I am a black woman proudly rocking my natural hair since July 2011. I have been relaxing (straightening) my hair for the longest part of my life and I can tell you that people’s reactions were completely different back then. When my hair was straight, the thing that bothered me the most was when people would insist on wether my hair was real or not. And when I say insist, I mean putting their hands on my hair to verify if it’s not a weave. That’s weird and it’s mostly because many black people internalized the idea that our hair cannot be long, when it truly can. But that’s all I had to deal with, and that was just because my hair was long. Other than that, I just had positive comments.
Now let’s talk about people’s reactions since I went back to my natural hair. I still have compliments about my hair. But they are many things that I find annoying about people’s assumptions when they see a black woman with her natural hair. To help you visualize, I will just tell you 2 true stories (out of many) about my hair. Let me start with this one at work. That day, I had this beautiful ‘fro, I was going on lunch and minding my own business when a colleague called me from pretty far. I actually had to wait for him since I was pretty steps away from the elevator when he called me. He even had to run, because I was in a hurry, but I waited for him.
So he came to me and asked me if I woke up late that morning; meaning my hair was a mess (to him). You cannot imagine my disappointment when I realized I let the elevator go just to hear that futile question.
Then i gave him a very serious look and asked him with a very calm tone : “what makes you think I woke up late?”. He seemed a bit surprised and stuttered: “hum huum your hair..”. He was turning red and was having a hard time finishing his sentence so I just told him : “that’s the way my hair looks naturally”. I made it very clear with my attitude that his joke wasn’t funny to me and to end this uncomfortable situation he told me that it suited me well; which i think it was pretty wise of him. He understood that he crossed a line and he never did that again. But still, the reason why I was so pissed (beside the elevator) was that he wasn’t the first to talk about my hair that day. He was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Anyways, the second story had nothing to do with my workplace. I had a weave on and here is what I’ve been told by a black woman who relaxed her hair: “Why do you all claim to love your hair more than we do if it’s to end up with a weave?”. Well, first of all, I never claimed anything. And I find frustrating it that in the black community many people have this tendency of putting all black women with natural hair in the same category. Yes, I agree that some women can be judgmental, but it has nothing to do with their natural hair even if they use it as an excuse, it’s simply their personality. We should all be able to respect each other’s choice.
As you can see, annoying reactions about our natural hair have no boundaries. They can happen anywhere, coming from white people, black people, anybody. I learned to deal with these types of situation by not taking it personal, but sometimes, it truly gets me. Because people should know better. So here is my Top 5 of things people should know about black women and our natural hair.
We all have our own reasons to wear our natural hair
Some do it just because they’re tired of putting chemicals on their scalp on a regular basis, to end-up with damaged hair. Others do it because they notice the dopeness of natural hair on other women and want to give it a try. Some women love it, others just go back to relaxing their hair. Some do it because they simply want to try something new. Some just never relaxed their hair. I could keep on going but we don’t have all day.
Seeing a black woman’s natural hair hasn’t become usual yet and that’s the reason why something as natural as our natural hair can easily lead to uncomfortable or inappropriate situations. Some people like to think that we choose to go natural to make a political statement. And I must say that, in a world that’s constantly pretending that our hair is not a “good hair”, or simply doesn’t exist; it can easily be seen as a political statement. BUT, not all of us care about that. I mean, at the of the day, it’s just a hair choice. Personally, I big chopped because i noticed that the less I relaxed my hair, the healthier they were; so I just decided to stop relaxing them.
Hopefully the next generations of black girls won’t be in a position to make any kind of statement with something as natural as their hair.
My point is : wearing our natural hair is a personal choice. Therefore, it can vary from one person to another. So yes, we all have our own reasons and hopefully the next generations of black girls won’t be in a position to make any kind of statement with something as antural as their hair.
We don’t use tricks
Our hair is simply extremely versatile ! I’m telling you , #blackgirlmagic is no lie! it’s amazing how we can drastically change our hairstyle from one day to another, and again, it’s just part of the #blackgirlmagic. Also, due to its curl pattern and thickness, our hair stands on it’s own. See, gravity is an unknown word in the world of natural hair. Oh except if we decide to straighten it temporarily (silk press) because that’s still an option for us.. 😊
If you have a look at the following video you’ll see how easy it is to switch from one hairstyle to another (to view the video click HERE). And I’m only showing you 9 options out of sooo many ! #humbleandblessed
We have a life too
People seem to think that we spend 10 hours a day on our hair, which is impossible since we only have 24hrs per day like anyone else… and we also have bills to pay.
I can agree with one thing, it’s not easy ..at the beginning. If you’re going back to your natural hair, it’s going to be a new process for you. So you will learn how to deal with your hair’s texture, then you’ll get used to it and that’s when the real fun begins !! You will have to nourish your hair, wash it (like any other hair) and style it with tons of methods available.
Again, we have a lot of options with our natural hair and we just like to have FUN exploring them one hairstyle at a time.
If you really want to compliment us on our hair, stick to a compliment
Example, comparing our hair to a lion’s mane is not a compliment at all. Just an example …and it brings me to the next point.
Our hair is not a distraction
It grows straight out of our head, just like anyone else actually.
Our hair is stigmatized as being untidy when it’s not, it’s just different and we love it that way. You don’t have to love it, but you need to understand that it’s part of us and you MUST R-E-S-P-E-C-T it.
Many people see our natural hair as something entertaining, like it’s there just for fun and therefore shouldn’t be seen in a serious place,.. like work.
Did you know that the bias against black women’s hair in the workplace is a real thing, proven by a study conducted in 2016 (by the Perception Institute) ?…2016 as in last year !!!!
See the problem is that many people see our natural hair as something entertaining, like it’s there just for fun and therefore shouldn’t be seen in a serious place,.. like work. I believe there are many reasons for this issue; and unfortunately one of them comes from a very sad and unhuman part of history : “human zoo”. This atrocity emerged in the 1800s in the European societies and capitalized on the exploitation of groups of people( Africans, Indians ..) considered exotic. The human zoo had its apogee in 1851 in London. And FYI, in the 18th century British colonists qualified black hair as closer to sheep wool than human hair.
Back to these human zoos, sadly, they brought a lot of money in the western world (including in North America). For example, the Colonialist Exhibition of Paris (1931) registered 8 million visitors in 6 months (May 6th 1931 to November 15th 1931).
Please note that the picture below was taken in a “human zoo” in Brussels; and it was in 1958 (only 59 years ago).
Human zoos created this “normality” of finding black women’s features entertaining.
You cannot make me believe that this has nothing to do with the way our natural hair is still unaccepted in many places today. Human zoos created this “normality” of finding black women’s features entertaining, including their natural hair. But that era is over, and you should all understand that we are not trying to be entertaining with our natural hair; it’s part of us!
So regardless of the color of your skin, next time you want to judge a black woman based on her natural hair, or crack a “joke” about it; remember this : “Our hair is not a distraction”.