Saturday, June 4, 2011

Natural Hair Revolution???

I read a blog the other day that convicted me. This lady had just completed school in the UK and a lot of people were asking her what she intended to do next. Scratch that, actually, they were just asking her what school she intended to go to for graduate school. Since she graduated second in her class, everyone just took for granted that her next step was going to be graduate school. In her blog, however, she explained that all she really wants to do is get married and have kids and that all her life, she's just wanted to be a wife and a mother. 

As I read this, I fumed about how she was erasing all the hardwork feminists all over the world had wrought over the years and that this was exactly why women are still where we are. I thought, in the two steps forward, one step back dance, she was one of the steps taken back. And then I got to her next paragraph and bowed my head in shame. 

She said she knew 'feminists' and women's rights whatevers would jump on her back for this, but she had one question; isn't our cause the right to choice? Isn't all the advocacy to give women a choice in what they wanted to do instead of what society dictates for them from history? Why then would we take those chains off only to put a new set on? Why claim we are fighting for choice and yet she is not free to choose? 

She went to University and beat all the guys in her class to graduate second in her class in a science programme; the first was a lady too. Surely, this is enough proof that she believes a woman can do what a man can do too (or even better). She just chooses to be a housewife because that's what she's dreamed of all her life. Isn't that another goal, to free and empower women to pursue their dreams? We are fighting for a little girl in Africa's dream to become a doctor and condemning her dreams, calling her a sellout, because she does not dream the dreams we want her to dream... 

I feel like this is a little like what the natural hair community is becoming. I understand the passion behind the 'freedom from the slave mentality' cause and all. However, I believe we are allowing something that should bring us together to drive us apart because of our approach. We are not going to get people to wear their natural hair by calling them mentally enslaved, self-hating, etc. We cannot blame slavery for creating a divide, and turn around and do the same. 

We claim racism made us very aware of the different shades of 'chocolate', from coffee chocolate to milk chocolate, and also made us all too aware of how kinks and coils got tighter with darkening skin tones, causing us to reject our skin and hair, leading to self-hate, etc. So now once we get rid of our last relaxer, we turn around and hate on those who have not seen 'the light' and are still perming their hair.  

Correct me if I'm wrong, I feel like we are on the verge of the hair version of reverse racism. I thought the whole idea was to educate people about the historical reasons why they are conditioned to think their hair is not good hair and encourage them that kinks, naps, coils and curls are beautiful too so they should wear their own hair out. When did it become about forcing them, by calling them names, trying to make them feel inferior, etc. to conform to what you believe is right? I've heard folks call others victims, slaves, unenlightened, etc. because they choose to wear their hair permed. Isn't this exactly what went on in the past? Haven't we just changed the team doing the name calling? 

I truly believe that the natural community would serve the cause they are advocating better by educating the 'unconverted' , and leaving them well-alone to choose what they want to do with their hair. Yes, o, now it is comparable to religion. I asked someone why she fought others so hard and she asked me whether when I accepted Christ, I didn't go around convincing my friends they were wrong and that Christ was the only answer. 

I told her, yes, I shared. However, it's the Holy Spirit that convicts and so in the understanding that sometimes, Paul sows the seed, Apollo waters and someone else harvests, I share and if they do not accept, leave them alone, pray for them and continue working on myself in the hope that my life would be a good letter of recommendation and draw them to God. Maybe she could do the same? She scoffed.

You can encourage them to come-over to your side by rocking your hair so hard she'll want to rock hers too because really, just like  hellfire and damnation sermons are not as effective (in the long-term) as the message of love, all the name-calling isn't going to get us very far. I for one was drawn to natural hair by someone's hair. She didn't have to say a word. I went and asked all the questions and she patiently explained her whys and hows. If my hair is completely natural the next time you see me, it's because of her.

I honestly don't think any race has time for us, to figure out who is self-hating, etc. and laugh at us without our help. Most of them do not know enough about us and our features to do so. We are the ones using what should bring us together, to drive us apart. 

*natural hair here has been used to refer to hair that is not permed.


  1. I think that after years and years of abusing natural haired Nigerians, relaxed haired Nigerians now feel uncomfortable now that naturals are speaking up and want them to be silenced.

