Black hair, it is often misunderstood, and the butt of many immature jokes. But what happens when a college student speaks out against the stereotypes of her races hair, in order to break away from the stigma?
This week, in my Sociology, class we watched a short documentary called “A Girl Like Me,” which can be watched here. Though the topic of black hair was only a minute portion of the video, I feel it is still a very important one to address.
I was taught from a pretty early age (so early I can’t even remember when) that straight hair was expected. It was the standard and it was what successful black women did. So, as soon as I could, I got my hair chemically relaxed. I remember the first time I did it. It was life changing. My hair was long, down my back, it was straight and you could actually tell that my hair was a lighter brown and not black like I had thought before. I was in third grade and I spent all night running my fingers through it. I felt powerful and beautiful, and I loved it.
For those of you that don’t know, black women with straight hair get it that way by using a chemical relaxer that makes it straight. When we are born, our hair is usually curly, often tight coils. As you can imagine straighter hair is much easier to manage, but constantly getting relaxers damages your hair. Most black women know this when getting them, but that standard of beauty is so strong they don’t care.
I kept getting relaxers until my senior year of high school. I’m not really sure what came over me. I just got fed up with it. It was expensive, my hair wasn’t growing, and I was going to school 7 hours away in less than 3 months. I knew I wouldn’t have a way to get it done in Missouri (at least not right way).
So, I cut it. My mom didn’t really understand it, my choice to “go natural” in fact, most people didn’t and still don’t. You see, I was born this way, the unrelaxed hair on my head currently is how I was meant to wear it, otherwise, God wouldn’t have given it to me, right?
Now a lot of people will say it’s unprofessional, it’s nappy, it’s weird, its making a political statement, but none of those things are true and this is something the video, “A Girl Like Me,” failed to mention.
In fact, a lot of documentaries and TV shows address the topic of black women returning back to their natural roots, but few feature actual black women stating why. And the reasons can vary. This clip, from the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, on MSNBC, offers a few reasons why women might choose to return to their natural roots. They can be as simple as mine, or some act of rebellion, it just depends. No matter what the reason, lumping all natural hair girls in the same category will never be okay. In fact, it’s actually pretty ignorant.
There’s nothing super special about my hair or why it looks the way it does on a daily basis. I’m not this deep misunderstood individual because I’ve got curls on my head while most black women my age have long black weave. It’s a personal preference, not a political statement, nor a standard of beauty.
The more people learn that, the better off we’ll all be.