Dark Skin and Black Henna...A reasonable question...

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Posted by Maureen on May 24, 2002 at 19:30:48:

I keep seeing the same statement made over and over again that poses
as fact or opinion that people of color...especially those of darker
skin tone choose or prefer "black henna" over natural henna because
the henna design can't really be seen well otherwise. First I reject
the premise that a natural henna design can't be seen or seen well on
dark skin because...well, because observation simply belies that

But getting beyond that, the reason posed for the decision confuses
me and raises a question. If brown, bittersweet chocolate and burnt
cinnimon toast hued people from varied parts of Africa from Morocco
to East and West Africa make the decision to use "black henna" on
functionality...it is the one that be seen...Why then do people of
white skin and light skin choose to use "black henna."

Surely, it is not because people of lighter hue need to use "black
henna" in order for it to be seen well or at all. There does not
appear to be any dispute that natural red henna powder can be seen
very well on white and light skin. So what do white and light
skinned people use "black henna."

I have thought always, that it was because the people of lighter hues
simply had a choice and chose to use it. Perhaps they do or don't
know about the dangers, but most know about the choice. Yet many
light skin and white skin people choose to use "black henna" rather
than the alternative...pure natural henna.

It would seem to me that if simply the concern of whether or not the
henna could be seen is a deciding factor for darker people that it
would also be a deciding factor for lighter skinned people of the
world. But, that appears not to be so. Lighter skinned people seem
to make a choice out of considerations other than pure functionality.

I have to wonder then, if people of color might also recognize
choices and choose the "black henna" for use rather than pure natural
henna for reasons other than function related to visibility. Perhaps
they choose as other people do, because there are options and
alternatives based on their preference. I realize that may seem far
fetched. But I think it is at least worth consideration prior to
anyone making a statement that appears to at best suggest limited
mental resources and capacity to recognize viable options in such a
large and diverse group of people.

I know a few African American women who got "black henna" designs
while on vacation because it was suggested to them by the henna
artist that the black design would show up on their skin while the
pure natural henna design would not. I gave them designs this fall
with pure natural henna to disprove that falsehood. They could see
their designs and loved them. Other people could see their designs
too. And loved them. One wanted a design up her leg to be seen from
the slit in her gown she was wearing to her sorority affair. The
other wanted a design just above where her backless dress would hit
her at the waist. She was going to the same affair. These are smart
women who made a bad decision the year prior because of
misinformation and potentially harmful information. They appear to
have been blessed and suffered no harmful consequence.

I am sure that some people will remain fixed in their belief or
notion that dark skinned people should choose to have only their
hands and feet done with pure natural henna. Just as I am sure that
there will continue to be some henna artist slinging "black henna"
will continue to tell people of color that pure natural henna won't
show up on them and don't waste their money on it...choose the "black
destructive stuff instead." This post is not for those people with
fixed beliefs and behaviors.

This is for henna artist who may be able to grasp the notion that
simply because the hues and tones resulting from henna applied to
people of color of any hue may look different from the stains applied
to people not of color...the resulting stains on both groups
regardless of hue is what henna stains are on that group of people.
The judgement behind the eyes of the henna artist may well best serve
the client if it remains behind the eyes and does not fall from the
lips. Simply because the beauty of the stain is not recognized by
your minds eye does not mean it does not exist in the eyes, heart,
mind and spirit and culture of the people receiving the design.

To speak of the culture with which I am most familiar...I say that
African Americans have a different cultural aesthetic. It is
reflected in the music...the dance...the art...the humor...the
dress...the hair styles...in preference of colors...preference of
foods...on and on and on. Perhaps it is also reflected in perception
of what is or is not a beautiful, acceptible, successful and
desireous combination of colors that are created by henna stains and
their milk tea, milk chocolate, cola, cinnimon spiked, bittersweet
chocolate, blueberry or jet black melanin blessed skin.

Perhaps...just because you can not love it and appreciate it...is no
justification to judge it and remove or dissuade people from viable
safe and fantastic options.

Free to choose...



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