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More than just hair

More than just hair

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First let me start off by saying that this column was not written to shame individuals with chemically processed hair, nor was it written with the intention to convince anyone to go natural.

April 21, 2017 marks four years since I’ve been natural. I went from a “man head” to a long mane, then chopped it all off again. Naturally, I now consider myself the authority of all things related to natural hair, particularly the kinky kind, ha-ha.

To begin, my natural hair journey has been riddled with ups and downs. For example, I will tell you the most offensive thing ever said to me about my natural hair; it was “You look like a slave.” Naturally, I was quite taken aback by the statement and initially upset. It’s quite obvious that the statement was meant to be taken as an insult, but another thought occurred to me, “Why is looking like a slave bad?”

In the Caribbean we have a multitude of races and ethnicities, allowing for different skin tones and hair textures. Yet, the idea that African looking features are ugly persists. It made me realize that we still deeply value Eurocentric features above black features. Moreover, why does my kinky hair offend so many black women?

Almost all derogatory comments I’ve received about my hair came from black women with hair just like mine. News flash, every time you insult someone for having features that you also share, it is a projection of self-hate. It seems like a blunt thing to say, but it’s true. If you call someone who has a broad nose a monkey, and you also have a broad nose, wouldn’t that make you a monkey as well?

The same principle applies to our hair. When you mock someone’s kinky hair and you also have kinky hair, it tells me you don’t find your own natural hair attractive.

For centuries we’ve been told our black features are undesirable, and that lighter skin and straight hair is what we should all aspire to have. However, I challenge you to look beyond those expectations and evaluate yourself. Do you genuinely find some features ugly because of preference or because they’re “black”?

It’s very hard to develop a healthy self-esteem in a world that does not want you to love yourself. My natural hair journey was initially all about me having healthy hair. However, it quickly morphed into a journey of self-identification and realization. I had to learn to accept my hair and eventually all my other black features.

To some of you reading this column, I might seem over dramatic; certainly my experiences can’t be the majority? However, it is much more common than you think. Too many times young girls have approached me, wanting to transition to natural hair, but afraid to do so. The number one reason stated: “I don’t have good hair.”

“Good hair” by West Indian standards is hair that has a loose silky texture, and is usually associated with individuals of multiple races or “mixed”. Thus, once again, we are back to the idea that the less black you have in you, the more superior your looks.

The only way to change this mentality is to embrace ourselves. We have to stop influencing little girls into thinking their natural hair is ugly, by relaxing their hair at such young ages. Give them a chance to embrace their kinks and curls, an opportunity most of us were never given. Ultimately, you have to be the change you want to see in the world.

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