My Hair, My Choice

Being predominantly of African descent means that I have nappy hair, in fact my hair is 4C, which would put me quite close to the “original” texture of African hair. Sadly though, I didn’t even know what my natural hair looked like till a few months ago. My hair had been processed a few months after I started attending school, so I have basically no memory of what my hair was like because it was chemically processed. In nearly every memory I have, nearly every picture I have, my hair has been straight. When I was younger this didn’t bother me, in fact I remember being proud of it. My hair was straight when nearly everyone else’s was kinky. It was a kind of status symbol back then, and unfortunately it still is.

About ten months ago, I made the decision to stop processing my hair. Initially, I was just fuelled by curiosity because I never had any conscious experiences of interaction with my natural hair. However, after a paradigm shift in my life, I started avidly pursuing all the core values that the White Ideology sought to repress in me. The more I learned, the angrier I got. I felt violated that one of the key identifying factors of my black ancestry had been taken from me without my consent when I was too young to even know the implications of what was happening. I wondered about the stylist who did my hair, how she brought herself to apply a potentially harmful chemical to a toddler’s hair for no serious reason (other than my guardian’s whim) without even a tinge of guilt. It baffled me.

Because of that, I spent hours wondering why it was okay for parents to do that. I have met many girls who were in the same situation; their parents processed their hair before they could agree or disagree to the process. Plus many of them, like me, eventually ended up with damaged straight hair after the years of straightening and had to resort to their natural hair. By no means am I bashing chemical processing of hair; it’s your hair, it should be your choice. But what I am bashing is the chemical processing of a child’s hair before they are old enough or conscious enough to make a decision about what it means.

I think that we need to demolish the belief prevalent in black society that equates nappy hair with impropriety. Looking back, I recall thinking of girls without chemically processed hair as “country bunkers” who either could not afford to process their hair, or did not know of the “benefits.” Society has taught me to equate wealth and beauty with lighter skin and straight hair. The fact that I live in a predominantly black society shows me just how far-reaching the effects of colonial oppression were. Instead of preserving our culture, the strength of our African ancestors and the beauty in our genetic makeup, my people have unknowingly preserved the idea that the White Oppressors used to bend them into submission. These ideas take time and conscious effort to unlearn, but at the present moment I would like to think I have almost eradicated these thoughts from my mind. I want my people to do the same, to rise up and embrace their culture.

It is only recently that the idea has caught on that natural hair can be beautiful, and yet many people still do not recognize it. Persons still opt to murder their precious strands of hair to suit the White Man’s idea of beauty instead of showcasing African pride. I want everyone to examine the real reason why they straighten their hair, if it is just for aesthetic or if somewhere deep down they are ashamed of the way their hair looks, if somehow, they are ashamed of the difference, afraid of what other people will say. I challenge my black sisters to overturn that idea in their minds, if that is the case.

It is your hair, which means it is your choice. But how sure are you that the choice you made was one you made while you were most informed, and that you made the choice off of your own prodding? I long to see natural hair cast in the same favourable light as straight processed hair. I know of little girls longing to have their hair straightened, so they can fit the idea of beauty that has been forced upon them by the White Media. This idea of beauty is explain in an earlier post I made entitled: “What Constitutes Beauty In Your Eyes?” This post and that one are interwoven; this post is merely the product of that initial one.

I strive to break down the idea of beauty that society perpetuates. This involves reaching within ourselves, and uprooting the ingrown ideas that make us want to ridicule another Black Woman for embracing her roots and wearing her natural hair. It is all about acceptance, and love. The unlearning of this potentially harmful ideology is a two way street, and I hope that people will learn to traverse it. Sensitizing people to the magnificence of their natural selves can only bring about a better world.

My hair, my choice.

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