Just Stop Talking

Twitter scrolling was pretty mundane until I stumbled upon a thread of white people putting in their two cents about Black women’s hair — and in particular, weighing in on the recent buzz about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia.

While it is sad that we still have to have these conversations in the 21st century, perhaps we as Black people must continue to have them to finally drive home the message. Smith first revealed her diagnosis in 2018, and over the years, she has openly discussed her struggle with the disease, but the recent controversy of the 2022 Oscars reopened the conversation in the public eye. While alopecia can affect anyone, it is much more likely to affect African Americans, and many Black women suffer from the condition, so it is bewildering to see many white people on the internet are erroneously pitching in on the topic without firsthand knowledge or facts.

For years, many Black women have struggled to fit into Eurocentric beauty standards by taking steps to modify or alter their hair, sometimes damaging it in the process. In recent times, Black women are reclaiming their confidence and wearing their hair in more authentic ways. Still, it has not stopped many white people from pitching in and occasionally giving their unsolicited advice and passive-aggressive nuggets of “wisdom.”

Jada Pinkett Smith is a public figure who has to navigate her struggle with alopecia so publicly, so it is truly bewildering to go online and see middle-aged white men and their female counterparts asking her to “wear a wig” or making light of the condition. One Twitter user even dared to refer to Black women’s hair as “nappy” in her lackluster tweet on alopecia and Smith’s condition.

To all the white people online pitching in their two cents about Smith’s condition, and Black women’s hair in general, it is important to stay silent as opposed to going online to spew misinformation. For many years, Black women have especially been targets of white ridicule. From the jokes about Black women being strong and “not needing no man” to the derogatory “angry Black woman” comments and the passive-aggressive environments they are exposed to in corporate America and society in general, enough is enough. In case you have not noticed, Black women are some of the most educated, most entrepreneurial, and thriving people in the U.S., but that is all but ignored because it is more important to throw uncouth jabs and demeaning comments online instead.

To all white people online speaking out of turn regarding Smith’s condition, would it take anything out of you to acknowledge that she is a thriving, successful, and highly talented woman and keep it moving? Perhaps the need to meddle and peddle in issues concerning Black women is an entertaining notion, but it has gradually become old and drawn out. This is the 21st century, and it is alarming that we as a society are taking ten steps forward and twenty steps back. The CROWN Act is indeed gaining strong momentum, but with unrefined comments like the ones that I saw on Twitter this morning, it is obvious that we still have a long way to go.

Black women continuously have to go the extra mile to be noticed, praised, or acknowledged. While it is not shocking that white people online have chosen to fixate on Smith’s alopecia and make brash comments, it is still deplorable. If Jada Pinkett Smith was white, the Twitter comment section would be milder, but somehow, Black women have always been the brunt of crass white wisecracks and toxic witticism. While it is easy to stand on the other side and throw jabs at a Black woman struggling with a difficult health condition, perhaps it is better if you don’t. Black women are not your punching bags or an avenue to project your inability to read the room. In a 1962 speech, Malcolm X said, “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman,” That statement still eerily rings true sixty years later.

Dear white people, Black women’s hair should be the least of your worries. Our lives and hair are not a half-time Super Bowl commercial for you to be entertained by. Smith’s struggle with alopecia is not a dissertation topic for your tone-deaf online antics. It is her life and what she is struggling with. Please show some respect, or stay out of it completely. You may never know the strength that it takes some Black women to make it through the day in all white environments where their hair is consistently the subject of lazy small talk.

To the white woman on Twitter who referred to Black women’s hair as “nappy,” shame on you. To all of her white counterparts who also had something snarky to say about Smith’s alopecia or Black women’s hair grooming choices, do better, and if you can’t, just keep our names out of your mouths.