Black Women and the Fear of Natural, Nappy Hair

Wigs, weaves, extensions and chemical relaxers are examples of how hair is socially, psychologically, and culturally significant to the black female experience
By The Star.com
As a black woman living in Canada, I often feel invisible when it comes to my natural hair. The television series da Kink In My Hair (which just wrapped up its first season on Global television) taps into a lot of the issues black women have with hair, but on the streets of Toronto, it’s a whole other story.

Some people might be offended by what I have to say, and others might think: “It’s just hair. Get a life.” Fair enough. But, since freeing myself from the dependency of chemically relaxing my hair every eight weeks, I feel it important to use my voice.

Too many black women can’t remember what it’s like to feel their natural hair. I know several, who have not felt their scalp since Bobby Brown was a member of New Edition. And I have sat in hair salons with women who spend more money on their hair than their education.

I also know a lot of black women who secretly want to go natural, but fear the reaction at work, what their family will say, even that their partner will leave them. If hair is just hair, you’d think going natural would be just as easy as processing your hair.

Then there are weaves, a process by which synthetic or real hair is sewn into one’s natural hair to give the appearance of long, flowing, straight hair. While many women, irrespective of race, wear weaves (they’re common in Hollywood), black women wear them to cover up, not merely enhance, their natural state.

Talk about hair is so woven into the black female experience that people often make jokes about who has “good hair” and who has “bad hair.” In the song “I Am Not My Hair,” India Aries sings, “Good hair means curls and waves/Bad hair means you look like a slave.” A lot of people might not have a clue as to what she’s talking about, but, as a black woman, I sure do.

One of the first things I learned as a child was that “bad hair” was not the same as having a bad hair day. It was a matter of texture. “Good hair” was the complete opposite of nappy, tightly coiled hair.

Admittedly, some black women have naturally long, straight hair, but most of us do not. As such, this is not about burning down the relaxer factory, or snatching a weave off someone’s head. It’s about uncovering the truth: when a black woman turns on her television, reads a magazine, or watches a movie, most of the images of black beauty she sees are fake, and her natural self becomes even more difficult to love.

Amid all these images, and all the time spent thinking about how to “fix” their hair problems, black women across North America face harsh realities that are not being discussed. A lot of black women are stuck in low-paying jobs, we’re barely seen on television and in film, and we’re often negatively depicted as hypersexual vixens in hip-hop.

In the book Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women, Noliwe Rooks says African Americans spend three times more than other consumer groups on their grooming needs.

Further, according to a 1997 American Health and Beauty Aids Institute survey, African Americans spend $225 million annually on hair weaving services and products. While these figures are from the ’90s, it is fair to assume that similar results would be found today, and would also be applicable in a Canadian context.

The biggest hurdle facing black people across the diaspora is a lack of history, especially when it comes to hair. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, by African American authors Ayana Bryd and Lori Tharps, is a good starting point. When you read books like this, you begin to understand why hair is socially, psychologically and culturally significant to the black female experience. While history is always a difficult subject for any oppressed people, you won’t ever know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from.

I’m old enough to remember when people sported afros. I never quite understood why they did it when I was younger but since then, I’ve read numerous books and seen countless movies chronicling the period. When black people went natural in droves, it wasn’t just about sticking it to The Man or a sign of cultural solidarity, it was also about self-love. The people who continued to straighten their hair were seen as turning their backs on their roots. Unfortunately, by the early 1980s, the Jheri Curl came along, and hair processing once again was the rule.

This history of hair alteration saddens me. Sure, all women have body image issues and anxiety about their looks. We’re too thin, too fat, not pretty enough or not feminine enough. Yet people rarely discuss how black women have been chemically altering the natural state of their hair for more than 100 years, and continue to spend money they sometimes don’t have to hook up a tight weave, just to be like everyone else.

In addition to hair, black women have a lot of other issues that are rarely discussed. For instance, according to the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, black women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Similarly, in the U.S., according to DepressionIsReal.org, a 2007 study found that depression among black women is almost 50 per cent higher than among white women. And black women are twice as likely as black men to suffer depression.

