White Woman Rocks an Afro in Attempts to ‘Find Herself’…Harmless Fun or Offensive?

Michelle Lapidos (@michellejoni) is a white, blonde woman on an Eat, Pray, Love-type journey of self-discovery. And thanks to her Afro wig, she’s learning a lot about self-liberation, but sadly, little about self-awareness.

 Lapidos started a blog, Before and Afro, chronicling her exploits roaming around New York City in a cartoonish afro wig she bought to wear at a ’70’s-themed office party. She says, “The afro changed my perspective; it made me think, walk, see and experience life differently. I wear it often. It’s not about feeling black… what I actually feel like is ME, understood more clearly. It’s not an alter ego. It’s an amplified ego.”

Lapidos only wears her ‘fro to events where there are sure to be a high concentration of black people, so she might take photos with said black folks. She even wore her wig to a Fried Chicken Extravaganza (what the…?), which she claims “was obviously an occasion to wear the fro.” (duh! because black people like fried chicken, amiright?)

 Several people, including some of Lapidos’s phantom ‘black friends‘ have told her that donning the ‘fro as a white woman might be a little problematic or even hurtful to some people of color. Even though this issue has been brought to her attention, she still insists that the people of color (and white folks) advising her to cease and desist just don’t understand her innocent little experiment.

Yet in each of her posts, Lapidos fails to explain how her “perspective” (her word) has changed, what about her life is different, or how she better understands herself. Her body language, however, says it all. In her first photoshoot with the ‘fro, she poses in a “gangsta” stance. In another photo, she is growling.

Ugh. Curly Nikki perfectly sums up why Lapidos’s actions are troublesome:

Why is her behavior offensive? Because it ignores why natural hair is such a big deal in the Black community. Her behavior has no regard for the cultural traditions of caring for Black hair. It is akin to wearing Blackface and then exercising the luxury of removing it at will. Yes, a white woman by virtue of white privilege can walk around with an afro and think it’s cute to experiment. Meanwhile, Black women around the world, are forced to consider straightening our hair for job interviews because we know how negatively our hair can be viewed. We know what it’s like to hear people remark on how ‘professional’ we look only when we are not wearing our hair out in its natural state. @michellejoni just doesn’t get it, nor does it appear she has any intention of sincerely attempting to understand.
Personally, I find Lapidos’s clueless act more irritating than I do offensive. We get it. Black hair is *mysterious* and *fascinating* to some. But it’s not the minstrelsy of it that particularly bothers me–it’s her sanctimonious inability to see it as exactly that after several people have brought it to her attention.

What do you think? Is Michelle’s “Before and Afro” blog offensive, or just harmless fun?



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