Is Wearing Your Bonnet In Public Tacky?

March 27, 2017  |  

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My sister loves her bonnet. So much so that she’s created a hashtag for the life she leads. #BonnetLife. Most Black girls know how far a good bonnet can go in preserving the moisture in your hair, preserving your style and the strength of your hair as well. Still, the assumption is that bonnets will be worn in the privacy of your own home. So you can imagine my mortification when my sister decided that she would have continental breakfast, in the lobby of our hotel, wearing her beloved bonnet. We were in Savannah, Georgia celebrating my birthday and my sister just didn’t want to take it off before we went downstairs.

While it certainly wasn’t something I would have done, I admired the fact that my sister didn’t care about the opinions of others enough to let it deter her from moving as she wished.
I took a picture of the moment and put it on my Instagram.

I was reminded of the moment as I was scrolling through Dr. Rachel Ross’ Instagram page this morning. First, she posted an image of a woman in front of her on the plane wearing a bonnet. Though you couldn’t see the woman’s face, I thought the post was a bit cruel and unnecessary. But then she followed it up with a video of herself speaking about the bonnet situation. And in the caption, she explained that she even went so far as to ask the woman about her decision to wear the bonnet and the two had a lengthy conversation about image, particularly among Black women.

See what she had to say.

Update on bonnet-gate…so here's the delimma, bonnets protect your hair, but they are so unattractive that they actually prove to be a distraction.  So, I grew up in a house with old school southern parents…and it was unheard of for us to leave the house with a bonnet on, and I certainly never saw my mom do it.  They grew up during segregation, and that type of thing was unheard of.  So, naturally my core is old school.  So fast forward to present day.  I feel like my life is a privilege.  Everything from the people in it, to the experiences.  A first class ticket is a luxury and so is the plane ride.  Sooo many people will never even fly.  I spent the last 24hours submerged in HBCU college life.  For eight hours I sat next to civil rights icon Dr. C.T. Vivian and listened to his stories of images , triumph, and tragedy… Image is so very important to the way you experience the universe and vice versa.  Studies even indicate that when you look good, you feel better.  So I asked this young sociology professor why she chooses to glide through life wearing a sleeping bonnet, her answer made me sad.  It made me sad because she teaches young people everyday and her response lacked hope.  It made me sad because I understand the struggle to be accepted by the mainstream, and the reality breaks my heart everyday, and it made me sad because maybe she's right.  She said, "because no matter what I do, they see me the same way.  So why should I even try?" It was like a dagger straight to my gut..We chatted for at least five minutes and had a very pleasant conversation.  We both thanked each other for the sisterly exchange.  Just real dialogue.  Hopefully through conversation we both learned from each other.  It made me happy to note that she was comfortable in her own skin.  Happy to note that she could float through airports and hotel lobbies unbothered about her appearance. But it's kind've like knowing you can't win a race, so you decide not to even try.  I'm sure that's not the best approach for me, but I get it.  For a split second, I almost felt silly for spending so much time trying to get these lashes right this morn😊…hmmmm almost..

A post shared by Rachael Ross M.D., PhD (@drrachael) on

I see both points of view. I understand how image can directly affect the way people both perceive and treat you. But I also understand what that professor was saying as well. As a Black woman, your skin is already going to cause some people to mistreat or look down on you before you ever open your mouth. Furthermore, someone who is willing to disregard or dismiss you because of a bonnet likely has a bigger problem than you do wearing it out in the street. Simply being a human being, existing in the world with other human beings should warrant respect, regardless of attire. And maybe that professor is not entirely interested in engaging with people who would judge her for a bonnet. In which case, wearing one on the plane would help her to avoid exactly that type of attention.

What do you think about wearing bonnets in public? Is it tacky or is this a “to each her own” type of situation?

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