And so, it’s not just about hair. It’s about a lack of cultural awareness and an internalized negative pathology. In order to transcend a troubled past, you have to engage in an open and honest dialogue, but that requires acknowledging there’s a problem. On one level, I can understand why black women do what they do to their hair (I used to do it too). Natural black hair can be very difficult to manage and sometimes you just want to try a new look. Having said that, there are lots of products, books, websites and hair salons that cater to natural styles, but it requires effort to find them.

The last thing I want to do is pass judgment or demand that all black women run out and grow an Angela Davis ‘fro or Alice Walker dread- locks.

However, part of the process of healing is seeing yourself for who you are, and most important, accepting who you are.

There’s no better time to take that journey than during Black History Month, which beings tomorrow.

Cheryl Thompson is a frequent contributor to Chart Magazine. She received her MA from Ryerson University’s communication & culture program last year.

73 Comments

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73 Responses to Black Women and the Fear of Natural, Nappy Hair

  1. Kristie

    Thank you, Ms. Thompson. This is a dialogue that is long overdue. I sported weaves and perms in my late teens and twenties. I wish I would have never started the perm thing in the first place, but as you stated it was a matter of appealing to others who did not look like me or care. My hair is natural, and I love it. It feels healtier. Now that I have a daughter, it is my goal to teach her to care for her natural hair and feel good about it. Whatever she decides to do when she becomes the majority age, it will not be because mommy told her that her hair was nappy and I need to perm it.

  2. interesting, but we have more pressing issues to consider at this time…

  3. Cami B

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with Ms.Thompson about the negative connotations associated with black women and hair issues. I am admittedly a slave to relaxers. I do have naturally long hair that has been chemically straightened since I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8 yrs old. And I’ve debated this issue myself, and commented similarly on a different blog regarding hair issues. I think maybe one day I’ll go natural, but for now I’m not quite ready to do that yet. I’m sure going natural will require me to have to cut my hair, in order to start over and get rid of the chemically processed part. And I’m not interested in cutting my hair at this point in my life. It may sound vain, I’m sure it does actually but even though it’s chemically straightened, it’s mine. And many women white and black pay hundreds of dollars to weave their hair to have the length and full-ness I have. So I’m not ready to let go of that just yet. I guess having long hair has been sort of a crutch for me as a brown skinned black woman. Somehow making me more acceptable since I don’t have the fair complexion, I have the long flowing hair that’s not a weave. And I’m fully aware of this twisted way of looking at black beauty as it relates to universal or european beauty. But that doesn’t make me any more ready to make such a drastic change at this point in my life. I’ve joked about waiting until I’m a little older, thinking maybe I won’t care as much about fitting into the status quo. Only time will tell, but I guess I can at least give myself credit for being fully aware of the symptoms, not just the problem.

  4. Kittyhummerkitty

    It’s black women like the writer who makes hair a big deal. So what if black women want to wear wigs,weaves, or perms. Thompson is very ignorant! Is she aware that non-bw wear weaves,wigs, and perms? I have MANY white friends and most of them wear extensions. Do the other white women tell them that they must not feel good about themselves because they wear extensions? No!! That’s the kind of crap that’s only in the AA comunity. I’ve noticed that black people are quick to point the finger at each other but they wouldn’t dare point the finger at a non-black person. Gosh…black women wake up! If you want to wear your hair natural,weaves,perms,locks, or wigs…it’s your right and your business. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for expressing yourself. Beyonce, Tyra, Tina Turner, Oprah and many others are doing THEIR thing and they will not allow a few bitter ” I’m natural so everyone must be natural” sisters deter them.

  5. I’ve had every sort of black hairstyle except for weaves and locs. Natural, gheri curls, natural and braided, relaxed and braided or just relaxed, my hair has always been at least a little unhealthy. At the slightest sign of stress, it starts falling shedding like mad. I preferred braids because at least the shedding would happen all at the same time instead of getting all over my sheets, pillows, carpet and bathroom floor. At no point has caring for my hair been easy and if I could still look feminine with a very low cut, that’d be my style. Having had hair across the spectrum, it’s a little hard for me to understand the “self hatred” argument made by some very vocal natural hair supporters. It might have been their thinking but don’t presume that everyone who gets a relaxer has some identity issues. It’s really not that deep for most people. The state of my hair has always depended on convenience/ease, cost, the hair professionals available to me and whether or not I’d grown tired of a particular style.

