This began as a guide to describing Afro/curly hair but of course, I got carried away. From look and texture of hair, colors and various styles, this guide serves as a thesaurus of sorts for hair, as well as pointers for use in your writing.
Culturally Significant Hair Coverings:
Know the meaning behind head wear and why it’s worn, when and by whom, such as a Native Nation’s headdress, before bestowing a character with it.
Appropriative Hairstyles: Keep in mind that Afro styles should be kept to those in the African Diaspora, such as dreadlocks, cornrows + certain and many braided styles.
Tread carefully describing Afro hair as “wild” “unkempt” “untamed” or any words implying it’s unclean or requires controlling.
“Nappy” and “wooly” are generally words to stay away from, the first having heavy negative connotations for many and the latter, though used in the Holy Bible, is generally not acceptable anymore and comes off as dehumanizing due to Animal connotations.
There are mixed feelings on calling Black hair “kinky.” I’m personally not opposed to the word initself and usage depends on the person’s race (I’m more comfortable with a Black person using it vs. a Non-Black person) as well as their tone and context (if it’s used in a neutral or positive tone vs. negatively/with disdain). Get feedback on your usage, or simply forgo it.
Combination Words: Try combing words to illustrate look of hair. A character with springy coils that dance across her shoulders with every movement, the man with thick silvery hair slicked back into a ponytail…
Mind Perspective: Depending on POV, a character might not know exactly what cornrows or a coiffure style is, at least in name, and it might make more sense if they described the hairdo instead. More defining terms might come from a more knowing source or the wearer themselves. One book I read described a girl’s afro puff as “thick hair pulled up into a cute, curly, poufy thing on top of her head and tied with a yellow ribbon.”
POC & Hair Colors: People of Color’s hair comes in all shades and textures. There are Black people with naturally blond and loosely-textured to straight hair, East Asian people with red hair, and so on. Keep that in mind when coding characters if you tend to rely on hair color alone to denote a character is white vs. a Person of Color.
Related Tropes: There are tropes and discussion related to People of Color, colored hair, and light-colored hair and features.
Literally Any Fandom:See, that's the reason why I don't like that character. Look at the way they cough. They're so arrogant and obnoxious and, like, loud. They clearly felt the need to cough louder than everybody else. And this is why I don't like them. I'm not racist. Not everything is a race thing. I just don't like THAT character. They're worse than the villain because at least the villain has a reason to be obnoxious.
Black Female Character:[Dates Non-Black Character for 5 Seconds]
Fandom:Idk why the writers put them together. They have no chemistry, they don't look right together. They just don't click. She's a strong independent woman and a love interest will just ruin her story. Why can't he be with that random white girl that looked at him that one time 2 seasons ago? Or the cis straight white dude? They had a lot of chemistry in that one scene, that one time. I ship him with literally every character on the show EXCEPT her. Even ones he's never met.
Fandom:I know she's the only black character, but it's not a race thing. Not everybody who hates your ship is a racist, and it's offensive to assume so.
“I believe that Collins’ construction of Rue as the symbol of innocence meant that some readers automatically imagined her as White. After all, in what universe is an older Black tween innocent? Certainly not in American schools, with the often noted discipline gap. Certainly not in contemporary children’s literature, where Black kids and teens are underrepresented… and when they do appear, are sometimes viewed as “unlikeable” or “unrelatable.”
Collins also makes the grave mistake of stating from Katniss’ point of view that Rue reminds her of her younger sister, Prim. Prim is a much more familiar figure in children’s literature – the guileless, golden girl child often is the counterweight that balances the evil that the protagonist must overcome, and The Hunger Games is no exception. What is different is that while trapped in the Game, Rue becomes Katniss’ Prim, a younger companion who shares in the existential threat until she is overcome by it.
“I’m so glad that Doc McStuffins has gotten so popular. Not only is it cute and offers an opportunity for black girls to see themselves represented, but hopefully it encourages Disney to make more shows that star characters of color.”