When 12-year-old Mallory Merk opted to share a photo of her new hair style—box braids—she had no idea that a racially charged backlash would follow.
Mallory apparently wanted to try something new with her hair. What she didn’t know is that what was “new” to her was a hairstyle strongly associated with African-Americans.
And as social unrest continues over the treatment of African-American lives and culture, this pre-teen unwittingly waded into a debate she was probably too young to truly appreciate.
It’s a tidbit that was largely lost on the many people who attacked her.
*doesnt tweet about ferguson, black rights, police brutality against blacks* but *appropriates black culture* @mallorymerk
— yaoiluvr09 (@omavelli) January 18, 2015
Also to all the Uncle Toms that think this #mallorymerk girl is cute for something black been doing 4 years,y’all needs to be slap
— Vicki Sundai (@Queen_Vicki05) January 20, 2015
Some simply wanted this youngster to understand that “black hairstyles” were off-limits.
According to Reddit user dwightusandronicus, who “saw the whole thing unfold on his Twitter feed,” there were adults threatening to “rip the braids out of [her] head.”
But not every black person who participated in the ugly viral debate was opposed to a white girl wearing box braids.
— Gabbie Anne♚ (@eterna11y_yourz) January 20, 2015
Lets not hat because @mallorymerk edges on fleek and some of y’all still tryna find some!
— **S H A T O R I ** (@_ForbiddenJuice) January 18, 2015
Naturally Treice of Naturally Moi had some encouraging words to share with Mallory Merk.
“I think that your braids were absolutely adorable and there is no reason why you should apologize for doing something that made you happy. You are a gorgeous girl and I do think that you are way more mature than the women who have made such ignorant and ridiculous comments. I’m sorry that you had to experience such ignorance and you should be allowed to wear your hair however the hell you want!
“Tell your stylist to keep up the good work boo and I definitely encourage you to get the braids again… After all you look better than most of the people I see [who wear] them.
“As for those other ladies… Braids are not an African-American hairstyle, [they are an] African hairstyle that originated from Africa. So please stop claiming things that aren’t even yours!”
Be that as it may, some black women are tired of what they perceive to be a double standard when it comes to black hair.
Black women are often the subject of ridicule when they adopt hairstyles that are not readily associated with African-Americans.
For example, many black women resent being mocked for relaxing or perming their hair, dyeing their hair a color like red or blonde, or opting to wear hair extensions.
It has been noted that non-black women, but most especially white women do not receive the sort of backlash and ugly stereotypes that black women do when they experiment with their look.
These women feel that at the same time, white women are often “congratulated” for experimenting with African-American hairstyles and other aspects of black culture.
Some black women wanted to “educate” Mallory Merk over her choice of hair, something to which the 12-year-old was apparently not opposed.
In response to the backlash, the pre-teen made this statement on social media.
If the attack on Mallory seems familiar, similar accusations have been hurled at popular white female rapper Iggy Azalea.
Azalea was lambasted late last year and into the new year over her willingness to profit from black music and culture without caring about pertinent social issues.
There is a clear difference here: Mallory Merk is a 12-year-old girl.
White or not, it’s a fact that is going to make it very hard to justify the rather horrible things being said to this person over the internet by people many neutral observers may feel are old enough to know better.
Question: When does a hairstyle belong to a specific group of people? Should others get to dictate what you do with your hair?
[Image Credits: Mallory Merk, LoveBScott, Fameolous]