    One myth is that natural hair is very low maintenance. That was very untrue for me after I stopped doing braids. I would rather sit in a chair for several hours every few months than add any steps to my morning routine that has me sprinting to my stop and doing my make-up on the train. I suddenly felt so sorry for white women after that since so many of them wash every day. That’s at least an extra 20 minutes that I could be hitting the snooze button!

  6. Kristie

    I do not and will not criticize any woman who wears her hair natural, permed, weaved, braided, twisted, or whatever she chooses to do with her mane. It’s a matter of choice. I prefer alternatives that enhance my beauty and not a preconceived ideology that strait is better. All hair types, textures, colors are fine to me. To each his own.

  7. I have nappy hair and I love it. The only negative reactions I got to my hair were from other black people, mostly women.

    Some people don’t seem to understand what the writer was trying to say. Black natural hair seems to be the most taboo hairstyle for a black women to have and it makes absolutely no sense. We’re black, but our natural hair is considered strange or taboo? It’s considered different or maybe even ugly if someone want to wear their hair as it is, rather than process it? Doesn’t anyone see the problem here? People can relax, wear weaves and do whatever they want, it’s just the stigma AGAINST natural hair that’s bothersome. The attitude that our hair is ugly. The attitude that we must conform to the European standard of beauty in order for us to look good. The fact that the majority of black women are uncomfortable with their own hair. The fact that we process the hair of our children at ridiculously young ages and feed them our negative attitudes toward it being nappy. I’m sorry, but it seems to be more than just choice to me.

  8. Sonnibunnies

    I decided to go all natural after years of curls perms and relaxers. I noticed after a perm my hair became brittle and extremely thin. After my last relaxer, I could see my scalp. I admit I did have some issues with going natural because of the reactions of people (black,white and brown) and a few self esteem issues of my own. I finally got the courage to let my hair grow out some and had all the perm cut out. I started wearing headwraps for a while. I found out about Carols Daughter hair products and a few other remedies for hair growth and began taking care of my hair. My hair began to grow. I have a very nice grade of hair, I never knew it. It’s been almost 3 years now. My hair is stronger and thicker than ever before. My sister is a different story. She can leave a relaxer in for 3 hours (of the strongest perm you can think of) before getting the “tingling” feeling to wash it out! Now that’s some tough stuff! Its all about hair texture. Relaxers were not made for our hair to be “bone straight”, but to make our hair (for those who need it) more manageable. Natural hair does take an effort to manage, but I’m worth it! Perms are just not for me. I wear wigs when I want a different look, but with the help of the Lord I will never put chemicals in my hair again.

  9. LC

    The issue of black women is always an interesting discussion. I do think that this particular article was worth commenting on. Now the Jheri Curl was just wrong. No one should be subjected to curl activator, stained pillows and a plastic cap. I am a black woman that has worn many styles. I’ve had my hair permed for years. I’ve cut it all off and started over wearing my hair natural and chemical free as well. I think it’s a matter of choice and a black woman has the right to choose how she wants to wear her hair.

    We shouldn’t have to wear our hair in a natural style just to prove how ‘black’ we are. The fact that I live in this skin is being black enough for me. I live in this skin all day everyday and love it. I think the way I wear my hair straight, curly, braided, permed or weaved only enhances the beauty that is black women. I perm my hair because I like the option of doing some different things with it. I wore it natural to give it a chemical break and have a different look for a while.

    If black women want to weave their hair—fine do it. It you want to lock it up—do it. What we should all stop doing is putting a value judgment on the way our manes are worn. I’m not any less black with a perm than I am with braids or an Afro because all of it represents who we are.

