The emergence of the natural Afro in the late sixties and early seventies was not only meant to be a political statement because of the injustices of the times but to instill a sense of pride in African American’s natural hair. A returning to one’s natural roots if you will. Fast forward to the mid-2000’s and the natural hair movement is on the scene once again calling for natural hair pride. Today, many African American women have answered that call, denouncing chemical relaxers and fully embracing their natural hair while encouraging others to do the same. Never before have there been such an abundance of natural hair products available to us on store shelves or online. We’re also seeing natural hair in the mainstream (commercials, television, movies, etc.) now more than ever. These are all positive steps in the right direction, but there is still a lot of negativity within and outside of the natural hair community. How can we stop the negativity and be hair-positive?
It Starts With You.
Negative views of African American hair goes back to slavery. Terms like nappy, kinky, and wooly were used in derogatory and demeaning manners to describe our hair. It was also used to divide the slaves based on hair texture (and skin color). The mulatto slaves (or mixed race) were said to have “good hair, ” but the much darker African slaves had the bad or “nappy” hair. This caused division and resentment among the slaves and the negative distinction became ingrained in slaves and passed down from one generation to the next, and it’s still happening today. This thinking must stop. Here are a few things we can do to be hair-positive when it comes to natural hair:
- Change your thinking. Before we can move forward, changing our way of thinking is crucial. We must put out of our minds all the negative connotations and speech associated with natural hair that we’ve been taught by our parents, people in our community, television, or society as a whole. Kinky, coily or “nappy” hair is not bad hair. It’s not something we should be ashamed of or dread having. Our hair is not uncombable, untameable, or ugly in its natural state. Our hair does not need to be tamed, which is code for chemically relaxing or straightening it for it to look presentable. Straight hair is not the definition of beauty.
- Educate yourself. It is important to educate yourself so you can better understand African American hair and it’s many textures. With that knowledge, you’ll understand why our hair has different curl patterns, textures, why it requires moisture and certain oils, and why our hair can be styled in so many different and artistic ways – all of which makes our hair truly unique and beautiful. Your appreciation for our hair will deepen, and hopefully, it will motivate you to spread hair-positivity.
- Change your speech. Many times we knowingly or unknowingly say negative things about our hair to our friends and family, and even our children because that’s what we’re used to hearing from our family, media, etc. Starting with ourselves, we must stop speaking about natural hair in negative ways. How many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror and said: “Ugh, my hair is so nappy!” I’ve done it a million times myself, especially when I was getting chemical relaxers and had new growth! With your children, start at an early age speaking positively about their hair. Tell them their hair, and its texture is beautiful and unique. When they are old enough to understand, explain to them why.
- Make it a point to compliment others. Being natural is not always easy. Styling and maintenance can take a lot of time, depending on the length and thickness of your hair. However, we all know how good it makes us feel when someone compliments us on our hair. Hair that we put a lot of work into maintaining and caring for. When you see a woman rocking her natural hair, compliment her. Not only will it make her day, but you will feel good giving out that genuine, positive energy. And who knows, maybe that same person you compliment will compliment another natural too. Keep putting out positive energy!
The conversation needs to change in the natural hair community from negative to hair-positive. Let’s learn to love and understand our hair. Be more understanding toward those who may use different protective styles or care methods than you. It’s time we listen to one another instead of sitting in instant judgment. We can do this by making a concerted effort to have hair-positive conversations.
Hugs and Love.