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Are afro wigs for a funk band politically correct?
March 21, 2014 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Imagine a funk/soul band made up of white people, wearing Afro wigs on stage. Would that be fine, or rather politically incorrect?

This would be in Germany, though I'm interested in wider opinions.
posted by willem to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If I were in the audience, I would find it racist and off-putting. I would wonder why they thought it was necessary, and what they were trying to say. I would assume they thought that dressing up like (a stereotype of) black people is inherently humorous and I would think that was pretty gross. (I'm a white American woman, FTR.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:39 AM on March 21 [28 favorites]


I vote offensive, from an American perspective. Dressing up as people from another race as a costume is uncool all around.
posted by Andrhia at 6:40 AM on March 21 [6 favorites]


In the American context, this would be totally inappropriate.
posted by Think_Long at 6:40 AM on March 21 [4 favorites]


Considering that the afro as a hairstyle was as much a political statement as it was a fashion, and that funk was one of the first big pop-culture successes for black people, I would say that it would come off as mocking all of that because you have want to have craaaaazy hair, at best.
posted by griphus at 6:41 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Less "politically incorrect" and more "wildly, wilfully offensive and blatantly racist". Please do not ever do this.
posted by sea change at 6:47 AM on March 21 [52 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure how it is used in Germany, but stateside, "politically correct" is a really loaded term and often a dogwhistle for people trying to get away with doing something racist/sexist/etc. and ascribing any complaints about it to "political correctness" infringing on their freedom of expression.

If it is the same over there, I would suggest not looking at this as being politically incorrect but rather that purchasing wigs to look like black people is a racist act in the same sense that showing up on stage in straight-up minstrel show blackface to play jazz music would be a racist act.
posted by griphus at 6:50 AM on March 21 [17 favorites]


Yeah, it's not quite blackface, but it's definitely pointing in that direction. Here's a nice pocket political history of the Afro.
posted by neroli at 6:50 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Not offensive.

What's more incorrect is assuming Afro hair implies only black people. Many, many non-Blacks have Afro hair including scores of white people in large geographies across Asia and Africa.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:54 AM on March 21 [4 favorites]


In Germany? This would be very uncool.
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:57 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


In addition to agreeing with all the comments above, I'd add this:

I love funk. That single genre of music has brought more undiluted joy to my life than anything else. I love it so, so much.

If I saw a funk band made up of white guys who were wearing big jokey fake afros, it would make me wonder if they were playing the funk ironically, e.g., performing this music because they thought it was silly, suggesting that a funk band of actual black folks with actual afros would be something to find amusing.

I, as a lover of funk, would find the ironic performance of a genre I have a sincere and irony-free love for to be more than a little insulting.
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:58 AM on March 21 [37 favorites]


As an American living in the South, I would think it was bizarre and unnecessary. Plenty of ways to get (and look) weird onstage without going there.
posted by jquinby at 6:59 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


If i saw this with some friends, we'd be gossiping about "that fucked-up minstrel show" for like months afterwards.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:00 AM on March 21 [6 favorites]


Not Fine.
posted by crazylegs at 7:02 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


I agree with Sokka shot first. Not only is it offensive, it poisons the well of (what I assume is) your genuine appreciation for the music.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:10 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


What's more incorrect is assuming Afro hair implies only black people. Many, many non-Blacks have Afro hair including scores of white people in large geographies across Asia and Africa.


In this context (i.e., performance of funk music) it is very definitely pointing at an African hairstyle, not anything else. For a parallel "long hair with beard" can equal "Jesus costume" in some settings, "John Lennon" in others.

OP, this is definitely a very, very bad idea. Even though the history of racial tension w/r/t Africans in Germany has a different history than in the States, it's still offensive.
posted by damayanti at 7:12 AM on March 21 [5 favorites]


Wigs, especially wigs made to look like African-American hair, would be sort of dumb looking, political sensitivities aside. Could you get hair extensions that match your own color hair? maybe you could consult a hair stylist who could suggest ways for you all to have that funk vibe without looking like you're in costume.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:14 AM on March 21


I think it's in poor taste...for all the racial reasons mentioned above, and also I wouldn't be able to take a band like that seriously...I would think it was some sort of a joke (or hope it was some sort of a joke). I'd say for the band to just be themselves and focus on the music.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 7:15 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Wigs? No. Very inappropriate, and would, honestly, look like a joke.

