Bonnets, the satin-lined hair accessory that’s essential for Black haircare. It protects our hair, maintains our hairstyles and keeps our edges intact. Worn without fail at night, but has been known to accompany the head of people who are out and about.
The bonnet is classic. It’s been around (talking about the Black one) the entirety of Black people’s time on U.S. soil and even longer (in some form) throughout African history. It’s been around foreva (in my Cardi B voice.)
Also around for a while are those that SWEAR if you walk outside the house with a bonnet, you’re not presentable.
Most of us have a Black granny, auntie, whatever, that said “when you leave the house you represent me/our family. Bonnets aren’t worn outside the house. It’s ghetto to wear a bonnet outside.”
Our elders have some great wisdom and have given us literal gems, but this AIN’t one of ‘em.
This is a trash-ass take. A take that unfortunately persists in our community, as evidenced by the now-viral video from comedian/actress Mo’nique.
Here’s a part of what she said and the gist of her video:
“I’ve been seeing it not just at the airport. I’ve been seeing it at the store, at the mall … When did we lose our pride in representing ourselves? When did we slip away of let me make sure I’m presentable when I leave my home?”
This tomfoolery here ain’t nothing but good ole’ respectability politics. Period!
“That may be a part of us helping our community, because if you look like you don’t give a damn, how you gonna be treated?”
Not Mo’Nique saying that we only deserve to be treated right if we’re dressed “appropriately.” You sucking the respectability politics teet hard than a mf’er, huh?
Some of y’all are sitting at home saying, “but my granny said it, so it must be law.”
Sis, sis…have you ever considered why? Have you?
Let’s stick with the topic of hair for this example. We all know that our (white)society did not and does not respect our hair. It was/is seen as less than, unprofessional, unkempt, ghetto, etc., and in a bid to adapt and, more often than not, just survive, we did what white folk did. Relaxers and any and all hair straightening tools gained popularity. Now eventually, after centuries of “putting on” just to be able to navigate this society, some of us assimilated in the worst way, actually taking on the ideas, thoughts and opinions of white society as the truth.
This is why, even today, straight hair is seen by a LOTTT of Black folks as what’s presentable. It’s why natural hair Black folks are still getting asked, “when are you gonna do something with your hair” by fam. It’s part of why some of us have the mentality that our hair should be straightened for big life events. Or replace hair with any other thing that gets heavily scrutinized in our community.
*Note that Black people can do whatever with their hair and having straight hair (or any other style) is not inherently anti-Black. This is speaking to a particular cultural view/group of people.*
This is the quick and short of it, but what you have after this history is a group of people who (some) will, with their whole chests, actually say and believe that certain parts of Blackness are inherently wrong. They’re the “(insert Black ass thing here) is ratchet,” turn their nose up to different aspects of Black culture, the “I’m not like those other nig” folks. Ya know, those that swaddle themselves in anti-Blackness and use it to feel better than the rest of us.
I’m not saying that these people are Candace Owens’; in fact, these kinds of opinions can show up in the more moderate and even the most “woke” of us, because it’s indoctrinated. I will say that many of us just do the work to dismantle the internalized anti-Blackness, it’s not that we’re unaffected by it.
“Queens don’t walk around in bonnets, and head scarfs and slippers and pajamas. That’s for the house. When you go outside, represent you, baby .. like you are worthy and you deserve the title of ‘Hey, Queen.’”
Not Mo’Nique saying that our worth is based on (let’s keep it 100) the white gaze? Cause that’s all this is. She wants us to look nice to white folks.
There is a very valid reason (see above) why Black self-love has been promoted for eons. Because American culture tells us “we ain’t shit” and some of us ate that up like Sunday dinner and go around thinking that “we ain’t shit.”
Back to the bonnet situation. Of course, Black people can just not like wearing bonnets outside the house for aesthetic reasons and aren’t influenced by centuries of oppression; but I’m saying that’s not it for most of ya.
The reason that you think a part of Black culture has to be hidden, literally in the house, is internalized anti-Blackness, baby. The fact that you feel sweats and bonnets are ghetto but don’t assign some negative connotation to white women with messy buns, sweats and socks and sandals, is anti-Blackness. You seeing ghetto as negative and not simply one way that Blackness expresses itself is anti-Blackness.
A reminder: Black culture is not wrong. Blackness in all its forms is valid (that includes the hood and ratchet ones). You do not exist to validate white eyes or Black people who are still aligned with white supremacy.
Sis, wear ya bonnet and rock ya sweats in peace. And if someone tries to get bold and “tap you and say, ‘Hey baby girl, show you what you’re worth, show you what you deserve,” as Mo’nique suggested, I co-sign you reminding them why you don’t invade Black folks personal space.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com