30 May 2005

The Black Hair Crisis

Men are physically stronger than women. Virginia is warmer than New York. People from the mid-west are more republican than people from the northeast.

What do all those statements have in common?

They are all stereotypes. And they are all commonly accepted truisms (except by the feminist lobby, who doesn't accept anything). Stereotypes are useful guiding principles in almost every area of life. For instance, if one route is generally faster than another, it is expected that a practical individual will utilize that route. The idea of a "concept" (which, incidentally, is pretty much the only way the human mind works) is rooted firmly in the notion of a stereotype. We need stereotypes, to do science, to interact with others, to even think at all. Even the assertion "stereotypes are bad" is based on a stereotype of stereotypes. Here's a stereotype for you: liberals are mentally deficient.

Operating on that general assumption, it is no surprise that the Washington Post reported the evil practice of evil hair salons of charging customers different prices for different services (yeah, for real). The problem apparently arises from the fact that it is more difficult to handle hair typically associated with African-Americans. If this is true, and the article quotes a hairstlying expert who attest thereto, then no rights have been violated and no crimes have been committed. If melanin protects skin, is it then unfair that caucasians have to spend more money on sunscreen?

As an aspiring academic, I am embarassed by the fact that the hairstylist seemed more knowledgeable in his field than this blundering civil-rights expert, Vanderbilt University Law School professor Robert Belton:

"If they're [Dillars Inc.] saying that because of a person's color that it takes more time, then it's obvious that it's race,"

How inept. I suppose you have to be of a certain vein to declare yourself a civil-rights expert. Let me get this straight, Mr. Belton. If hair typically associated with African-Americans is more difficult to manage, the company must abolish its policy of charging based on "the level of experience of the stylist, degree of service, amount of time required and the cost of materials provided to the customer"? That's a direct quote from the company. What do you suggest? A flat rate for services, wherein a 10 year old boy getting a trim is charged the same as an adult woman whose hair extends to her waist and requires weekly highlighting?

At risk of beating an already dead horse, this whole situation smacks of the Lawrence Summers incident. For the unaware reader, Summers was speaking at a private dinner where he remarked on research that suggested that intrinsic aptitude may exist. Liberal faculty were enraged by the suggestion that what is so apparently different might be different in other ways, as well. Summers was basically forced into apologizing and committing 50 million dollars to 'women's issues' or whatever it is they call it these days.

Somehwere along the way, this society was snowed into thinking that all stereotypes are bad. It is much simpler to see stereotypes as themselves a stereotype: something that holds generally true but for which there are exceptions.

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Michelle Malkin