Does Natural Hair Equal Blackness?

Today I came across another article or opinion or whatever about the on going debate to be natural or not. This time the comments are related to the question, ‘does natural hair make more black’? As personal as your hair choice might be Afro hair is very distinct and unique and its often used as a physical characteristic of the black race from Africa. There are other dark skinned races in the world which include Indians, Australian Aborigines, and many others in the south Pacific. And some of these people may also share similar facial features as Africans such as broad noses and apparently wide faces. But the hair is unique.

I will start off by saying that I do have natural hair and it’s by choice and its always been by choice and I haven’t been transitioning and have not jumped on the band wagon of people turning natural and embracing their natural hair, nor do I have an opinion about the self identity of those that have chosen to straighten their hair, wear a weave or do whatever. Their business!

A lot of people are feeling very uncomfortable with the natural hair movement and some of the comments or the issues about black women and hair that its uncovering and bringing to the surface. For too long I think that most of us have stuck our heads in the sand pretending that their isn’t an issue with race and identity still lingering despite the civil rights movement and black pride. We all want to believe that we’re all ‘okay’ with being black and that there aren’t people suffering with identity issues in our midst that may or may not reflected in their choice of hair styles, people they date, clothing, or music they listen to or even their friendship groups.

But then we see the You Tube video called Dark Girls, the demand and the use of skin lighteners amongst people in the black community, black on black racism. I think it’s really interesting whatever the reason that so many women who are black and have curly hair have chosen to chemically alter the texture of their hair preferring straight hair over their own natural hair. I find it bizarre that not up until the ‘so called natural hair revolution’ have people started questioning it.  What would happen if the number of people lightening their skin was the same as the number of people altering their hair texture? What would sociologist and psychologist be saying then about self esteem and accepting who you are? We have all seen those uncomfortable video scenes were young black girls are given a white doll and a black doll, and when asked to choose which doll they prefer, they chose the white doll.  Do any of you ever wonder what those children or children with similar issues grow up to be when they are adults? Do most of you think that that preference is part of being a child, and as they grow into adulthood that they then outgrow their preference of the white doll over the black?

There are people who claim to have started relaxing their hair at the age of four, people who’ve never seen what their real hair is like because of relaxing. Is this all okay and is this really about personal preference? How much of this is personal preference, peer pressure, the desire to fit in, personal insecurities? Lets not forget, natural hair is a new phenomena amongst the black community and it hasn’t always been this way. Have we already forget about good hair and bad hair?

Some may argue that it’s fashion and no different from those getting cosmetic surgery. And that Black women should have the same rights to alter their physical appearance when it comes to their hair. Or that it’s no different from white people dyeing their hair or tanning. Well white people are paying with skin cancer for tanning. Having grown up with white girls, I’ve observed that most of them tend to play it safe and stick to the same boring hair style and generally live their hair alone. The more fashion adventurous types will change their hairstyle according to the fashion. No matter how some people may want to look at it there are more white women wearing their hair natural, than their are black women, and when they do wear their hair natural, their isn’t a big song and dance about.

Obviously there are problems with the way black women have been viewing their hair for a long time. No matter what your personal opinion or how you may choose to wear your hair or how socially evolved and above the hair topic you think you are, it would be foolish to carry on as if their isn’t a problem. Let’s all just face it! There is a problem! And the sooner we can all come this conclusion and stop tiptoeing around the issue of hair and the hows and why we do it, the sooner we may all be able to find out why certain topics arising from the natural hair revolution are causing such a storm.

I spent the autumn of 2004 in LA. Most people I think either hate or love the place. I loved the weather and most of the people meant well and were very helpful.  I went to LA to check out the writing scene and to also see what it felt like to live amongst more black people. What I discovered was how white I was in terms of my social influences and my personal tastes. People thought I was some white girl trapped in a black girls body. I wasn’t offended.

Whereas I don’t believe that ‘blackness’ is defined by your hair texture, skin tone, or anything else, keeping my hair natural for me as everything to do with how black I see myself. This may sound contradictory, but I do live in a white world and I’m not very familiar with my African heritage. Losing this happened long before I even made it to Australia. 500 years of Portuguese colonization made sure that I can’t speak the language of my grand parents, I have no traditions that I can remember or that could have been passed from one generation to the other in our family. This wasn’t allowed under Portuguese rule and having an African name was seen as taboo. You will find that most people in my country (Angola) have Portuguese first and second names. The only thing that helps remind of who I am is my skin colour and my hair. I wont lighten my skin and I wont permanently alter my kinks.

When I think of how little I know about my country, my culture, and the fact that I haven’t been there and can only imagine what kind of a place it is, it makes me sick and I start crying. Holding on to my hair, my skin is all that I have left. Take those things away, I might as well be white. Whereas there’s nothing wrong with being white, my pseudo identity of this black women living in a white world, not really knowing her history can be a bit confusing.

So yes for some of us our hair speaks volume! It’s more than our crowning glory. It’s the only thing that we have left of where we came from, who our ancestors were. I want to love my hair and embrace it and I do, despite the fact that some people think I might look better with straight hair or that it maybe a nice fashionable change or that it’s more socially acceptable and professional or even the fact that its’ easier. I don’t care! The kinks are here to stay.



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