If you’ve been following me and my blog, you know how passionate I am about black women’s natural hair. I always speak about its beauty and how regal and versatile it is. Trying to convince other black women to rock their natural hair is a whole other issue – and it’s a deep one. It’s easy for someone like me to stand on my soapbox and rant off about all the reasons why black women should go natural and about all the horrible things that are in chemical relaxers, jheri curls, and dyes. But unless you make up in your own mind that you’re going to stop doing something and take a different path, you’re not going to make any changes. In order to make a change and walk a different path, it is imperative that you are honest with yourself about your relationship with your hair.
Many of us have hair traumas that go back to early childhood. Some of us have been victims (I say victims because a lot of the things that were done to our hair at early ages were not necessarily good for our hair, especially if the person doing it doesn’t know what they are doing or isn’t good at it!) of mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, or grandmothers who decided they were going to put a kiddie relaxer in our hair so our hair can be “easier to deal with.” Some of us had to deal with getting our hair straightened weekly with a hot comb, enduring ear, forehead and neck burns. And when heat, humidity or any amount of water hit our hair and it draws back up into our natural tight coils, then we had to deal with comments from family members, friends or kids at school who’d say things like “Your hair is so nappy! When are you going to get your hair done? You look like a pick-a-ninny!” The degrading terms go on and on – and sadly, it’s from our own black people.
For generations the slave master mentality about our natural hair was passed down to the next. The false thinking that our natural hair is ugly and unruly because it grows up and out instead of hang straight like the Europeans. Or that our natural kinky hair makes us look ugly if it’s not straight or it’s unkempt and not to be shown in public. So what did black women do? To fit in, we moved heaven and earth to keep our hair straight with harsh chemicals and heat on a daily or weekly basis. We hide our natural hair with wigs and weaves and would rather crawl under the earth than be seen without them. But the chemicals, heat, wigs and weaves cause damage as well. It’s called hair loss. Alopecia. Bald or thinning edges or bald spots throughout our head. Many black women choose to sacrifice their edges to keep wearing their wigs and weaves to the point that they are left with little to no hair over their entire head. Is it just me or is this the definition of insanity?
Please don’t read this and think I’m judging from my high horse of super judgement because I’m not. For many years I was that creamy crack addict. I began getting relaxers regularly at the age of 15. I was 40 years old when I finally found my courage and took the leap of big chopping my hair and going natural. I spent 25 years of my life getting chemical relaxers. My mother was never a fan of chemicals in the hair. She knew how to straighten hair with the straightening comb and she was good at it. She knew how not to burn your hair, and she knew that too much heat will damage your hair. She was a natural hair guru before it became a thing with her natural hair remedies and how she cared for me and my sisters hair. For that I am very thankful that she did not introduce relaxers or heat to our hair at early ages.
Many have been in this cycle for years, probably since childhood, which is why so many black women have a hard time with the mere thought of going natural. For some, the thought of exposing the damage they’ve caused to their scalp and hair and taking the necessary steps to try to repair it is too much for them. For others, letting go of the idea that black hair is only pretty if it’s straightened is hard for them to accept. They can’t see the beauty of their natural hair because they don’t look at their natural beauty long enough to see it for themselves. Nor do they have family or friends to encourage them to embrace their natural hair. When everyone around you get relaxers or wear wigs and weaves, it can be hard to stand out and be different. It takes courage and a strong mind and will to do so.
White or European beauty standards, especially when it comes to hair, has a literal chokehold on black women and it’s sad. Many are still enslaved when it comes to how they view themselves and it needs to stop. I wish there were workshops in every city in every state that helped black women to see their beauty in all facets of life: At work, at school, dating, married, at home by themselves or anywhere in public. There were laws put in place during slavery times prohibiting black women from showing their hair and forcing them to cover it up. Being the natural creative people we are, black women wore elaborate, beautiful headwraps instead. But today, hundreds of years later, we don’t have to cover our hair anymore, yet we do. With wigs and weaves because we’ve been shamed and brainwashed into believing that our natural hair is ugly. What a horrible lie to be told! But why do we still believe it?
We’ve been conditioned to.
As individuals, we must take a hard look at ourselves and unpack our hair trauma. Where did it begin? How did it affect you? Why is it still affecting you? What will it take for you to see and show your beauty and not care about the beauty standards of misinformed family members, friends, or white people that don’t apply to you? Once we are honest and real with ourselves, then we can take the necessary steps to move forward. I run into so many women, some are my own family members, who think there are shortcuts to natural hair or who think they can continue to practice harmful habits with their hair and not suffer consequences in the end. It doesn’t work that way.
Being natural means different things to different people. I know all too well that not everyone is going to do things the same way when it comes to their natural hair. I’m just an advocate for healthy natural hair practices and education. I’m simply happy if you go natural and leave the creamy crack alone! Building a healthy relationship with our natural kinky, coily hair takes time, work, and honesty. Once we unpack our hair traumas and get to the bottom of what has us afraid to rock our natural hair and let go of unhealthy hair practices, only then can we move forward.