Saturday, January 14, 2012

All hair is good hair but please don't touch mine

Can I touch your hair?

It's a question I've been asked often as people looked in amazement at the puffy, black cloud of kinky curls that sit on top of my head.

The question, and the look of awe that came with it, always surprised me.
I wondered why people were so fascinated by my nappiness.
Then the request to touch my hair started to become annoying.

Questions from both black and white people asking "How do you get it like that?" and "Where do you go to get it to look that way?" started to get on my nerves.
My hair grows out of my head this way. There is no miracle ritual I go through to get it to look like this.

But I realized people were just curious and wanted to know how I achieved this look. Some of them may have never seen a black woman with her hair in its natural state untouched by chemicals and not hiding under a wig or a weave.

But when my hair long, straightened by chemicals and rested on my shoulders the questions were different: "Where is your family from?" or "Are you from the islands?" inferences that the texture of my hair must indicate a multicultural background and not an African-American one.

Comedian Chris Rock explores the complex world of black women's hair and the political and personal decisions that go into how we wear our hair in the new film Good Hair.

Rock devoted months to examining the world of weaves, wigs, perms, braids, afros, twists and locks in the film because his young daughter asked him why she doesn't have "good hair."

That's a painful start to a film about a painful and personal relationship black women have with their hair.
Every woman wants to be beautiful.
But America's standard for beautiful hair (long, straight and blond) drastically conflicts with the hair most black women are born with: black, short and curly.

Understanding this dilemma among black women, it’s no wonder the black hair care business is multi-billion dollar industry.
Some black women pay the equivalent of a house note to obtain this nation's standard of good hair.

The industry doesn't get much of my money though. I stopped putting chemicals in my hair 11 years ago.
For me wearing my hair natural is not so much a strong political statement.
It's more of a personal declaration that I am OK as I am, without being drastically altered by chemicals or stereotypes or someone else’s standard of beauty.

And I also know that black women who chose to wear weaves, wigs and perms or no hair at all are expressing styles that reflect who they are as individuals.
Sometimes a hairstyle is a fashion statement and not a political one.

The range of styles black women we wear makes us unique.
Whether it's bone straight, store-bought, curly or kinky - all hair is good hair.
I hope other little black girls like Chris Rock's daughter learn that lesson early on in life.

Originally published 10/31/09

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