Editor Columns

Column: Just Speaking My Truth

I Am Not My Hair

By LAURYN BEST
                                                                                                                                        I am not my hair
                                                                                                                                       I am not this skin
                                                                                                                         I am not your expectations no no
                                                                                                                                       I am not this hair 
                                                                                                                                      I am not this skin
                                                                                                                             I am the soul that lives within

While ‘I Am Not My Hair’ by India Arie ft. Akon is a certified bop for anyone, it serves to spread awareness about an issue many people are not able to understand: having nappy hair in a country where straight hair is the ideal. I have a ridiculously large amount of hair and for most of my life I have kept my hair natural and only permed it once and straightened it two times. So when people expressed disbelief at the fact that my hair was “real” I felt offended. My mom went on to give me an explanation on hairpieces, relaxers, weaves, and the fact that many black women preferred not to wear their hair in its natural state. At first I couldn’t understand it. If that’s the way your hair grows out of your head, why would you want to put damaging chemicals in it or spend hours in a hair shop leaving with a throbbing scalp? 

The answer to this is not an easy one for everyone to hear, but it’s necessary. As many issues within the black community do, this problem finds its’ origins in slavery. When slave masters were deciding how to divvy up their “property”, they focused on the physical attributes of slaves. A rule of thumb was the more white they looked (light skin,straight hair etc.), the more attractive thus making them “better” and qualified to work in the house alongside the master. Those with more quintessential African features (kinky hair, dark skin, wide nose etc.) were exiled to the field and considered below their light-skinned brothers and sisters. In this day and age  black women aren’t straightening their hair or getting weaves because they want to look white, it is simply more “manageable” and more “professional.” Now at this point some may wonder why it’s still an issue. Get a weave if you want, or wear it natural if you wish right? With increasingly frequent of black men and women with natural hair in the workforce being told to “fix” their hair to fit a professional setting, the answer is no longer simple.

In the end a black woman or any woman, is the only one with the right to decide what she can and cannot do with her hair. My close friend chooses to relax and straighten hers. That’s her choice. I decided I don’t want to alter the natural composition of my hair. That is my choice. A woman deciding to style her hair naturally or with a weave doesn’t always have to be a political statement or mean she has an ulterior motive. It just means that her particular hairstyle makes her feel beautiful. She shouldn’t be mocked or made to feel that she is less than for her decision whatever it may be.

Categories: Editor Columns

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