  10. I’m not a fan of the stigma. I’ve had natural hair and it definitely does exist and seems strongest in black people. My friend went natural and her boyfriend would tell her how great she looked only when she had it pressed. It will definitely impact your dating options if you’re single. Not a single black man tried to talk to me when my hair was natural and out. When I had a silk scarf and sunglasses on as I often do whether natural, relaxed or braided, suddenly, they’d approach me. My friends who had natural hair helped me. After trying unsuccessfully to do something with it so it’d stop breaking, one said I had “pickaninny hair” and “slave hair.” I thought about it for a while and just realized that my hair’s texture is something that seems to bother others. I’m too busy thinking about the length and the massive amount of shedding and breakage. If you found loads of hair on your shirts, coats, hair nets, scarves, towels, pillows and bathroom floors, would you really have room to be worrying about the texture of said hair?

    It also matters in certain career fields and you know right away if you work in that sort of environment.

  11. Blessed

    The point here is not that it’s okay or not okay to wear relaxers and weaves. But when we push those things exclusively and reject natural hair, what are we saying about ourselves? If you look at popular black hair care magazines, the vast majority of the styles and ladies featured are wearing weaves. Even in the so called braid books, the models are wearing a lot of synthetic hair. Is this really the message that we want to send to our young ladies who read these magazines – that they aren’t beautiful unless they have someone else’s hair sewn into their hair, unless their hair is covered up completely? These “hair care” books don’t even tell you how to take care of your hair. For the most part they just show women how to cover it up. Besides, it should be a wake-up call to us black women when people of other races ridicule us for wearing weaves.

  12. Ms. Nai Nai

    I am growing my perm out because I have come to realize that the perms have damaged my hair dramatically. I happen to have a great grain of hair. This I do remember from my childhood lol. So after years of perms, my hair has broken and thinned out so badly. I am tired of going to the hair dresser every two weeks, spending my hard earned money, and I am still dissatisfied with my hair. Right now, I wear wigs because I got so bored with my hair and wanted diffrent looks. I do feel better about myself and I do get more play now with longer hair. But after reading all of these responses and views on natural hair and why I should feel good about myself however my hair is, I need to do some soul searching and get the courage to except my hair type and further more my skin color, and embrace it. Thanks everyone for all of your comments!

  13. Pingback: Black Women & The Fear of Natural Hair « DiscoveringHair

  14. I am so glad I found this article It really touched me. Thank you.

    I love my hair. I love the way it feels. I love the way it looks. I have gone natural and when I was younger my mum never permed my hair. But as I grew a bit older I all of a sudden felt the pressure to get a perm. Even today people ask me why don’t you get a perm? what is wrong with my kinky hair doesn’t it look could.

    There are plenty of natural styles other than afros you can style your hair, some of us know that but find it hard to look for them on the internet because as soon as you type in black hair or something like that you will get about perms and weaves like they do not target to natural sistas. Even Tyra Banks said that they would not let her in the modeling industry with afro hair because it is not considered beautiful. This is a shame because I see the beauty in my hair but because of the media image of ‘whats hot and whats not’ or ‘whats beautiful and whats ugly’ some tend to try and look how everyone else wants them to look like. Think about it if you wear your hair natural you get some black people coming to you saying why don’t you perm your hair or get a weave, If you get a weave you get other people mocking you saying at least my hair is real. So there is pressure on both sides for black women, its like a lose/lose situation if we continue to let the media think for us.

    But your right the black womens hair is a BIG business. However I am tired of people looking down at my natural hair, I got a perm once and I do not intend to do it again, lets just say it is not me never has been never will be.

    PS: Black women are beautiful and so is their hair

  15. affrodite

    Wow, your post has generated some healthy debate. I hadn’t heard about the series “da Kink in my Hair” but I’ll have to see if there’s a spot in the US that will air it or if I can find it online.

    My mom refused to perm my hair until I was 12. She didn’t like putting harsh chemicals on young hair. It makes me sad to see little black girls with hair so badly broken off from perms. How does that look better than a well kept afro, some cornrows and beads, or simply natural hair pulled into 2 cute little afro puffs?

