Thursday, July 26, 2012

The politics of black hair

It has been nine months since my last hit of the creamy crack and it has so far been an interesting journey.  Even the reference to hair routines as 'a journey" is telling of the intensity with which some black women approach this particular issue.  The responses to hair products company Carol's Daughter's Facebook post this morning ("Like if you have a relaxer. Do you plan on giving it up? Why or why not?") shows that the topic is a hot one, but that all black women aren't all lining up on the same side of it.

In five hours, just under 1,700 people had "liked" the post indicating they are happily straightening their hair with a chemical relaxer, and more than 500 individuals (likely mostly black women) had weighed in with their comments. While it has become more commonplace to see black woman wearing their hair in its natural state, the responses to Carol Daughter's post indicates that there are still mixed attitudes towards our hair.  Many black people still measure beauty - and even professionalism - against a white standard.  Straight hair, to many, is prettier and neater than curly or kinky black hair.  Curly styles, afros and braids are often considered out of place in corporate offices. Remarkably, those opinions are almost more likely to be held by black men and women than by white. My white friends are always complimenting me on my big (semi)natural curls.  It is my brothers and sisters who are discomforted by my choice to stop straightening my hair.  "What are you planning to do with it?"  "What will you do with it when you have to work?"  For them, black hair in all it's kinky splendor is something to be remedied.

On the other side of the hair part are those who seem to wear their hair as a militant sign of black-hood. Reminiscent of the 60s and 70s, natural hair has become an indicator of how proud and comfortable a woman is to be black.  For those on this side of the issue, natural curls are the anti-weave; the afrocentric response to the black majority's sell out to eurocentricty.  Natural hair blogs, vlogs and websites take on a holier-than-thou attitude, spewing condescension and condemnation on those who aren't taking the road to Happy Nappy.

It seems for every other ethnic group a hairstyle is just a hairstyle, but for us black women, hair is often a statement of who we think we are and who we want to look like:  How black do you feel, or how hard are you trying to be white?

No comments:

Post a Comment