Comedians aren’t always funny. This isn’t a revolutionary statement. We’ve all seen a comedian tell a joke that doesn’t land well. No harm no foul, right? You just don’t laugh at that one and anxiously anticipate the next. Then, there are some jokes that go beyond lack of humor and enter the realm of discomfort.
Sheryl Underwood, comedienne and co-host on CBS’ “The Talk,” recently ran head first (literally) into that uncomfortable arena. The co-hosts were discussing the fact that Heidi Klum saves the trimmings from her sons’ Afros after haircuts. Co-host Sharon Osbourne was steering the conversation towards a discussion about unusual things that they save, but Underwood wasn’t having any of that. She butts in with laughter and asks incredulously, “Why would you save Afro hair?! I mean, you can’t weave in Afro hair … you don’t never see us in the place like ‘Now what I need is [pause for uncontrollable laughter] what I need is this curly, nappy beaded [hair]. That just seems nasty.”
Sheryl, girl—what?! Let’s not even focus on the inaccuracy of that statement, since I do in fact know women who go into salons and get Afro-styles weaved in. Is your self-hatred so penetrating that you can fix your mouth to say something that ignorant on national TV? The discussion’s focus wasn’t even on the hair itself, so much as the sentiment behind it. Do you detest your natural hair so much that you just had to harp on that point? I wanted to give you a pass and say that maybe you tried to force a joke — albeit a horrible one — for laughs since, I would assume, that is your role on the show. I could’ve done that, but then I kept watching.
Co-host Sarah Gilbert tries to move on from the joke and continue on with the topic, saying that she relates to Klum because she also saved hair from her son’s first haircut. She can’t even finish her sentence before Underwood interjects with, “Which is probably some beautiful, long, silky stuff. That’s not what an Afro is!”
That was like a smack in the face. I’m so disappointed that you would use your position on a nationally viewed talk show to degrade blackness. You should know better and you need to do better because, unfortunately, to some who don’t know better, your voice will be the authority they use to spread that same hate. However, I’m not even as mad at you as I am at Aisha Tyler. I saw you, Tyler, on the sidelines looking uncomfortable as you laughed along. Say something! Speak up! I think it’s worse to have knowledge of something being wrong and to let it stand anyway.
My heart aches for Underwood. Those words are so self-destructive. The “curly, nappy beaded” hair that grows from your head is not something to be ashamed of. If you choose to weave it, curl it, relax it ,or whatever because you like the style that is your prerogative. But to denounce “Afro hair” is another much deep-seeded issue entirely. Learn to love yourself for everything you are. Watch the video below.