Happy 4 Years of Blogging to Me:)
This post is dedicated to all my black girls out there who are self-empowered by the plethora of choices on hairstyles available to them. Whether your hair is short, long, in between, permed, natural, transitioning, or undefined, my hope is that you are proud of that crown that is sitting on your head in whatever form it takes, but that you are not solemnly defined by it. As my girl India Arie so rightly puts it: I am not my hair I am not this skin I am not your expectations no no I am not my hair I am not this skin I am a soul that lives within.
As a continuance to my post from a couple of months ago, November to be specific, on the politicization of black women’s hair, today I want to talk about something I see happening in this black women “PUULLLEASEEEE” go natural hair movement. Just earlier this year, the incredibly honest and phenomenal Melissa Harris Perry aired a segment discussing the ongoing cultural conversation on the politics of black hair, which was, to be honest, more than the usual debate we so often watch over relaxed versus natural hair. Oprah, on the cover of O’s September issue appeared and I quote “for the first time ever, without blow-drying or straightening her hair” and just earlier today, I watched a debate on natural hair versus straight hair and weaves which took place at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. Now, as someone who has been wearing my hair natural on and off my whole life, and currently has been continuously in the “natural state” for about 7 years, I find this 4 [give and take] year movement to be very interesting because I remember girls, who are today natural, questioning my very intentions for wanting to wear my hair so short when I did the big chop back in 2007. Although I am excited to see more and more women going natural because we get to exchange wonderful tips on how to manage and style our hair [for those of you who are not aware, just go to Youtube and search natural hairstyles for black women; it’s a whole other world], I think is important that we engage in more critical conversations about what this movement means to who we are as a generation of black women, how and why we are so much defined by this beautiful crown on our head we call our hair, and how this movement is bringing about a change in the attitudes we have towards our hair.
This might come as a surprise, but I really do not think natural hair is the right answer for everyone trying to have healthy hair and an image that fully represents who they are. When I think about feminism’s push for the recognition of the diverse experiences of women with regard to race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, even as black women, we cannot go on assuming, essentializing, that because we share the same skin color in all its ranges or that we have the same texture of hair, does not mean that our experiences are the same. As much as we are united in the struggle to fight for equality and or significance as a people, we still have to recognize and appreciate the differences that exist amongst us. The acknowledgement of these differences does not equate a lack of comradery or unity but goes to show how diverse we all are even in our blackness.
So, if my fellow sister wants to wear her hair straight with a perm or wear a long Brazilian weave that touches her bottom, then who am I and who gave me the authority to lecture her on “what might be the Eurocentric nature of her decision or the fact her decision is “non-progressive” to the black natural hair movement?” Or if my other sister wants to wear her hair natural with funky styles every now and then, who am I and who gave me the authority to argue that she is too “black-powered” and is a negative and unprofessional representation of black women and for sure needs to get that hair of hers under some serious control? Please don’t get me wrong because I do think it’s important for us as black women to engage in culturally and historically open and intelligent conversations about why we choose to perm our hair or be natural, why we choose wear braids or weave, are Christian, Muslim or non religious, date outside our race or otherwise, label ourselves as feminists or not, and more broadly speaking, conversations about the life choices that define us. It is through these conversations on difference that we all educate each other, have moments of reflexivity, and learn through our differences how to build this unity, which therefore allows us to stand together and fight together. We have got to stop judging each other and criticizing each other for the decisions that we make because ultimately we are not here to please one other but to live our lives according to our individual missions and purposes in this world. What we must do without any judgment is educate each other, support one another, and trust that we make decisions as capable individuals who are aware of the historical and cultural implications behind the things that we do. The conversations that we engage in should not marginalize and silence the voices of women but should give a platform for different types of women to come forward and share how these types of movements continue to shape their ideas on identity as well as how these movements change or not their attitudes on their hair and how they choose to define themselves. Come on people, lets talk freedom, let’s talk difference!