Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The "Good Hair" Debate... 2009 (We STILL on this Ish?)

Hello Good Peoples!
I know, I know, its been a minute. This chica's been busy. Traveling, working and secretly trying to take over the world (word to The Brain).

So, I had a chance to *finally* catch the episode of The Tyra Banks Show that has been getting so much Twitterbuz, my Tweetdeck almost crashed. The "Good Hair" Episode. I'm not even going to get into how Tyra does her show thing, because that's another blog all by its lonseome. I want to talk about **dunh dunh dunh** "Good Hair"

Its an emotionally charged topic for black women (and men). So much of our standards of attractiveness have been tied up in what our hair looks like. But its so much more than that. Our hair determines how people perceive our entire beings including, but not limited to, our hireability, our mentality, our personality, our personal hygiene... even the way our families feel about us.

First, I applaud Tyra for making this episode. Despite the fumbles (and there were many) I appreciate her rockin' the Watts' style cornrows, opening up a dialoge between different schools of thought, and educating non African peoples on WHY this a topic that consumes so much of our collective consciousness.

So... today, Imma talk about two parts of the episode that made my soul weep, and share WHY my soul wept-- with my own 'hair traumas'.

There were many things said in this show by people that were cringe worthy, but this was a "cake taker" for me:

Go to minute 3:11 and listen to the words that just came out of ol' girls MOUTH. Did she really say she
has good hair because she has "white girl flow"? Yes. She did.

This is saddened me becuase not a moment later, the other girl with relaxed hair (and a receeding hair line
probably from overproccessing) who was sitting next to her said not a moment later that "Just because I have a relaxer doesn't mean
that I'm not a strong black woman" even though she co-signed Ms. "White Girl Flow."

Both of these women have tied the attractiveness of their hair to it being more "Euro" than "African."
But they claim they don't hate themselves.

Don't mistake my meaning. I know plenty of strong black women secure in their black beauty who have relaxed hair.
Its their choice. The difference is, they are not ascribing their beauty to being more like a white woman
than a black one. There is just as much pressure in the opposite direction from natural chicks who will be quick
to tell a woman with relaxed hair that she is "brainwashed" and "hates her African roots" and is on that
"creamy crack"

But for reals, Ms. White Girl Flow and her compadre Ms. "Overprocessed Receeding Hairline" need to seriously think
about WHY they choose to relax their hair, not just the fact that they do it. The sad part is, a lot of womn
will secretly or publicly co-sign what these two women said about having relaxers.

The second segment of the show that made me weep was this clip:

These poor babies. I can't even get into this segment and dissect it the way I want to, because it would be
tome-tastic. I just wanted to point out a couple of specific things that were appalling to me.

First, my heart broke for Shaniyah who would rather rock that tragic matted Hannah Montana wig
than her own beautiful twisties with the baubles in them (though I question why her mom bought her that
wig in the first place). She was so adorable and the fact that she is tortured at such a young age shows how early this starts.
Also, little Kalayshia with her beautiful hair. Her plight shows that the pressure goes both ways. She has "good hair"
and is teased and bullied to the point that she wants her mom to cut her hair off, so she can be like everyone else. My LORD!

But their plight doesn't even compare to the MOTHER'S who are propagating this self hatred in
their own daughters:

Malia's Mother: Because of her own teasing and torment about her hair as a child, she made a conscious
decision (at the tender age of 11!!!) to have a baby with a non-black man, so that her child would have
"good hair". She then implanted in her child's mind the idea that natural African features mean you are
of a lower class, are untidy or unkempt and not worth very much. IF THAT AIN'T SOME SELF HATRED,

Kiana's Mother: Is she for real? Kiana's mother is white. She's got WEAVE in that baby's hair because
it is 'easier to manage'?! She admitted that the reason she approaches Kiana's hair the way she does is because she doesn't have
"time" to comb and style and nurture her child's natural hair. She said it was a 'selfish' move on her part
Its also a move that is going to have repercussions that echo with her daughter well into her adult life.
She has already been taught that her natural hair is a nuinsance and difficult to deal with-- at age 8.
She didn't come to this conclusion herself. It was made for her by a mother who was to consumed with her own schedule
to take the time to do her daughter's hair. EPIC FAIL.

Ranasia's Mother: This woman took the cake. This mother has admitted to putting checmical relaxer on the head of
her THREE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER. She said that when Ranasia was smaller, she had 'good hair', and as she
got older, it started getting curlier and nappier-- and she didn't want to deal with it. So she solves the problem by
putting RELAXER (a very harsh chemical) on the head of her baby girl. They showed video of Ranasia getting her
relaxer, and she was saying it burned her scalp, and burned her eyes. But in the end it was worth it, because her mother
told her she looked cute.