    How is any of "namecalling" you have highlighted here any different from the relentless harassment that relaxed haired Nigerians have heaped on (and continue to heap on ) natural haired Nigerians to this day?

    I think a lot of people are under the misconception that natural haired people are out to "convert" others. Nobody can make the choice to stop relaxing for you no matter what they say. Natural haired Nigerians have a right to voice their opinions and to voice their anger about their poor treatment by their fellow Nigerians. If it turns you off that's an unfortunate side effect but I don't think that people should stay silent just so that they can avoid looking like "troublemakers".

    And if relaxed heads finally feel uncomfortable, then at least now they are aware of the extremely unpleasant daily reality of a natural haired person in Nigeria.

  2. Sugabelly, I am not Nigerian, have not lived there and so cannot speak for Nigeria. Just like you would base your perception of relaxed haired people on your personal experience and what you have heard from others, there are relaxed haired people who can tell the same stories. All I am saying is, love and patience wins. I am all for speaking out. I am pointing out that in speaking out, your tone and attitude can be counter-productive to your goals. Unless there is none, in which case, I stand corrected.

  3. Yeah this hair debate....i'm not so sure the purpose anymore. Everyone should be free to do what they want to do. I've lived in Nigeria where most people perm their hair and the people who didn't were thot to be "deeper life" or something. I didn't see any kind of hate directed towards them because they didn't perm their hair.

    Nigerians are tactless anyway and i'm sure just the way they have no qualms commenting on how fat someone is, they would also have no problem asking why you won't perm your hair. If you are natural, you just have to take it with a grain of salt, the way fat pple do. Sorry.

    I don't see the need for this fight and division, i see going on.

  4. Sting I see what you are saying, but at the same time, you have relaxed hair, so while you can observe, you don't personally experience the nasty comments that people who actually have natural hair in Nigeria experience or hear from other Nigerians.

    When I was in Nigeria for my gap year before school, I had natural hair and I worked for an IT company. My boss personally came and told me to leave work and NOT COME BACK until I relaxed my hair or got a weave.

    If that is not work discrimination I don't know what it because I have never seen any kind of proof that a person's hair can affect their ability to work with computers.

    I also understand about Nigerians being tactless and I agree that most of the comments we get in the street from everyday people can be attributed to lack of tact, but at the same time there is VERY REAL discrimination in Nigeria against people with natural hair. Discrimination in bank jobs, discrimination at school, discrimination in so many aspects of life that SHOULD NOT be happening and would not be happening if not for the wholesale ignorance of Nigerians.

    To say that this "is not an issue" and that we should promote unity at the expense of resolving these issues is extremely unfair.

  5. I agree with you!! Name calling is usually counter productive and it just makes other more hostile! However this problem is not in the natural hair community alone as there are a lot of relaxed and weave wearing black women who call me names. I say this because it has happened to me in real life and on the internet! I've never called anyone names in my life and the worst I heard was "nigger hair" and coming from a black person it just made me smile. It was a smile of sadness, helplessness because I realized how hard it would be to talk to such a person. no matter how hard I tried she was never going to accept my point of view (why I chose to wear my hair natural). I think you are overlooking the fact that most relaxed/"weaved" black women have always judged and teased the naturals. All my friends from South Africa and Zimbabwe tell me to do "something" with my hair. I'm just not a fan of shiny hair. Even here most African girls I meet ask me why I walk around like "that" and they always ask me "aren't you ashamed". My answer is always: I'm not doing anything wrong or hurting anyone- so no I'm not!

    My point is that it's not a problem limited to "some" naturals but most relaxed do the same! so it's valid for both sides. People should understand the risk connected to relaxers and aggressing is not the right approach!

  6. I agree with you so much... I guess the natural hair people have alot of pent up anger..., but the whole 'attack' on those whose hair are permed is not neccessary, why are you speaking out if your aim is not to convert the permed? so because you were 'insulted' for having natural hair, you should do the same? an eye for an eye and everyone goes blind. in the words of india arie '...we are the souls that leave within'

  7. @NoOrdinaryGirl: hugs. "People should understand the risk connected to relaxers and aggressing is not the right approach!" summarizes it perfectly.
    @J.M:That's what I thought too. Nice to meet you :)