Saturday, June 21, 2008

Straight VS. Nappy

Hair is a contentious issue within the black community.  Other than color no Afrocentric feature identifies difference more than hair. I have dread locks down to the middle of my back, and daily I must deal with whites who make racist comments about how exotic it is, and blacks who are disgusted based on the so-called ugliness of its appearance. Note to all whites reading this, no you cannot touch my hair, it is not a science experiment.  To blacks my dreadlocks are ugly because they are natural.  As a community we have so internalized racism that we view ourselves as ugly.  We routinely refer to good hair, as hair that is straight or taking on the characteristics of white hair, and bad hair as nappy or natural. 

Much of female identity is caught up in hair.  Throughout history, and across cultures long flowing locks have been understood as a womans  crowning glory. For black women whose natural tight curls, resist lying limply down our back it has helped to support the image of us as 'unwomen'. We do not marvel in our gravity defying hair, or wonder at its unique ability to be shaped into so many different styles.  Instead we seek to alter it with hot combs, and chemical relaxers to mirror caucasian hair, in the process wounding our naturally beautiful hair, and expressing contempt for ourselves.

Like every WOC I have done the relaxers, jerry curls (yes I know I am dating myself) and weaves, all in an attempt to run from who I really am.  As a proud WOC I now realize that how I was born is beautiful, even it if is not reflected in the world around me. There is power and energy in black hair that refuses to be permanently etiolated, despite our most valiant efforts.  We must learn to recognize that this self hatred that we have internalized is destructive not only to WOC but to blacks as a people.  Though the media continues to perpetuate white womanhood as the embodiment of beauty, such representations are an attempt to maintain the racial power structure, and are in no way reflective of what constitutes actual beauty. When we resist altering ourselves for the sake of the supposed acceptance by the white community, it is an act of self love, and it is deeply meaningful.  It speaks of valuing ourselves as black women, it speaks of knowing intrinsically that power, validation and agency are our natural born rights. We can only be usurped if we own that which seeks to constitute us as inferior. I am woman, I am black, and my glory is not only my physical body, but the testimony of my ever enduring soul. 


Ebony Intuition said...

"Note to all whites reading this, no you cannot touch my hair, it is not a science experiment."

LMAO, I hate when people touch my hair too..

Great post, I stopped perming my hair over 10 years ago. It's healthier in it's natural state.

I love wearing my hair out in an afro, or twisting it, braiding it (I just got cornrows done today). I love the versatility. I do weave my hair on certain occasions.

I so agree that hair is a contentious problem within the black community. My main problem is when people (mainly men) assume that well because our hair is naturally curly that we must wear it in one style that represents being black (afro).

I personally have researched the history of our hair and the only major thing that we are doing different is (perms, chemicals, hot irons) other than that everything else we did back before colonization.

For example "Ever since African civilizations bloomed, hairstyles have been used to indicate a person's martial status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within a community" from Hair Story by Ayana D byrd.

Black people have also been weaving there hair since forever the only difference is that back then we would use the hair of a family member who passed away and weave it into our own, to carry on their spirit etc.

These books are great for learning more about our hair and also viewing pictures of all the different styles or adornment that is done in our culture.

Hair Story: Untangling the roots of black hair in America by Ayana D Byrd
Hair in African Art & Culture. by The museum for African Art (Prestel)

Saint Lucian Dutch Canadian said...

I'm wondering if the above commenter is suggesting that black people have always been weaving their hair with hair textures that are equivalent to asian or white people. If that is the case then black people have a big problem. It's one thing to add extensions that mimic your own hair texture but to attach a hair texture that is the polar opposite of your own is psychotic. I have been openly natural for 11 months and have now realised the psychosis of it all. I agree with every word spoken in the original post. Tomorrow I am attending a natural hair show and am looking forward to seeing other black women embracing their natural beauty. Every time I see a natural black woman I am thrilled. Natural hair has been my best hair experience ever. It's the easiest and I think I look the prettiest with it. I can't believe I didn't change sooner but you know what, sometimes you have to make a wrong turn in life before you find your way. BTW I have written many posts on natural hair and my experience with it:

Ebony Intuition said...

@Saint Lucian Dutch Canadian

If you read the above comment properly I stated that "Black people have also been weaving there hair since forever the only difference is that back then we would use the hair of a family member who passed away and weave it into our own, to carry on their spirit etc."

We weaved our hair with the hair from our own family members and relatives, I did not say we weaved our hair with hair from a Chinese tribes...

If you read & research what we did with our hair you would learn that we have always been adorning our hair, theres a difference between adorning and destroying the texture of your hair. Not only have Africans adorned their hair plenty of other cultures have done a variety of adornments to their hair, to represent and indicate status within their community..

I just wish people would learn the difference between adorning and destroying. And also if people would stop limiting how a black women is suppose to wear their hair. Everything we did with our hair back in Africa had a "meaning" it representing something..And we still do it..

I also studied fashion design and the majority of hair styles and adornments that European women did to their hair was to MIMIC the hair or shall i say crown of an African women...the men also

Ever noticed back in the olden days white men who were judges would wear those weird looking white wigs..the wigs mimic the "Nemes Crown" The nemes was the striped headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt. It covered the whole crown and back of the head and nape of the neck (sometimes also extending a little way down the back) and had two large flaps which hung down behind the ears and in front of both shoulders. It was sometimes combined with the double crown, as it is on the statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel.

Ever wonder why Al Sharpton wears his hair permed like that..same thing he's a Mason and that's how Masons wore there hair..

Learn history...its not that hard

Ebony Intuition said...

Fyi for everyone. Also keep in mind that every black person does not have the same textured hair, even a Black African who is dark skinned doesn't always have tight curly textured hair. My lil brother is half Ethiopian and we don't have the same hair texture at all my hair texture is tight and very curly his is loose and curly. People from East Africa have a more looser to curly texture due to the centuries of invasions from Arabs mixing into their bloodline.

I highly recommend everyone buying the book
Hair in African Art and Culture

And you will see the amount of wigs, weaving , adornments, shaving, braiding, twists, EVERYTHING that we do with our hair.

Sumayyah said...

I love it!

I'm in the process of growing my second set of locs. I remember the first time I chopped off all the perm. My mother panicked, and told me I must always wear make-up and earrings to avoid "looking like a man." It is common where I live to see girls as young as 3 with elaborate hairstyles, including coloring and extensions.

Hair has always been important to us as a people; however, mimicking the styles of other races/people in which we have to permanently alter the texture of our hair? *shakes head*

I have to say that I'm glad I went natural. I feel freer.

Lindsay said...

Great post. I have a friend who recently stopped straightening her hair and wears it naturally all the time now (it's gorgeous). We had a middle passages conference at my school a few months ago, and one of the greatest parts was seeing the amazing hairstyles of women and men there.

As a white woman, I'm a little jealous of black hair - ok, a lot jealous - because I think often black women look so amazing with their natural hair. It's such a shame the beauty industry promotes one image of what is beautiful and I'm all for people subverting that and reclaiming beauty on their own terms.

Ebony Intuition said...

@ lindsay
"As a white woman, I'm a little jealous of black hair - ok, a lot jealous - because I think often black women look so amazing with their natural hair"

I meet and encounter white women all the time that ask me on how they can style or do their hair like mine.

I personally love everyone's hair in all cultures, and I agree also that we should be more open to keeping alive the styles and adornments within everyones culture . Because there isn't 1 type of beauty its within all of us regardless if our hair is straight, curly, tight, loose, its all gorgeous.

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