Is a black women’s hair really such a sensitive issue? Perhaps! However, contrary to common belief the sensitivity is not due to any difficulties related to growing or managing afro hair, but instead the universal lack of understanding of our ebony locks. Prominently, naturally, thick, ringlet curly, beautiful black hair that is our crowning glory.
With rumors such as black hair is hard to care for, black hair doesn’t grow, black hair is too thick and black hair is unruly being spread, the question is compared to what? or better still to whom? Caucasian women, who are often featured on shampoo commercials flashing and swirling long bone straight hair?
The loss of the pride and love for afro hair began with slavery. When slave traders arrived in Africa it was evident that western Africans had a high amount of significance connected to their hair and the styles they would wear, thus a strategy was used to suppress slaves and to rob them of their identity by shaving their heads. Despite having succeeded to reclaim our freedom and independence one of the main attributes of our identity was left behind with the many hair styles and techniques which were lost. Just as lighter skin was characterized as more beautiful, as the slaves which were lighter fetched higher prices, the same went for slaves with less afro type hair.
Following from this at the end of slavery black women who wanted to fit into or find employment in the white dominated society would mimic as best as possible the hair styles of the european ladies. These Eurocentric ideals are so deeply ingrained that we are still trying to fit into the hegemonic ideals of beauty even to date. Now, we have all heard and understand well the Chinese proverb “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and he will feed himself for a life time”. Well in relevance to afro hair I say “cut a slaves hair and you will humiliate him for a day, teach him that he is ugly and he will pass the humiliation down the generations”.
The versatility of afro hair allows us to be creative, with variation in styles and techniques to name just a few; dreadlocks, corn rows, twists, plaits, head wraps, afro, beads, which all look fantastic when worn well. Unfortunately, this creativity with our hair is too often described as elaborate, extravagant or unusual, where as in the times of our ancestors such styles would have been described a beautiful, spiritual, regal. Specifically in the business arena, the majority of black women subconsciously understand that to get the job you have to get your hair under control. Rocking an afro to court or corn-rows to a business meeting would be considered inappropriate and so we often have no choice but to leave such styles to one side.
This stigma is not brought on by Caucasians thinking of our hair in a negative manner today but instead in the lack of understanding of our hair. Many have no idea that our hair is not naturally straight, they would not know a weave even if the track was showing. Our efforts to disguise our natural hair have been so effective that we have over reached the goal and are now playing ourselves out of our heritage. It goes so far as to see us even criticizing each other with negative terminology such as good hair and bad hair. Good hair being more European in texture and bad hair being more afro so to avoid such critic we are too easily prepared to apply harsh chemicals and techniques to straighten our hair despite the ever looming damage to be incurred.
In order to remind and promote the the beauty of natural hair, we present to you five natural heroines: Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Leela James and Tracy Chapman.
Let us embrace our beauty and create a better awareness of who we are truly.
We welcome photos and stories of those who are already going natural or those who are transitioning. Please send your take to firstname.lastname@example.org