Understanding Assimilation

Growing up I thought a blonde wig on any black Woman meant she wanted to be white. Which now seems like a crazy thing to think, but when you equate blonde to white it’s pretty easy to condition yourself to believe that self hate is the reason for a black woman wearing a blonde wig or weave.

I used to have a lot of thoughts I now challenge, because half of those thoughts and opinions I had weren’t even my own. It was just generation’s of passed on thoughts and opinions that really had nothing to do with me and how I view the world.

I find it interesting that we understand evolution, animals and nature adapting and changing in order to survive their new surroundings. But we simplify a black woman’s choice of hairstyle down to self hate. Don’t get me wrong in some cases self hate plays a part for sure, and that is sadly understandable to a point. It can be difficult to love parts of you that many others tell you to be ashamed of.

You may be unfamiliar with the term, but you will know of it’s defintion through experience of living in a country that differs from your own.

Image courtesy of artist: Shannon Wright

Assimilation is the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society. The process of assimilating involves taking on the traits of the dominant culture to such a degree that the assimilating group becomes socially indistinguishable from other members of the society.

Code Switching

There are many other examples of assimilation, many will know of our parent’s switching up their accent and how they present themselves in front of white people or when on an important call. I know now that it has a name: code switching.

The idea behind code switching is that we are fully aware of stereotypes and how the way we talk says a lot about our location, which can be translated into idea of the persons class, race, education, gender etc., we switch up our accent and the way we speak. To avoid not being taking seriously, or others believing we perpetuate a stereotype and to avoid racism we code switch.

I know when I was younger me and my siblings would giggle listening to my mother pick up the phone and put on her “professional voice”. This experience without even realizing creates the idea that we are not good enough, just as we are.


Part of my understanding posts, where I break down a few topics that can be difficult to understand; White Privilege, Using Your Privilege & Cultural Appropriation


Challenging Assimilation 

Assimilation is, or maybe I should say was a survival technique. Today we are seeing a shift in attitudes towards certain things, with topics addressing natural hair in the workplace and making the conversations we would have as a community a topic discussed in public.

Today’s assimilation May look different to past generations. We still need to eat so our activism and the choices we make, make sure we are still able to look after ourselves.

Assimilation is about fitting into a world that was different to our own and that made an effort to point those differences out. It’s seen as a survival technique in order to build fruitful lives, we see now that many people have and are going against the grain and challenging what some may have considered as boundaries.

It’s important to know the difference between Assimilation and cultural appropriation. Some make the ridiculous example of comparing black people wearing suits to work, to white people wearing black hairstyles whilst changing it’s name. The two are not the same, we have established that work requires some form of uniform or dress code, that cannot and shouldn’t be compared to a choice someone is making to ignore the history and racist treatment behind a hairstyle. If you understand white Privilege you will know that anything that is put on a white body is socially acceptable, whereas the same cannot be said for black people.

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