natural hair styles as that Nivea ad. It’s no different.”