Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kiddie Perm Gone Wrong

When I saw this video, ten year old me did a dance inside.  I remember begging my mother for a perm at that age because all of the girls had one.  I felt left out with my natural hair and had started to view it as ugly.  I had no idea of the consequences and so I am very thankful today that she said no.  Many people still put kiddie perms in their children’s hair, which leads to disastrous results. Normally, this brings about a vicious round of mother blaming, but taking this route ignores the way in which our White supremacist culture teaches us to hate our kinky natural hair.  We are taught that good hair, is hair that is straight.  We are taught that anything Black is ugly and bad, and therefore; when these mothers put relaxer in their children’s hair, it is important to recognize that they actually believe that they are doing something good.  Below you will find a video  of one child’s journey from beautiful natural hair to a relaxer and the terrible results.  (note: the video already has a transcript)

I have had natural hair for over a decade and have no plans to ever turn back.  My natural hair is part of how I love and embrace my Blackness.  My natural hair sends the message that I am unapologetically Black and for many this translates into a radical political nature before I even open my mouth.  Black hair is political.  Let me say that again because it is worth repeating, Black hair is political.  No matter how we choose to wear it today, we are subjecting ourselves to the judgement of others.  When it comes to a Black woman, hair is never just hair.  What we should be considering is how to make sure our hair is healthy and well groomed and instead the narrative is about what our hair says about us.  Does a woman with a relaxer really love her Blackness any less than I do?  Does this really make her a dupe of the White supremacist state?  Though we know that using a chemical relaxer can have very negative consequences, as this video eloquently demonstrates, given that we live in a society where people make decision each day that are not necessarily healthy, should we  stigmatize relaxers over and above other products?

Though this child’s perm had disastrous results, I believe we should support the agency of Black women in their hair care choices.  The question of whether or not to relax should not be the center of the conversation, instead we should focus on asking what makes us feel beautiful. We must take control over the hair debate.  We are not deceptive if we wear weaves or hair extensions and we are not sell-outs if we choose to straighten.  This video teaches us that we need to make informed choices about our hair care rituals. It teaches us that we have to know ourselves and know our hair.