African Americans from the 1920's through the 1960's wore a style of hair known as a conk. The conk was is most notable for making the normally kinky hair of the wearer become as straight and smooth as white people's hair. By being black and by logically having black features unique to African Americans, it made a human being somehow inferior to that of white people who had features unique to European Americans. As argued by Paul C. Taylor, The most prominent type of racialized ranking represents blackness as a condition to be despised, and most tokens of this type extend this attitude to cover the physical features that are central to the ascription of black identity (Taylor, 1999). The conk was one method of equalizing the boundaries between the two societies, or so thought, consciously or unconsciously, many blacks living during these times. The conk was a symbol of African Americans trying desperately to fit into a white dominated society that did not accept them, by physically changing themselves.
[...] The bourgeoisie were nothing more than stuck up members of black society who felt that if they could pretend they were white, by living and working in white society, and then maybe they could actually become part and be accepted by the white society they so desperately wanted to become a part. The bourgeoisie of the Roxbury Hill section considered themselves superior to the rest of the blacks living in Roxbury's ghetto. If they had lived in the hill, had some education, were teachers, nurses, or preachers, or worked downtown with a self-proclaimed impressive job title than they were elite in their own eyes, and made sure to strut around and give off an aura of importance. [...]
[...] But I don't see how on earth a black woman with any race pride could walk down the street with any black man wearing a conk- the emblem of his shame that he is black” (Malcolm 1964). A black man with a conk, according to Malcolm wore his hair in this style, not because he thought he would look more stylish, clearly seen by the fact that most women do not actually care about the style of the man's hair, but as a method to get away from being black. [...]
[...] Some common aesthetical anatomic features that are considered more common of the Caucasian descent include straight blonde or brunette hair, thin lips, less curvaceous body types, and thin pointed noses to name a few, which is all very different from people of African American descent. How ridiculous I was! Stupid enough to stand there simply lost in admiration of my hair now looking reflected in the mirror This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man's hair. [...]
[...] The white people were to blame for the inferiority that many black members of society faced then. Many members of black society tried to make their way up in the world. They were part of the black bourgeoisie who had “upstanding” jobs for black society in the white society, but were still nothing better than the position of errand boy. This was by no means equalizing the differences in the race, but simply creating an caste in black society that acted remarkably like truly elite white people. [...]
[...] As Robin Kelley points out in his work, The Riddle of the Zoot, “Malcolm's interpretation of the conk; however, conveniently separates the hairstyle from the subculture [of the hipsters living in Harlem] of which it was a part, and the social context in which such cultural forms were created” (Kelley, 1996). When Malcolm was living in those times, he did not separate what he was doing from what it meant; he was simply living the times and going with the common fashion trends as any other adolescent would do. [...]
using our reader.