Of Afros and Culture Wars

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Michael Vick has walked back his previous statement criticizing Colin Kaepernick’s afro. My sports intelligence is admittedly pretty low, but I do know that Kaepernick’s protest has raised the ire of many in the football community. His bravery and direct action has broken into my corner of sky. I like and whole-heartedly support him. He is my favorite #wokebae.

There is a long history of sports as a vehicle for expressing civil rights protest. There is a pretty straight line from Jackie Robinson’s desegregation of baseball in 1947 to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s black power salute at the 1968 Olympics to Kaepernick’s action of kneeling during the national anthem. The idea that somehow sports should be apolitical arena is a fallacy.

Another important historical note is that it has been a means of entrepreneurial advancement, from Madam C.J. Walker in the early 1900s to the present. Styling black hair has been a lucrative and on-going element of the black business world. The opening of barbershops and hair salons are a cornerstone of the community. It is a key element of African American achievement.

Vick’s initial statement about the afro invokes a long-simmering culture war over presentation of African American hair. The idea that somehow it is outside of a professional realm to wear an afro is somewhat baffling. It has been a long struggle to win the argument that natural hairstyles are acceptable in the business world. I suppose this is another flashpoint in the national conversation about what is and what is not acceptable.

The cool thing about hair, particularly for people of color, is that there is a diversity and dynamism of styles. I have, in no particular order, have worn the following hairstyles: bantu knots, cornrows, box braids, French braids, flat-ironed straight, and flat ironed and curled. I have also worn my hair in a big, beautiful afro.

I am team afro. Let those natural curls shine.

The Once and Future Queen


Beyoncé has given us such a moment of pop culture transcendence with the release of the picture of her twins on Instagram early this morning. Her crown remains intact. She is the breaker-of-the-internet. She is our reigning pop queen. It is a visually stunning and quite sunny portrait of a mother and her two children, Rumi and Sir Carter. It is an unmitigated celebration of life. The birth of children is not only an essential rite of humanity, it is also a universal experience that connects us all.

By way of full disclosure, I am a full adherent of the Beyhive. It has been a long time in the making. I liked her as a member of Destiny’s Child and definitely bopped to Crazy in Love, which was her solo debut. I lost track of her career as I entered into my doctoral studies and did not pay attention to the next couple records that she released. Yet with Beyoncé and Lemonade, she seized my attention and converted me to a full-fledged fan. With those last two albums, she started to explore the thematic elements of society that I care deeply about: gender, race, and politics in a more mature and artistically creative manner. I will follow her career and it’s attendant personal updates as an enthusiastic supporter of all things Beyoncé.

Long live the Queen! May she ever reign.