I have been wanting to do this post for a really long time.
Chris Rock's documentary on hair not only lit a fire under my behind but after seeing the Tyra show months ago and garnering my own personal opinions and experiences with my hair, I feel like I finally have enough information to give my take on this topic.
Black hair, believe it or not is a phenomenon in the black community. Different in texture, our hair, when grown naturally can range from course to kinky and nappy to slightly frizzed when unkept and untreated.
Most of the time "having a natural" is closely affiliated with Afros, locks and twists or braids.
In the age of weaves and wigs this look and style is very rarely sported by sisters of today.
I recently read in an article in Essence magazine about a local beauty queen who was asked to change her natural style of braids to a more "commercial and European" look of relaxed hair.
Relaxed hair is usually achieved by chemicals. It's main ingredient is LYE, a strong chemical that can do some serious burning and damage when left on the head too long. It literally burns your hair straight to appear more"relaxed" and settled. It's easier to style, is more manageable, and shiny and full of sheen.
Black hair, unlike other types of hair has to be treated differently. We have to worry about split ends, breakage and damage to the scalp on a consistent basis. If we get a relaxer or braids it cant be washed on a regular basis or we'd look like a poodle everyday. Our kitchens are usually always on our minds and you probably at one point or another heard us discuss different "kitchens" with our girlfriends.
Hair for us, whether its getting a weave put in, braids braided, hair relaxed, or a wig put on is both money and time consuming. Wigs and weave can run up to $3,000 and relaxers can take as long as 4 even 5 hours.
Now these days the bigger question is more about what weave or wig you're getting and less about how to maintain the healthy and natural hair that we were blessed with.
But where does this phenomenon with having straight long hair come from?
Why have we lost our need to embrace the God given hair we were born with?
On the Tyra show, there were a small panel of women, ranging in age and color with children. All their children had "black hair"- meaning it wasn't straight, it was born course and thick.
What surprised me was the extent in which these mothers went to for their children to have "good" straight, relaxed hair. Some put relaxers in their girls hair who were as little as 3. Some even put extensions into their little girls hair.
Why these mothers felt that extensions at 8 yrs. old were so important is beyond me.
However what matters to me is this- why is straight and relaxed "good"?
Why would an African American woman go to such lengths as to not want to conceive with a black man to avoid or reduce the chances of having a baby with "bad" kinky hair?
A young black girl at one point in the show came out with a blond wig and said that when she put it on she felt beautiful but when she took it off to reveal her natural hair she felt ugly.
This truly made me sad.
In the Essence article, the young beauty queen who was forced to conform to a bogus University "suggestion" is forever scarred from her natural crowning glory.
The most important thing I find is that all these examples teach women in the black community i to embrace and take care of the natural, unrelaxed hair you were born with .
For years and years, as history shows, African Americans did our best to try and cultivate and create a culture that is OUR OWN. Conforming to European values and beliefs in terms of hair is going backwards.
We need to teach our little girls and fellow sisters that our hair is and always will be our crowning glory and keeping it healthy and taking care of it is what is important.
Our natural hair is anything BUT bad. The course and the kinky is just as beautiful as the relaxed and long. Why must we go through such great lengths to try and change something that is so beautiful.
I think when we learn to accept what we have and love it and nurture it and take care it, we will see just how special and blessed we are and be less urged to relax our hair and put on wigs and get extensions.
Once we learn to teach our girls that what we were born with is special we will truly see that we don't need to spend all this time and money on CHANGING IT. It makes us MORE beautiful and more unique.
In terms of my own thoughts and personal experiences, I was like that little girl who got her hair relaxed like clock work every 6 weeks. I thought that if I had long beautiful straight hair I would be beautiful. I hated me hair- it was thick, coarse, and when it was washed I looked like a poodle! However, despite the pain I would go through with relaxing my hair and having it burned straight with a hot comb. I hated having my natural unrelaxed hair in braids. I didn't want to be different, I didn't love what I had. I wanted to have long blond(yes blond) straight, thin hair.
Since seeing the Tyra special, and Chris Rock's documentary, and reading the Essence articles I have re-evaluated my stance on the whole issue. I think it's great that this issue is finally being pushed to the forefront. It's so important for the women of the black community to see something that is essentially very important to our confidence, healthy, and self-esteem.
I personally still am dealing with loving the hair I was born with. Having getting my hair relaxed since I was 8, getting braids and even trying out extensions, I still deal with liking my natural hair. It's a growing process but I hope that one day I will be able to fully appreciate what I was born with and take care of it. One day I hope that me as well as other black women will have the courage and confidence to put down the lye, the weave and the wigs and teach ourselves and our daughters about our beautiful natural hair and how to care for it.
All hair is good hair. Be happy you have hair.
Take care of it, love it and don't let it rule your life.
Love and Peace.