Dancing over my hair – I’m harmed and deeply hurt!

When I first heard about the Clicks advert, my response was one of exhaustion. I am tired of constant racism. I later listened to the radio and women commented that they too are tired of racism. I then realised how racism works to hurt the affected person. It causes deep pain. I had to wake myself up and be with others that have felt the same excruciating pain. I also know that people are supporting us as we continue to address this. When I saw the advertisement on social media, I immediately felt that Clicks and TRESemmé had disrespected me, suggesting that my natural hair is dry and damaged and just not good enough.

I feel that Clicks and TRESemmé are systematically policing my natural hair, comparing it with white hair. Their advert informs me that black hair is dull and damaged and that white hair is normal – in other words, black hair is not normal, at least according to Clicks and TRESemmé. Black women have had their hair systematically policed by our society on a global scale. This has led to many black women feeling uncomfortable about wearing their natural hairstyles. They fear being discriminated against or insulted (by using terms such as ‘a birds nest’ etc.). There is something about African hair that is symbolic of the hate that some white people have for black people. This is a recurring issue. In the office it’s “unprofessional” and in schools it “violates the rules”.

We are made to feel inferior by highlighting that our hair is not smooth, not shiny. But here is something that our society must recognise: our hair is our crown, and it is versatile.

Clicks described the use of the advert as a mistake. Is it possible in this day and age to still be so ignorant? Where is the diversity in their organisation? Who were they marketing this for and who did the quality check if it was a mistake?

These are some of the issues being raised and the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) have taken strong action. On the one hand, with the struggle of COVID-19 and our Gross Domestic Product shrinking, I condemn the EFF decision of not allowing Clicks stores to open. Threatening and blocking of Clicks workers and customers it is not helping.

I am reminded of the story of Herod in the Scriptures – he was having his birthday party. King Herod’s daughter danced to entertain his guests and that left Herod overwhelmingly excited. King Herod, in his excitement, “promised on oath to give her anything she asked” (Matthew 14:7) – this for me was Clicks promising TRESemmé, whatever you ask us, we will do it. A harmful and hurtful choice was made. Why did Clicks not ask black women like me about my hair? Why attack my hair when you know nothing about it?

I feel that Clicks and TRESemmé have shown us their real selves. St Ignatius teaches us not to be reactive out of fear because if you do, you are going to harm other people. St Ignatius teaches us to be creative and purposeful, clarify who you are, what you stand for and your values. Once you are sure, you can go to a place where you can to see what it is that you desire. This might sound spiritual because I mention St Ignatius, but I presume Clicks and TRESemmé went through a conversation to produce this advert and both have disclosed their values and what they stand for. They make it clear that they don’t stand for black women!

Ms Puleng Matsaneng

Puleng works in Spirituality and researches Ignatian Spirituality in an African context. Her area of speciality is in exploring how African themes and practices of spirituality dialogue with the Western traditions, and how that is understood in relation to Ignatian Spirituality. She has looked at how Ignatian Spirituality can be integrated into the African worldview. Most especially, how the use of song and storytelling can be part of the prayer process. She is currently managing retreats in daily life and training prayer guides. Puleng is also involved in ongoing Spiritual Direction, giving 8-day and 30-day retreats. Her latest venture is a pilot programme of healing workshops that use the principles of Ignatian Spirituality.

p.matsaneng@jesuitinstitute.org.za
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