    I, too, don’t mind what you do to your hair, but I’d like to get to a place where black women will give equal consideration to going natural without worrying about the “consequences” and judgement.

  16. affrodite

    oops! I just realized that was an article from another site, but my point still stands. ;)

  17. Pingback: Interesting read from Hello, Negro blog « Affrodite’s Adventures in Nappy Hair

  18. gigi

    Unfortuantely our own black media doesn’t help change the stigma of our insecurities with our hair. The latest Ebony issue showcases several African American female moguls. They all had long flowing hair except I think for one. It looked as if she had dreadlocks. All through the magazine, I’d venture to say 99.99% of the black females had straight hair.

  19. Angela

    I have worn my hair natural since I was 17 years old. I saw a picture of Angela Davis and I was so excited to get to know what my own natural hair was like, and I have never looked backed since. Unfortunately for a lot of black women hair is a very sensitive issue, and many will write you off if you even make a comment about it. It’s like black women are force-fed a lot of things, but we are to never open our mouth to challenge what we’ve been forced to eat. Makes me wonder sometimes just how strong some people claim they really are. Going natural takes a tremendous amount of courage, and many women will never wear their own hair. In fact many will go to their graves in a weave before they let anyone see their natural hair. I’ve always been a rebellious type of person, so I don’t have an issue with conformity. I am who I am, and I love the fact that God made my hair the way it is. Like another poster here, I have had negative comments from black women as well. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. I think the fact that I accept myself and love myself (it isn’t easy loving yourself in this day and age, but I make an effort to do so) has a lot to do with it.

    Sure there are more important things to discuss, but your hair is a part of your being. If you can’t accept all of you how can you expect anyone else to? I’ve seen so many women with bald spots and receding hair lines, because the weaves they wear have done so much damage. I’ve seen a woman who looked like she had nothing on her scalp, because she had relaxed her hair so much. This is where I live, and these same women will then wear weaves on top of damaged hair as if no one will notice. We need open dialogue about this, because little blacks girls are being conditioned that weaves and relaxers are their only choices. Then it goes on to affect little black boys who have been conditioned to view straight hair as normal, and a woman’s natural hair as a “mess that needs to be fixed”. Yes do what you like, but I can’t accept that it is just a fashion statement when so many women admit they don’t know what their real hair feels like or hate to wear it out. When you’re wearing a bleach blonde wig and your skin is darker than the white girl who just got a tan. I have never understood that one.

  20. Kara

    I agree that there has been very positive debate from this article. Let me just start off by saying that I am a 20 year old that has seen many styles in her 2 decades on earth. My mother first relaxed my hair in about the 2nd gradeto make it more manageable. She admits that she loved the hair of my sister and I, but it was just so time consuming to do and hard to manage and she was a single mother going to school and working full time. Although it started off for convience, slowly, it grew into an acceptable thing to do as I got older. My hair eventually went from below shoulder length to above mid neck length. I began a viscious cycle of weaves and relaxers. I am now natural. It is the best decision that I have ever made. I love my hair, every kink, curl, and coil. It fits me so well an I only wish I went natural sooner. My mom wasnt too supportive in the beginning, but she is coming around.

    I do not bash women for how THEY choose to wear THEIR hair. It a personal decision that we are all entitled to. I love all of my sisters, elaxed and naturals. I just wish that the black society would learn to embrace and love each other regardless of differences. I wish relaxed sisters would stop forcing their ideals of straight hair on those with kinks and that natural sisters would stop forcing their belief that natural hair is right and relaxed is wrong. As long as your hair is healthy, who cares how straight it is or how far down your tailbone it flows?

