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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dissonance in the Black Hair “Community”

Black hair is beautiful too!

It has come to my attention that the black hair community is up in arms again. While I am still trying to sort out how one becomes a part of this elite body of hair care reformers, and just who is in charge of this ubiquitous organization, I take issue with some of the craziness I have been hearing over the last few days. (As an aside, I would like to know more about this “community”. Do they elect officials? If so who votes them in? How do I get on that nominating committee?  And most importantly, how is it “they” can make decisions about me, and judgments against me based on how I choose to wear my hair?) So because I am black (check), and I do have hair (just touched it so yeah it’s still there), I have nominated myself to write a blog which I hope will dissolve a lot of this nonsense.

First, natural hair is hair that has not been chemically processed! That is the plain definition. Natural does not mean you do not clean your hair, or comb it, or try to make it presentable in some way.  Natural does not mean that you substitute one product (relaxers) for 18 other products, because neither situation is good for your hair. Now how you style your natural hair is your business. You may choose not to process your hair and wear a wig over it, or cut it off, or wear a weave down your back or a twist out or a so called “protective style” or flat iron it etc. There are limitless options on what one can choose to do with her unprocessed hair and none of those options make a woman more or less natural than someone else! Oh and it doesn't make you any more black that someone else either.

So I read a post that bothered me and because it is so divisive, I chose not to post it here. I kept hearing fragments of the conversation and tried to tune it out, but this post brought everything to light. It implied that any hairstyle other than an Afro was “unnatural” and that black women who try to achieve waves and ringlets and other styles were guilty of being inauthentic. Really? To make matters worse the article pitted black women against other biracial black women and accused the former group of trying to emulate the latter. Huh????? Apparently the once uniformed (sarcasm) black hair community is splintering into various segments.

I want to go on record saying that these detractors are in the minority of the minority. I do not believe that most women are so consumed with the way they look that they take time to belittle those who do not live up to the “never agreed upon standard.” That’s petty. But because of this minority, now there is hate on youtube! Vloggers are angry that black women ( I don’t segregate my people into categories like’ biracial’ because we are all people of color and black people are inherently a mixed-race people) with more European hair are receiving more attention than those with traditional Afro-textured hair. Reminds me of Dr. Seuss and the Sneetches.  Remember some of the Sneetches had stars on their belly and some didn't and how the ones with stars looked down on those who did not have stars? The Sneetches without stars wanted stars and those with stars stopped wanting them when the former group got stars.  It’s silly! But the madness that goes on with hair (Wavy hair girls hate on the kinky hair girls vice versa. Kinky hair girls want to look like wavy girls) is just as silly as Sneetches and stars.

I watch a broad array of videos to get ideas on how to style my wonderfully nappy hair! When I go online I seek out sisters who have hair similar to mine. If I had straight hair I would look for women who had straight hair to see what products work and which styles are best. That’s not to say that I don’t watch other videos. I once watched a white woman who had a clever idea of how to use socks to create a bun, even though my hair is vastly different than hers. It’s all flavor to me. I can learn from any one.

I will concede that I do not see the logic in trying a product that is meant for a wavier texture of hair if you have a courser texture like mine. Sure it might do wonders for the sister who put it on her fine wavy hair, but it may not work on your thick kinky hair and vice versa. But ultimately the products you choose for your hair are your business!!!!!!! I take issue with those who tell me that I can’t get styling ideas from someone who looks different than I do. I take issue with those who lift up a certain type of hair (whether courser texture or fine or whatever) as the standard of hair that I should strive for.* And I am offended that a teeny tiny group of people who look like me have decided to label certain styles as authentically black and wearing others as tantamount to selling out! Nonsense! Hair trends come and go. Now black women want to wear unprocessed hair. In a few years straight will be back in. Now long weaves are popular, but short hair is making a comeback. The only sure thing about fashion is that it will change. 

So much of this conflict has to do with who gets to review which products and how those reviews will boost the profits of a specific blogger or vlogger.SMH (Please see my blog "Don't Follow Me", which inspired this post.)I have described my attitude towards products on this blog. I use water from my spigot; olive oil from my kitchen and whatever leave- in conditioner is on sale at the closest beauty supply store. I am by nature aminimalist and I encourage others to be as well. Especially, when product reviews and monetization cause hate and conflict and craziness on the interwebs. 

Lastly, God did not create a superior hair texture! We are not limited in how we chose to present ourselves to the world. I have curly hair (at least one blogger takes issue with the idea of calling afro-textured hair “curly”). Sometimes I play up my curls by twisting my hair, sometimes I play them down by flat ironing. And guess what? I’m the same person! India Arie said it best when she sang, “it’s not about your head it’s what’s underneath.”  Let’s stop the madness. Let’s stop putting each other down. Women in general can treat each other so poorly! Let’s make efforts to lift one another up. Let’s try to see the beauty in the full spectrum of hair types God created, without elevating some and criticizing others. Love and appreciation for individual differences are, in fact, the true essence of community.

*Many people do not understand the origin of the hair texture/skin color problem. So much of this nonsense about hair stems from slavery. White people raped slaves producing mixed offspring that had more European appearance. As a result, slaves who looked more phenotypically white had more elevated positions on the plantation and slaves with African features had to do the more labor- intensive work. But people miss the point that both groups were still slaves.  Historically, skin color and hair texture could literally boost social status just as they can today.  Subsequently, there is sometimes tension between blacks with more European physical characteristics, and blacks with more African characteristics. Hair is another battleground where we see this tension play out. Yes, there are implications for blacks concerning the straightening of one’s hair that other races just don’t have to deal with, (just like there are implications for an Asian who has surgery to make his eyes appear larger). But straightening hair or manipulating one’s hair texture is not in and of itself a symptom of self-hate. Putting others down, and starting a bunch of smack on the interwebs, however, is! 

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