at sunday’s american music awards rihanna rocked a hairstyle many black women have donned since the advent of relaxers — the doobie wrap. usually worn under a scarf and secured with bobby pins, it’s a protective hairstyle used to maintain our hair’s shape without having to use heat the next day. most black women wouldn’t run to the convenience store, let alone attend a major event rocking a doobie. wearing a doobie in public is like leaving your home in your pjs — it’s just inappropriate.
i often interrogate the varied meanings of appropriateness, examining their relationship to respectability politics and the dominant white culture. i’m keenly aware that black folks often use similar language to refer to or reinforce white supremacy. however, in the case of doobiegate, white people were enamored, not put off, by rihanna’s hair and miley cyrus has probably fired her hairstylist for not hipping her to this trend sooner. therefore, it is with my blackest sensibilities that i am extremely annoyed by rihanna’s incessant need to prove how many damns she doesn’t give and black academics’ need to explain her doobie as a form of protest. refusing to comb your relaxed hair is not revolutionary — it’s attention seeking. further, i don’t believe rihanna would have chosen to rock this hairstyle at a traditionally “black” awards show; the same shock value wouldn’t have been present.
should progressive black folks give kudos to every act we perceive as an example of “authentic” blackness? what does it mean when said action is based upon a stereotype — here the welfare queen comes to mind? when does being beholden to our culture and history cross the line into minstrelsy? is the boundary between appropriate vs. inappropriate universal, especially given its racialized history? at a time when cultural appropriation is at an all time high, rihanna’s doobie calls into question more than just black women’s hairstyles.