I am the girl with really dark skin sporting braids (natural hair underneath). I didn’t always have natural hair. My hair was straight for many years. I was taught to believe straight hair was more attractive. When you are a dark brown girl you do whatever you need to do to fit into America’s ideals about beauty. I wore my hair straight because that was within my control.
My dark skin I couldn’t change. I hated my skin tone for many years. It took a lot of time to get to where I am today and appreciate all the melanin in my skin.
I don’t like writing about this topic. Yet, the discussion has come up again and again lately. It all started a few months ago when a very attractive young actress, Zendaya Coleman, decided to wear dreadlocks to the Oscars. There were snide comments that her hair probably smelled of “weed”. What is it with people and their disdain for natural hairstyles ? I’m glad Zendaya spoke up and out about the craziness because she didn’t deserve to be treated as “less than” because of a hairstyle.
A few weeks ago more women got up in arms over a campaign and TV program called “Black Girls Rock!”. This program honored black women making strides in their communities. First Lady Michelle Obama was in hot water – once again – for speaking openly and with pride about this campaign. Her involvement with the campaign became a “controversy”. First Lady Obama can’t stay out of trouble (I’m sorry…I kind of find it funny). News outlets complained she was being dismissive of non-black women. What? How does one turn into the other? Please someone enlighten me.
This year is getting ridiculous – we are still having these silly discussions in 2015 and it is sad. No one is better than anyone! The real issue is that black women were told for so long they were ugly, unintelligent, loud and aggressive. Caricatures of black women in the media still occasionally show us looking like men as if we can’t appear feminine. It hurts.
It hurts when the world tries to convince you your appearance is a problem. You will never be good enough unless you have fair skin and straight hair. This does not mean we are jealous of those with fair skin and straight hair. I wish people would understand the difference. This is not about jealousy or hatred. It is about black women wanting to feel accepted for their various hair textures and skin tones. No one should ever feel like they are not good enough! I know because I felt that way for a long time and it is a horrible feeling.
I made a conscious decision to cut my hair very short three years ago and go natural. Natural means that my hair has no chemicals in it to alter its “natural” appearance. Many women of color have to put chemicals in their hair to “straighten” it which only last for a few weeks and then it grows back out into his original texture. (Example: the picture I used for this post is me with my natural, unaltered hairstyle).
It has been quite an experience. Even my parents didn’t understand why I would want to wear my hair natural. I normally would straighten my hair about every 4 weeks. Well, it was a Saturday and my father knew I would go to the salon and get my hair done. My hair was in the beginning process of transitioning to natural so it did look odd. Well, anyway, I still laugh about our conversation.
My dad says, “So it’s Saturday. I know you are probably on your way to get your hair done.”
I look at him and say, “No, Dad, my hair is done. This is what my hair is going to look like now.”
He just stares at me blankly and says, ” Oh….OK.”
A lot of women are very attached to their hair. It is unique when you are a woman with very short hair and a tight, curly texture. I’m not saying I will always have short hair or be natural. It’s just what I wanted at the time I did it. I am already in the process of trying to grow my hair back out and wearing braids so I can let my natural hair run its course for awhile.
There is a wonderful song by India Arie called “I Am Not My Hair” that came out several years ago. Ms. Arie has always been very open about what it was like growing up as a “dark brown girl” with natural hair. It was a painful experience for her because she was not accepted by anyone.
I love playing that song because I remember when that was my experience as well . Thank God I haven’t felt that way about myself in a very long time. I feel good about the place I am in. I feel good in the skin I am in.
Last personal note: For some reason black women of darker hues have to deal with the stereotype that we are all belligerent. That is definitely not me…don’t assume we are all like that. I don’t bite…..I promise…