Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All Keratin

When I went to beauty school
over twenty years ago
The Bible of Beauty
(that's not what it was called)
was the main theory book
the federally accepted, standard text
for most all beauty school curricula

the text described/divided
hair types
not by texture
but by race

white hair was desribed as "normal hair"
and by white I don't mean lacking pigment.
I mean white like "look at the normal hair on that white lady."

asian hair was described as "overly straight"

black hair was, following suit, "overly curly"

Overly. The teacher seemed oblivious to the implications.

When we got to the chapter with different face shapes
the manual's antiquity showed itself
with pictures of pink-faced lady
all lined up in rows
according to the shape of their heads:

Diamond-shaped face
Heart-shaped face.
Oblong face.
Round face.

Well looky there
You Can Draw The Lines

Then it went like this:

Asian face
which sort of looked like the Round Face
but inside of the circle
was a racist cartoon
with just yellow tone for skin

and then, as all the air sucked out of my lungs,

the teacher said it out loud

Person With Negroid Features

And Deleena said

Oh, no.
What- in- the- fuck- is- a- ne-groid?
And she did a robot walk around the teachers desk
I -am -not -buyin -this- shi-it, in robotvoice, she repeated
What. The. Fuck. Is. A. Ne-groid."

other people slammed their books on the ground
I- am- from-the-planet-ne-grella robotted Deleena
stiff-legging her way out the door
we all followed
one by one
a student walk-out
in protest of the text

The School said they'd call the authors
if they ever did, I can't be sure

When I became an educator
twelve years later
I saw that the text hadn't changed much
and I had to tell my students

There's no such thing as "overly"
Nevermind that
The shit's all keratin
It's curly, or it aint

the Bible of Beauty
is still limited
to teaching certain procedures
over others

And my students, like I did twenty years ago
ended up marching in the streets
picketing their own school
this time
for gross exploitation of race
an opportunistic attempt so deep
that I am still
wrapping my head around it
(this was only two years ago
I wish I was lying)

in the Happy Smile Corporate schools of today
it's just as racist
a sea of Mormon-white faces
waiting to burn your eyes out
with sodium hydroxide
standing on stages
the same text
but with superballs
and god-forsaken glitter
thrown into the mix
to distract people
from getting an education

all they have to do is clap their hands
and catch the ball
as more glitter slips in
on the backs of thin, greasy ponytails

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