If you looked at pictures of me from age 1 to 5 years old you would see a little black girl with 2 puff balls on each side of her head. My hair was thick. I remember sitting at the dinner table watching my mother, tears streaming down her face, crying to my aunt (who was also a hair dresser) on the phone begging her to perm my hair. My long, thick hair was quite challenging for my mother and she needed help. The last thing she said to my aunt before she finally conceded was, “either you perm it or I will.”
Unwilling to let my mother ruin my hair, my aunt permed it. From that day on the creamy crack touched my roots about every seven weeks until I was 21 years old. I am not one of those women who can blame the perm for damaging their hair or who can make a perm the reason for why their hair has not met their shoulders because for me it’s not true.
Truth is my hair continued to stay thick and long. It was damaged over the years because of the perm but when I decided to go all natural and cut all my hair off, my hair was the longest it had ever been. I decided to go natural because I had finally reached a point of liberation and finally took control over my hair, my face and my image of myself.
Society has always been obsessed with black women and their hair. Don Imus was not the first man to demoralize black women and their hair. Scientist of the 1850s, North American Peter A. Browne, said that African slave’s hair was like wool so they must be of a different species. This history of the black race’s hair is not in just North America. It is not uncommon for the women of the Caribbean islands to deny their African ancestry and genetic influence, which is part of many countries’ past to be punished for physical evidence (such as hair) of African descent. With all the natural hair styles worn by all women of color, it is easy for one to think that this issue. But the recent uproar about Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair shows that the dated issue remains prevalent in today’s society.
What makes this complexity of hair even more heart breaking is that society has convinced women of color these obscenities about their hair is true. They no longer have to criticize us about our self-image because we criticize one another.
I remember listening to India Arie’s song I am not my Hair, and wishing so badly that I felt that way. I always admired women with natural hair and the various ways they styled their hair. I always kept my hair straight and desired for it to touch my waist in length. After my junior year of college I felt the urge to cut it and be natural after dating someone who had done a lot for my self-image. I have never looked back.
I am not saying every woman of color wearing their hair in its natural state is the answer to societal acceptance, but sadly embracing our hair is one of the many hurdles woman of color have to go through to be comfortable with ourselves.
Mysteriously, your hair and every other piece of you is part of accepting your uniqueness and calling to show God’s genius of multiplicity.