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.....