Now, if it's your own hair and naturally tightly curled, lending itself to being picked out, I think that would be ok. My son, as white as can be, can easily pick his hair into a fro worthy of Darnell Hillman.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:16 AM on March 21


This sounds EXACTLY like the sort of thing that would appear on a "hipster racism" tumblr.

That said, Europe does not have the same tradition of blackface and minstrelry that the USA has, and your audience will be less offended than they would be in the USA. That doesn't make it more tasteful, only that you will be subject to less public shaming from a European audience than you would be from an American one.
posted by deanc at 7:19 AM on March 21


Thanks a lot to all. The message is clear and I'm glad I asked.
posted by willem at 7:21 AM on March 21 [10 favorites]


Tone-deaf fancy dress at best, racist at worst. British person here, also checked with the Spanish and Swiss people sitting next to me at work, and they agree.

You know, it isn't clear from the question what you think about this yourself. Are you in favour of this? Or do you think it's a terrible idea as well, and are looking for objective outside options to take back to the band to convince them to ditch this idea? It might be worth asking them what they were hoping to achieve with the afros, and maybe we can come up with some ideas to do that without being offensive.
posted by tinkletown at 7:22 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Do not listen to the ONE person saying this is okay. This is absolutely not okay. Not even if you have one black friend who is totally cool with it. If something makes you question whether or not its racist, best to just skip it.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:24 AM on March 21


Offensive. Would you dress up like another race to play any other genre of music? No? Then don't do it with this genre of music.
posted by Sara C. at 7:26 AM on March 21


[Folks, sounds like we're basically at asked-and-answered with this question already; please don't wander into personal-anecdote territory, etc.]
posted by cortex at 7:37 AM on March 21


There were blackface discussions recently in Germany and Holland that showed how sensitive of a subject this is. I was not in favor of these wigs, but wasn't sure if they would fall in the same category as blackface and be a total no-no, or would just be considered a (too) cheap but harmless gimmick.

I in particular appreciate how Sokka shot first wrote about it being an ironic act that goes making authentic music:
I, as a lover of funk, would find the ironic performance of a genre I have a sincere and irony-free love for to be more than a little insulting.
posted by willem at 7:44 AM on March 21 [7 favorites]


That band already exists, but I think they're going for more of a general 70s thing than pretending to be black (they're local to me but I've never seen them live), since quite a few white people were sporting perms and fro-ish hairstyles then (see: Disco Stu, Mike Brady, Mitch Mitchell), although the style of wigs they're wearing is problematic.
posted by LionIndex at 8:09 AM on March 21


Going to toss The Wonderbread 5, a local to me band, out there as a way that... well... I didn't think about until you brought it up. Largely because they kind of go for the dreadlock look which is as common among white hippies as anyone, at least in my area.
posted by straw at 8:57 AM on March 21


And even if people didn't find it racist, you would always be dealing with "So why the wigs, guys?" Possibly offending + definitely distracting = not worth it.
posted by danteGideon at 9:29 AM on March 21


General rule: If you have to ask if it's likely to be offensive, it's likely to be offensive.
posted by Capri at 10:44 AM on March 21


straw: "Going to toss The Wonderbread 5, a local to me band, out there as a way that... well... I didn't think about until you brought it up. Largely because they kind of go for the dreadlock look which is as common among white hippies as anyone, at least in my area."

I came here to post this too. I love funk, but I've seen these guys a few times and it gets more and more uncomfortable every time. I've tried to explain it to my friends and now I think this post has really cemented it for me.

They do rock pretty good though.
posted by Big_B at 12:40 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


You could always grow actual afros.
posted by cmoj at 3:28 PM on March 21


"Less "politically incorrect" and more "wildly, wilfully offensive and blatantly racist". Please do not ever do this."
I think you're getting messages from mefites with American norms but without a lot of experience with how wildly, wilfully offensive and blatantly racist in an American context Germany can routinely be out of a lack of familiarity and lack of giving a damn - particularly around American music. That said, yes, you should feel secure in how this idea is indeed wildly, wilfully offensive and blatantly racist and not at all a good idea.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:23 AM on March 25


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