Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The lie of epidemic proportions

Now on to Hair.
I recently watched, “Good Hair”, the documentary by the comedian, Chris Rock. He explores the world of black hair and the women who are adorned with it. I was talking about this film to my Indian friend. She stopped me because I kept using the term “natural hair” and she did not know what I meant. So I went down a list of women [whose ancestors hail from the African continent, to be called ACAGs in this blog (African Continental Ancestry Group-ies)] she knew and told her that each one of those women wore their hair straight even though their hair does not grow out of their scalp straight. She had had no clue. This is a woman, from New York City, with a Master’s degree and a host of ACAG friends, and she had no clue. So then I pointed to my curly head of hair and expressed that most of those women on the list had hair like mine, before they straightened it, of course. Her eyes widened as she said, “really?”   It was then, at that moment, that the gravity of the lie that black women tell everyday with their hair, hit me. It hit me how odd it was to have to use the disclaimer “natural” when talking about my exception-to-the-rule of a hairstyle, when the rule is not normal.  

I must give the following disclaimer: To relate the dysfunctional hair thinking of so many ACAG women, to my Indian friend, and so that ACAG women’s hair straightening addiction would not seem so fanatical, I said, “just like some Indians will not go in the sun for fear of being dark, and will even bleach their skin to be whiter (i mean lighter), so do ACAG women think straight is more beautiful than curly and will go to lengths to have straight hair.  At that, she understood the problem/ disdain for self that afflicted mine as well as hers.

So in 2010, the question begs to be asked: why are we, as ACAG women, still there, thick in the middle of a outward lie? Why have we not moved on, or rather, moved back [to the truth]? 

Maybe I would not ask this question, if I had not seen the movie [“Good Hair”].  But, I did see the movie.  While watching it, I had my turn to be amazed and clueless of the weave  world which I was now realizing I knew very little about.  I can tell you the difference between a full head weave and extensions and wigs and a cap and tracks; however, I did not know that there were some working class women--may I stress the words working class-- who would pay $1000 for their weave. $1000/ one grand/ a crap-o-la of cash! I could not fathom a working class woman forking over a mortgage, on the regular, for her hair. I began to envision women throughout the U.S going into debt for their hair. And the answer to the big WHY, was presenting itself to me, as a disdain for self.  I am not saying that ACAG women hate themselves, just their nappy, not-straight enough or loose and bouncy enough, Africa derived, kinky hair.  That’s when I thought, THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!  

The saddest part is that we ACAGs are the strongest defenders of the lie.  In the film, young ACAG teens comment about natural hair and professional appearance.  Each girl shown, expresses that she would not take a person seriously, as a professional, if they wore their hair in a natural style.  A few girls have no qualms about saying this, in the company of a girl wearing her hair in a natural coif. You can see in that one girl’s face: shock, uneasiness, insecurity, rejection.  

When I first started working in a very esteemed and professional environment, I was timid about my hair.  Without many examples of coiffures for people with my type of hair, that were both flattering and professional, I felt very much in the dark.  What was appropriate, I asked myself? The more I experimented, and the longer I stayed in that environment, the more I realized that the majority of the restrictions and taboos were in my head.  Most people never said anything about my hair. Many just commented that I changed it often.  And many others liked the ways I styled my hair.  I remember one day showing up with my hair in a huge, voluminous style--the night before I had done some extra-curriculars and did not have the energy to fight with my teased hair, in the morning.  So I showed up to work looking like Diana Ross, with my hair out to There. And you know what? For the most part, nobody said anything about my hair.  The one comment I do remember, came from a supervisor who said, “don’t let anybody make you feel uncomfortable about your hair, it looks great.” Bet you did not expect that comment, and neither did I. 

I’ll give you some more insight that you may not expect. A lot of non-ACAG people love natural hair--they are bemuzed by it and they will openly confess that they envy it.  I often get stopped by passers-by who feel compulsed to say, “I love your hair” or want to touch my hair.  Even though I have gotten used to it, I sometimes feel awkward when I am with a friend when this happens, mostly because my friend did not get the memo that he/she was going out with a hair celebrity that day. (LOL).  I was with the same Indian friend, mentioned above, when a car-full of women shouted from their car to hers, that they loved my hair.  Once, a friend who had witnessed several people, in the span of a few minutes, have visceral reactions to my hair, asked me, “does this happen to you a lot?” To that, I replied, “it’s happening more and more.” When I think on these episodes, I wonder, “do ACAG women realize that the world would accept them if they gave up the lie?” It hurts my soul to know what they do not know.  But unfortunately, standing in the way of that wall coming down is a host of ACAGs chanting “you can’t handle the truth”.

Definitely to be continued.....


Ms Ling Ling said...

This comment was sent to me by e-mail from a friend:

I love it!!

And I have had several people compliment me on my hair as well. Not sure if this is a topic that you would want to discuss or divulge into, but I personally feel that it is blacks and other black haiting minorities (indians from the caribbean (I.e. Trinidadian or guyanes) or caribbean hispanics ) that hate my hair. Not so much other people who are not caught up or, more importantly, used blacks as a 'step up'. What I mean by that is many of the people I mentioned above feel that they are 'better' than myself because being black sucks to them. Having coarse hair is a curse to them. Forget about being dark skinned. So blacks as a whole and anything that has to do with being black isn't good. And they have used that oppression over blacks in there native region for years. And blacks for some reason agreed. So of the group of people who hate in (including blacks) I always felt it was a deep set hatred. Which brings me to my next point, I find some black men who feel like they are doing me a favor my liking me. I get, I love your fizzy crazy hair. On a good day (which happens more often than not now that I know what I am doing ) my hair isn't frizzy or crazy but just like the term 'good hair' is second nature so is negative words towards our hair. So big picture is black woman don't go natural because there black counterparts don't like it. Most of my 'you should get a perm' comments come from black men. Aint that crazy? And as you know black woman are less inclined to date outside the race SO if people we do date don't like it what do u do, spend 1000's on ur hair so u feel loved.

revamae said...

I love this!!I thank God for my natural hair. I also love it that my sons love natural hair. Most Jamaican men love natural hair. I think, we can say thanks to the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica. The Caribbeans who are against it are mostly of East Indian heritage. They still have a problem with hair , skin color etc. It's the old caste system. They have some deep rooted beliefs, prejudices, opinions about what is acceptable and beautiful. I am so proud of you that you have not allowed stereotypes to suck you in. Too much high maintenance black ladies with the weave, pedi & manicures, designers everything. They decorate the outside very well. Unfortunately most have not invested on the inside starting with their brains....SAD but TRUE

Jessi said...

I love it when black women wear their hair natural and I gotta say, I almost always wanna touch it. Lol I've even told Justin to grow a fro so I can play with it. =)

Ms Ling Ling said...

Oooh, this editorial on the Thank God I'm Natural website is chilling. Read about a lady that permanently scarred her scalp and is bald, from using relaxers.


Nicole said...

Completely agree. Just watched Good Hair and I too was completely shocked at just how much a weave really costs. It's so sad that we as a people are the ones mentally enslaving ourselves with notions that the natural texture of our hair speaks of unprofessionalism, and straightening our hair would show we are "put together". We need to wake up!