Alicia K. Harris’s short film, Pick, tackles a subject that most people who aren’t black probably don’t think about too often, which is the societal pressure on black women to have perfect hair. Of course, we can say that all women are put upon by society when it comes to our appearances. As in just about anything, though, black women bear the brunt of societal abuse related to their appearances. I can imagine that some of you reading might think, “What’s the big deal? It’s just hair!” Well, hi, hello! Your privilege is showing.
Alliyah (Hazel Downey) is seen at the beginning of the movie fussing with her beautiful, natural hair in the mirror. As Alliyah continues to get ready, her mother tells her she looks lovely, and she heads off to school. It doesn’t say what grade Alliyah is in, but I’m guessing 4th or 5th. When Alliyah gets to school, she is late, and a black teacher chastises her while also commenting that it would have been better for her to wear braids that day instead of leaving her hair in its natural state. We soon discover that it’s picture day.
Pick is very subtle and natural in its critique of systemic racism, but if you know what to look for, there are hints of it everywhere in the school. Alliyah’s classmate mentions that black people can’t get lice because their hair is too coarse. This is untrue, of course. In the same class, unseen students are throwing little bits of paper into Alliyah’s hair.
“…speaks volumes as to what society thinks black women should look like.“
In a later scene, she is in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. Another black girl comes out of the stall, and her hair is relaxed and straightened. She is seen perfecting her edges with a toothbrush in the mirror. This scene alone speaks volumes as to what society thinks black women should look like. Then, there is the little white girl with cornrows getting her picture taken before Alliyah. If you can’t see the political metaphor in that, I don’t think you’re ever gonna get it.
While Pick is only about 10 minutes long, it speaks volumes about the black femme experience. I’m saying this as a white woman, mind you, so I can understand if you’re a black person reading this who might be rolling their eyes. That’s legitimate. However, I’m passionate about helping black people tell their stories. I think that now more than ever, films like this need to be made. So that all the Karens and Chads in the world may begin to understand what effect their casual mindless racism has on BlPOC. Note that I said “may” because this is a tall order.
However, I’ll say Pick is an excellent Black story for viewers of all races to learn from. I like to think of it as Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” in movie form. Just like that song, this film is excellent and definitely worth a re-watch. I am very excited to see what writer/director Alicia K. Harris has up her sleeve next.
"…very subtle and natural in its critique of systemic racism."