    There is nothing wrong with educationg others on the historyofour hair and damaging effects of relaxers, just dont bring them down. Remember, there arelots of sisters with beautiful, healthy and even long locks that relax. Check out fotki.com because there are a lot of women on their journaling their hair stories (both relaxed and natural). Im on their too :-)

    Kara

  21. Felicia

    It is very interesting to me, as a Black woman living in North Texas, how it is rare to see Black women with natural hair. We have have worn “horse hair” on our heads for so long, we have forgotten what we look like. When you see the various female Black celebreties they have the long flowing hair. I don’t understand the logic of sitting in a beauty shop all day, letting someone apply burning chemicals to our scalps. And the pricetag is hefty. Some spend $200.00 dollars or more on weaves . I understand the arguments that it gives styling options. But remember who first told us our hair wasn’t pretty. Our old slavemasters don’t have us in chains anymore, but still has control of our minds. There are many Black women that would not dream of walking out the door without a perm or weave. There are those on this forum that say “I’ll wear what I want”. Let’s see you say that to your White boss at your job as they look at you with disapproval. The primary reason weaves and perms are used by us is to be more socially accepted. Or you would see more natural hair. It’s takes a lot of guts to wear your hair natural. And unfortunately, a lot of us are not going to risk it.

  22. Victoria

    All you say maybe true about the weaves, however the line about your white boss would be equally true if you come into work looking like Kuta Kinta with a bad hair day. There is a convience factor that comes along with braids and to some a weave. There are very few women working in Fortune Five hundred companies with locks or fros. I dont see these styles with Richard Parsons, Oprah, or any other major black company executive. Rather than focus on the hair styles of woman let focus on the lack of representation in congress with any style, or the portrayal of women in black videos, and tv. The general lack of education and justice in America. I would be the first to sport my puffy fro that isnt quite Angela Davis or Jill Scott to work that is hard to maintain, and keep kempt. If my rights were not violated, and I could be judged on the content of my character.

    I believe black women have the right to be as versitile as white women that have been wearing weaves for many more years than black women to look better to themselves. Now that it is available for black women we have problems. Be as natural as you like my sista, but let your other sistas make their own choice without judgement.

    Wearing my braided pony with pride.

  23. I love my natural hair, and it’s very unfortunate that more Black women don’t see how beautiful they are without having to look like White women.

  24. affrodite

    Ok, Victoria, your first sentence worries me. Why do you choose to identify a natural sista’s bad hair day with Kunta Kente? If you watched Roots or understood anything about Alex Hailey, you are actually hurling insults on a multitude of levels.

    That’s exactly the point Felicia was trying to make. I have worked for and currently work for many Fortune 100 companies and I never change my look for the purposes of an interview or a job. I interviewed and got my current job with my hair natural…just a headband and an afro. My mindset has always been that if a company is that superficial then I don’t want to work for them. No matter how you wear your hair, as long as it’s tidy (emphasis on the word “tidy”), then I think that’s acceptable. It’s the confidence, knowledge, and experience that you bring to a job that makes people interested in you. Let’s face it, the bottom line in Corporate America is as long you make them profitable they don’t care what you are.

    White people have some level of hair issues, too. For example, there’s some companies that don’t want men with long hair or facial hair. That would be a problem for me if I were a man and that’s the look I preferred.

    I think our own black community has more hang-ups than white people. They love our hair. It feels like cotton, right? ;-)

    Start thinking like Obama, Victoria. Yes, we can…

  25. Great post!

    One myth is that natural hair is very low maintenance. That was very untrue for me after I stopped doing braids.

    GBW, that’s exactly what happened with me! Braids are so much easier to deal with, and more cost efficient, too.

  26. Janet

    Felicia…. I find you’re statement, “Our old slavemasters don’t have us in chains anymore, but still has control of our minds.” … to be very troubling, as well as just WRONG!

    You must be what… 400 years old? When was the last time YOU were in chains or had a slavemaster?

    With this type of thinking, it’s no wonder you can’t figure out the best “acceptable” way to wear your hair! YOU ARE FREE!!! Color it purple. Cornrow a maze into your head. It’s your hair! Not yo masta’s!
    Each and every one of us was born unique and we are uniquely beautiful because of that. Amen.

  27. Tawnie

    I can totally relate to the hair issue. I recently braided my hair to assist with my rigorous exercise routine and it’s been interesting. I work at a predomanetly white department (I’m the only black female) and the reactions vary depending on the race and sex.