I had my own issues with my hair growing up... like any black girl
I came up in the 80's where it wasn't the relaxer, so much as it was the Jherri Curl (yes... LAUGH) that
my mama slapped in my hair at the tender age of 7. I hated getting that mess done, but she had one, a
and when we left the salon together, I imagined we were twins. What little girl doesn't want to be like her mom?
And my mom was FLY.

But as I was growing up, I saw my hair wasn't healthy and didn't "swing" like my white friends' hair.
So I went and got braids. Unbeknownst to me or my mom, I had started my 'going natural' process.
I had braids all the way through high school and college. I only got perms twice since then.
The first was for my senior prom when all of my friends were getting perms and weaves for the prom. I wanted to be like them.
So I took my braids out and got a relaxer and a weave. It looked nice, but I found that I couldn't maintain it. By the time
I was ready to go to school in August, I had put braids back in.

I spent the better part of college with braids and getting my natural hair pressed by friends when I could. My hair was
thick, healthy and shiny. Then came SENIOR YEAR and job interviews.

It was such a serious topic for so many of us that we actually had a Black Women and the Workplace
seminar, that focused more on our appearance (mainly our hair) than anything else. By the time that was over, many of us were
ditching our fro's and twists for relaxers or interlocked weaves, or more "euro" braided styles (if you didn't want to commit to relaxing).
The point was, we all felt that we would not be able to compete for jobs if we had natural hair. This struck our male counterparts too,
as many of them had grown beautiful locs during college, only to buzz them off in the name of Wall Street.

I only got a relaxer one more time since my senior prom, and that was when I was working in NYC. My hair had been
natural for years and my MOTHER told me that I wouldn't get a job unless I straightened my hair. At 24 years old,
I caved and got one. My hair looked great and I got tons of compliments on it. Then about 5 months in, it started to snap
off and shed like crazy. I deep conditioned, I roller set instead of blow drying and flat ironing, I even went for some
ApHogee treatments. Nope. My hair was not having it.

So, I went back to braids and started the process of growing my hair out all over again.

Today my hair is healthy, thick and has the cutest little curls. I generally keep it in braids, because I'm
LAZY, but you will never catch me putting a perm in it-- beacuse MY hair can't take it. I have friends who's hair
does great with relaxers, but I'm not one of those people. My girl children will not have chemicals touch their heads
until they are old enough to come to the decision on their own, if at all. I will make sure they are educated about the pros and cons
and also about their own genetics (no girl children on my or my man's side of the family do well with
perms in their hair. NONE). But I will always teach them to love their natural beauty.

"To thine own Hair, Be true."


Lil Honey B said...

great post, well written! I've been natural for almost 5 years now.

Cheekie said...

Great post, BBMo!

I have yet to see that entire Tyra episode. SMH @ giving a 3-year-old child a perm. F The Human Race's Life for that hot mess.

Hair is definitely a hot button issue in our community. Probably even more than skin tone. We're the race that is spending the most money to maintain it so yes I believe we identify with it or that our hair a part of our identity.

I've pretty much done it all (except for sew-in weave and lacefronts) to my hair. Natural, perm, back to natural, braids, microbraids, clip-on ponytail for the club (lol) etc. I currently have a perm and most of it is probably due to the corporate world. Also it is because I rock a bob (I've always wanted one.

I had a perm when I was

I probably will go back to natural in the future. I'm not afraid to. It's a personal choice (that should be made when old enough) and that's what I support. I don't support any extreme. I'm not with the "white girl flow" sistas nor am I with the "you ain't black enough with creamy crack" sistas. I believe hairstyles are just that. Experiencing with your look.

I think any woman should be able to feel confident in her hairdo no matter the style. It's only when that confidence is deep-rooted in the self-hatred of her own culture and worshipping of another when it becomes a problem. And furthermore, any permed sistas that think they're more like their melanin-challenged peers need to think twice because no amount of chemicals is gonna make our hair like theirs. Like my sister always say, "It's not like I'm tryin' to look like Farrah Fawcett!". lol...she actually did always say that, current bad timing not withstanding (RIP, Ms. Fawcett).

Regina Agu said...

Great post!! I watched the Tyra episode just now via Youtube. My eyes were tearing up too for these little girls. For them to already know the meaning of terms like "lower class", I mean DAYUM. And the whole wig thing *SMH*

I've been toying with the idea of returning to natural by early next year...and it's one of the reasons I went for a really short haircut just now (to ease my way into it...lol).

I'll keep you posted ;)