Although this is a subject I know very well because I live it, I have almost struggled to put this into words. It’s taken me years to undo the negativity I have felt towards my hair and to fully embrace and love my hair the way it grows. I’m still learning but so far it has been one of the most life changing journeys. This post is here to encourage you to take that journey, stay on that journey and help you refocus your mind-set towards your natural hair.
I’ve spent most of my life obsessing over whether or not my hair was good enough! I don’t even mean that in reference to my untreated afro hair. I mean even after all the chemicals and heat I would use, only then would I make a very harsh judgement on myself whether I had good hair or not!
Growing up I mostly had white caucasian friends. My only reference of beauty when I became more aware of “fitting in” were based on the standards set out for my white caucasian friends! I would pick up magazines like ‘sugar magazine’ and only see young white girls with their straight, long and GOOD hair! There was no-one who looked like me in those magazines so why would I think I was beautiful?
I mean straight, chemically treated hair must be good right? It’s everywhere and I can’t see the hair that grows out of my head anywhere… so that must be bad hair! No one wants it! No one even wants to see it!
That was how I saw the world as a young black woman. It wasn’t an irrational way to view my hair either because like I said, my hair couldn’t be seen anywhere!
The good hair debate is not a new one but with the rise of the natural hair movement the debate is hotter than ever! Black men and women are demanding representation in popular culture and fighting off beauty standards that do not match their beauty. Most importantly I feel like young black men and women are realising that they ARE beautiful and that not being represented isn’t for a lack of it.
I feel like black people with afro textured hair are finally (in my lifetime) loving and accepting their hair how it grows. We are finally realising that ACTUALLY we do have good hair and putting our fingers up at the people who disagree. We are wearing our afro hair to work and teaching our children to love themselves as they are. We are rejecting the impossible standards of beauty that even the people who they are made for can’t realistically reach.
If anyone knows how important healthy hair is… its black people! We reduce heat use, we reduce how often we wash all the good nutrients out of our hair, we add moisture, seal moisture, use protective hair styles and trim our ends regularly so we have healthy hair. I can’t tell you how many times I have had friends who do not have afro hair tell me their hair is dry or damaged from colour treatments, straighteners, over brushing, over washing… to me that is not healthy hair… that is not good hair. Why is it then, that if I look after my hair so well it would still be considered anything but good hair just because of the texture?
Good hair is healthy hair. My hair is healthy because I take such good care of it, even more than other people with different hair textures might, so I have good hair! No one will tell me different, although I know they will try.
The way that your hair grows out of your scalp is good and the way that it twists, turns and coils is good. Nobody decided what their hair would be like and we are only in control of how we look after it, style it, treat it… we are not in control of how it comes out of our scalps… therefore my hair is good hair!
I remember the first time I went for an interview feeling relaxed about my natural hair. I remember being nervous and wondering how I would be received. Would the interviewer spend more time looking at my hair than listening to my answers!? I had 2 Afro buns tied up with some cheap little bands I had bought the day before. As I sat waiting for my interviewer to join me I felt both of the bands snap (I’m not even joking… this is a true story)! Now I think of this as divine intention because suddenly and unprepared I had a full Afro out, unconfined and unapologetic. Even after all the worrying, there she was and there was nothing I could do about it!
I remember panicking for a few seconds and then thinking this is completely out of my control! There’s no point panicking and throwing myself off track to worry about my hair which I adore so much or I wouldn’t be growing it. Anyway… did I really want to work for someone who was willing to see my hair over my qualifications, skill and intelligence? Nope.
The door opened and another sign from the universe… my interviewer was a black man with short natural hair! At this point I was genuinely relaxed about my hair and concentrating on making the best impression I could. I had decided that whoever walked through that door, I was ready to impress!
So… texture discrimination? Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten the title of this section. I have a question for you first though; Have you ever been getting ready for a job interview (or any important event that you knew wasn’t going to be predominantly black) and thought so hard about what you were going to do with your hair? How you can make it PRESENTABLE? How you can make others feel RELAXED about your hair? How you were going to make the conversation about you and not your hair? I certainly have but now I know that is how texture discrimination made me feel.
I’m not ashamed to admit that, because now I understand that I was told to feel like this about my hair. The intense and heavy message I carried around for YEARS in my mind and on my scalp was texture discrimination. The idea that the texture of my hair was not beautiful or good enough to be on the cover of magazines, in an advert, on a model or anywhere that other people would have to see it was so deeply buried into my mind-set that I became immune to the idea of texture discrimination. I didn’t even realise I was being discriminated against. My first reaction as a child was to try to make it more like the hair that people wanted to see rather than using my beautiful hair to represent what I wanted the world to see and who I am regardless of their unachievable beauty standards set out for everyone but me.
I have to cut myself some slack though, after all I was a child. Children are easily influenced. This is why having these conversations now is so important. I hope that one day there will be a little black girl looking to buy her first magazine and I hope she might look up and see herself so that she might know she is represented, she is seen, she is important and that she is beautiful… but it’s going to take more than a magazine to achieve this!
If you haven’t already checked out the short film ‘Kinks and Curls | Texture Discrimination In The Natural Hair Community’ then I would highly recommend giving it a watch.
There are some great questions answered by women who have living experience and knowledge of what it’s like to be a black woman with natural hair today.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please check out my other platforms 🙌🏾👍🏾