November something ish 2010 marks my 5 year anniversary of going natural. Every year, I like to acknowledge the fact that I am natural.
I went (or “returned,” as some like to say) natural for a myriad of reasons. The most important was a dream I had where I was in Brooklyn, which was a jungle, in a golf caddy, going to a modelling audition. The woman who was auditioning me had the biggest, curliest, pinkest Afro I had ever seen. And I said “I want that!” Prior to that, I believe I hadn’t gotten a perm in about 2-3 months, and I had been toying with the idea of just never getting a relaxer again. Because I was lazy, and relaxers are expensive.
But that moment, reinforced my commitment to going natural. That and also I was trying to get into veganism and living a holistic lifestyle. It seemed, to me, hypocritical, to try to use as many natural products as possible and to eat as healthily as possible, while still slathering on vomit-inducing chemicals into my hair on a consistent basis.
So, up until I did the “big chop” (snipping off the ends of my relaxed hair) months later, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know that there was an entire community of YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, and websites dedicated to taking care of the hair that grows out of your hair, naturally. I mainly wore hats and scarves, because I didn’t know what to do with my ever growing hair. In a fit of “Fuck this!” and pining after some dude who eventually moved out of New York, I cut off all my relaxed hair. And I stared in the mirror for a good while. I had a LOT of hair – I was beyond the TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) stage. I texted tons of people telling them I had cut off my hair. I couldn’t stop touching my hair. I had the CUTEST little coils and curls! I mentally kicked myself for always wanting some semblance of curls, while relaxing my hair bone straight. It seemed silly.
I had overwhelming support for going natural. It’s a phase where a lot of black women are at their most vulnerable. Regardless of why a black woman decides to go natural, it sends the message to the dominant culture of “Fuck your beauty standards.” Dominant culture says beautiful hair is straight hair, or certain types of curls. Most black women don’t have that, so those internalized messages makes us go out to get those relaxers, wigs, weaves, etc (Not to say, of course, that these women didn’t choose to get these. Of course they did). I had an ex boyfriend (who was an ex at the time, mind you) who would relax his hair and he would always make these snarky remarks about my hair – that it looked “dry,” that it looked like I didn’t comb it. I told him those jabs hurt, and he would apologize, but it would continue. On a larger scale, black women have to face spouses, family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, who will subtle or not-so-subtly tell them they need to straighten their hair again. There will also be tons of support, but those negative comments sting the most, especially from those who claim they love you.
As the hair grows longer, there tends to be an insistence on “taming it,” especially for those in a corporate job. Not me. I like my hair to be wild and free, though I would like to learn how to do certain styles. I have no problem rolling out of bed, without having twisted my hair the night before, spritzing it with water, and fluffing it like it’s high as a skyscraper. I love my hair, regardless of how it turns out.
And OMG there are the little nods of affirmations of fellow sistas when we see each other. I always feel like I’m in a secret group that others aren’t aware of! Score!
So as more and more black women have foregone the relaxer, companies have taken notice. A large amount of television and magazine ads now feature black women with natural hair. There are scores of companies that have popped up that cater to women with natural hair, as well as companies that have jumped on the natural hair bandwagon. It feels good to be represented in the media (though, the curl obsession is a bit problematic, but that’s another discussion for another day).
But of course…white women don’t want to feel left out of all the natural hubbub. Especially since they are so used to the conversation revolving around them. So white women have invaded (yes, invaded) spaces that were meant for black women, where they can discuss hairstyles, swap tips and secrets, vent, rage, etc, – and made the conversation about them. And I find that highly annoying.
I was in a bit of a rage a few weeks ago when, in the only natural hair group that I was in that actually focused on hair health started allowing white women into the group. I didn’t say anything at first, but I knew it was going downhill after that. And boy, did it! Some chick decided she’d post a picture of her hair teased with the caption “White girls fro too!” And she got hundreds of likes, and comments congratulating her. Some of us, though, weren’t impressed. It seriously speaks volumes when there are black women with short or kinkier textured hair who post photos for affirmation that they’re beautiful barely getting likes, and some Becky comes in and gets tons of likes. I’m willing to bet black women go back to relaxers in some cases because that happens. I was called racist, to get over myself, and told that natural hair is not about race. The OP even said why does this have to be a race thing, when she made it a race thing with her caption!
White women were never told for centuries that their hair was ugly and undesirable and needed to be tamed in order to be accepted into society. They were the STANDARD. Black women are now bucking that standard and the Dominant Society seems uncomfortable with that. It irks my soul to hear white women talking about their “natural hair journey.” And I don’t give white women with curlier/kinkier hair textures as pass, either. Whatever “pain” you felt with having non-straight hair is mitigated by your whiteness. Besides, there are tons of spaces designed for white women to control their curls. Why must you come into black women’s spaces?
So I created a group (shame plug, here!) for black people to have a safe space to talk about natural hair, without having to worry about catering or appeasing white women. It’s here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyHairMyHealth/. My goal is to get more followers and actually have a decent platform. I’m hoping this works!