2008-09-17

My Hair Is Not A Measure of My Blackness or Political Stance, Neither Is Yours


On youtube, there has been a discussion of Afrocentrism. In particular when it comes to natural hair vs. perms. Many on youtube feel that some of us natural haired folks look down upon them, and think they want to be white. While in some instances I do think this is true, I don't have an issue with people who perm their hair in general. I think those who are natural and have been vocal about "getting back to your roots" in regards to hair care come from a place of rejection and ridicule. Believe it or not some people with weaves and perms make fun of those of us with natural hair, and I would only say in the last few years have I been getting compliments on my hair from other blacks. Not to mention I feel as a black woman in America, I have been made to feel my hair in inadequate, not just from the European mainstream media, but within the black community, and even within my own family.

I have always had a LOT of hair. As a child, I remember my mother cursing doing my hair. She hated detangling it, she hated combing it, she would comment on how thick my hair was on a regular basis. She never said my hair was bad directly, but I got the feeling something was wrong with my hair and made me feel my hair was inadequate. It made it seem like my hair was a burden. Couple that with the predominant white areas I grew up in, it made me feel like there was something wrong with my hair as is. I know a lot of black people have heard and even said the negative comments in regards to "nappy" hair. Talking about people's kitchens. That people wear their hair natural because they are too lazy to get their hair done, or the "buckwheat" comments, or the "I have the best beautician to hook you up and get your hair right." The experience of flat ironing your hair on a whim, and being told you look "professional", or "so much better", or the "someone must have had a come to Jesus with you" comments. Seattle Slim just recently had this experience, and I can say I feel her pain.

With all that being said, and knowing my past experiences are not unique to me, I can see how some black women will embrace european beauty standards and ideals as their own, and look in disbelief at the concept of actually wanting to wear your hair in it's more natural form. Not all black women who perm feel this way, but I can see why I received the negative comments I did from those with perm and weave. No one ever told them, like me that black hair in it's natural state was ok. It was expected for you to have a perm, not locs or twists. Most black women can say they started perming at a young age. I was nine when I received my first perm, I know countless others who were much younger. They have grown up like me, not really knowing the actual texture of their own hair, and never really learning how to do hair in it's natural state.

I can also say that often people make assumptions about my political stances based upon my hair and appearance. People don't realize I just like the "black hippie" look. I love my hair natural, I love my big door knocker earrings (now I do have some more petite and smaller earrings for work, but casually, if I wear earrings, they are door knockers, I am not going to lie). No, I am not a Hebrew Israelite, or know of the ways of Yah(Jah). I do not wait for Biafra to rise again. No, I don't hate white people. I don't feel any closer to Africa than any other black American out there. I don't take an afrocentric view of the world vs. a eurocentric view. If anything, since I don't fit in either ideal, I mesh the two, or have created a more unique view of the world. I understand the concept of collectivism and think it is great, but I appreciate the idea of the individual as well.

For me being natural wasn't an "awakening" to get closer to my African roots, but a way to distance myself from pain. I still cringe at the thought of a hot comb burning my ear or the back of my neck. I've never had a time I could say I enjoyed getting a perm. Maybe I have a sensitive scalp, but that stuff burns my head, and yes for a week for hair looked silky straight, but my scalp would be full of scabs and tender. Also note because I have such thick hair, and I live in an area of relatively high humidity in relation to the rest of the country, my hair was always frizzy even when relaxed. I would curl my ends and for the 2 minutes I would be outside, my hair would frizz and the curl I put in my hair gone. The fact I was scared to go swimming in our public pools because my mom feared my hair would break off due to the chemical from the perm mixing with chlorine, making it super dry was an issue for me as well. I like not spending a couple of hours in the salon or at home to do my hair, but rather take an extra 15 minutes in the shower to detangle and deep condition when needed. I also saving money.

I will say going natural has caused me to put a different perspective on things. Like I am more inclined or more aware of eating processed foods, or being more concerned about buying organic and fair trade products. It I guess in that perspective, it did give me an insight, but not one I feel that should be pushed as an agenda to others, nor do I see my hair is a reflection of my blackness.


****An afterthought****

Something I noticed on IR blogs about natural hair, is that some men find natural hair to be a deterrent. Not that they don't like it, they are just under the impression that natural hair means pro-black and anti-IR. Why is that? I'm still about white boy love, perm or no perm.