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There’s never been more conversation around racial bias. Yet what progress has been made when it comes to hair equality in the UK? Ahead of World Afro Day on 15 September, Amerley Ollennu investigates.

In 2018, almost two decades of chemically straightening my tight curls into submission, I finally decided to embrace my afro-textured hair and turn my back on the ‘white hair privilege’ I gained at the mercy of the salon chair. While I only started using the phrase three years ago, it was clear from a young age just how differently I am treated, as someone of mixed-Black heritage, the closer my hair resembles society’s white beauty ideals.

Compound these experiences with the fact that growing up, afro-textured hair was not celebrated; if we saw natural styles on screen, they were used to reinforce stereotypes that spoke to laziness, unattractiveness, poverty and even drug use. Or they were a vehicle that implied militancy and rebellion, thus cementing the politicisation of afro hair.

It’s little surprise that Black people and non-Black people alike hold such deep-rooted prejudices around afro-textured hair – but as hair equality has risen up the ranks on our social justice agenda, has any real positive change been made?

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Image: Sabine Villiard/Trunk Archive

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