The black pride movement began as a response to widespread racism in the United States. Many times, when people regard the cultural climate as wrong, they will develop a response to it. People had been belittled and oppressed because of the color of their skin, and many blacks would have happily changed their race had such an option actually existed. In fact at one time clubs existed which would not accept membership from any blacks darker than a brown paper bag. It is into this climate that a response, the black pride movement, was born. Black pride involved a fierce assertion of the equality (and in some cases, even superiority) of blackness. Since the descendents of slaves did not know the specific regions from which their ancestors came, the entire continent of Africa was embraced by the movement. This is why you will find people holding on to things associated with Africa, even if the relics originate from disparate cultures seperated by hundreds of miles. Afros came about as a part of the black pride movement. Previously, good black hair styles typically suppressed the natural attributes of the hair (black people's hair is kinky and tends to develop naps) with relaxers to make it wavy or straight. The afro is a hair style which is difficult for most non-blacks to have (unless you have very curly hair), and therefore was a fine choice for one looking to embrace his/her racial traits and ethnic heritage.

I was not brought up around people who were heavily into black pride, so I view the whole thing as an outsider. Indeed, I am not proud to be black, as there is nothing for me to be proud of. I was born this way. I am proud of many of the people I love, as I chose to be around them and support them. I am proud of some of my accomplishments, to be sure, but I have never thought of my race in terms of pride or shame. I am happy to be black, but I suspect I would be happy to be Asian or white just as well.

If you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X you will notice some interesting things about Black attitudes before the Black Power movement. Black men and women used to "conk" their hair. They used a substance called congolene to straighten their natural hair. Congolene burns. Whites often forget that black skin tones differ. There are infinite gradiations in skin color. Back in the day, the lighter your skin was, the higher the status. Lighter skin was associated with white blood.

Malcolm X and others noticed that that status was related to "whiteness", or closeness to a white ideal. By giving status to light skin, blacks were in a way reifying their supposed inferiority. With dress, hair style and attitude they were seen to be mimicing white society. This was seen as accepting inferiority.

As robwicks noted in the w/u above, Black Power came partly as a response to white racism. But also as an affirmation of the essential humanity of african-americans. Black leaders saw their people with a huge inferiority complex. In order to lift them up, they saw the need to first break that complex, to remind their bretheren that they were as good as anyone. The Black Power movement served the purpose of uplifting a people's souls, so they could uplift themselves.

one unexpected side effect was the growth of the afro as a political statement through hair style. If you ask any black woman, they'll happily explain to you why that particular statement was short-lived. Blacks do straighten their hair now, in addition to adopting hair styles more friendly to their curly hair. But now it's a choice of style, not a requirement for status

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