    The white women ask questions like: how long did it take, is that your hair, how much did it cost, etc. The white men either just say nothing or try in an uncomfortable attempt to compliment me. What I find sometimes worse is the other people of color, mainly Hispanics. They will outwardly express that they don’t like it. My quick response is: Well I didn’t ask you and by the way, it’s not for you to like. Furthermore, I didn’t have you in mind when I did it.

    Being a black woman in America, our hair is a political statement that at times can be the reason for not getting hired, getting a date, and so on. As usual we deal with stress and drama even when it comes to something as personal as our own hair.

    I am proud of the uniqueness that braids offer. We are a people who can wear this and wear it well. White women go on vacation to the Islands to get their hair braided for an exotic look, all the while their mainstream society would have us thinking that we were “unprofessional, unattractive, unappealing” because of braids. Well I disagree, I love my braids and wear them proudly. I don’t mind answering the ignorant questions because I realize that we know more about their world than they do ours. I don’t mind educating the ignorant.

    So sistas love yourself and love your hair!

  28. Shevy

    I recently went natural after wearing a relaxer for 20 years. Not only did I wear a relaxer, my relaxed hair was bouncy and shiny, sisters would ask me “who does your hair”.

    I made a decision at 33 that I was going to go natural. I grew it out over a year by wearing braids and sew-in weave, and I am love in love with my natural hair, I cut out the perm in Oct 07 and my hair has grown SO fast witout the chemicals. I work in corporate America (and had no problems)and I’ve learned how to do several different styles, from 2-strand twists, twist set, afro, etc. My non-Black co-workers love it and are intrigued by it. Brothers love it and want to touch it! LOL. Sisters ask me “how did you do that?!”. White women watch me in the locker room at the gym with amazement and comment on how beautiful my natural hair really is. I don’t have “good hair”, but to me, all hair is good. I love my kinky waves. I also love the versitility of being able to wear it curly, fro-y or blown-out and straight. What I learned is that I was rejecting a part of myself when I thought I NEEDED a perm. I feel a new level of love and acceptance of myself. That might not be everyone’s truth, but it’s mine.

    At the end of the day, we shouldn’t HAVE to conform to the white standard of beauty and I’ve decided that I won’t. You have to feel comfortable and confident about your self. Whether that’s with a natural, weave down your back, or a relaxer do you. Be free.

  29. affrodite

    Amen, Shevy! You and I share a very similar story and have a similar point of view. I enjoyed reading your post.

  30. I was so happy that someone is paying attention to this issue. Black women in America should take a lead in this issue because they have the resources to do so. I am from Africa and when I came here, I had a shoulder length hair that white men used to admire they just wanted to touch it. We are a unique race, the only race on the planet with a different hair. That is so wonderful. If we love our hair and no matter what others think, some of them will come to love it like they are now centuries and centuries later, stealing the size of our lips and buttocks. Thanks black men for standing firm and telling us hair don’t make a man hard, buts do and now it has come to pass. Thanks for allowing me to comment. I am almost bald now because caucasian hair kills kinky hair. I want my kinky back but it is gone.

  31. Shani

    Thank God for a strong mind. When I went natural, I did it because it was meant for me to do it, not because my hair was breaking, thinning, etc. Black women are not as strong as they claim if they still let others opinions about their natural hair deter them from going natural. It is only hair, right? Well, maybe to some, but change for the black community will start black women and a change of attitude about their natural hair. Remember: Change does not start with big things, it starts with the small, little things that we consider to be most trivial.

  32. Samantha

    I do understand about the stigma’s that women may carry around when they think of natural hair. Natural hair is nothing that I desire to have. I don’t feel like going to the beauty shop and perming my hair is an inconvience because with anything that you choose to do should never be an inconvience. My hair was NEVER long or flowing so I did try and appeal to everyone around my by wearing weaves. It wasn’t until I started to read “The Purpose Driven Life” that I realized that i hide behind my hair. So I started to pray about it and God helped me to be comfortable with “true self” without the weave. I didn’t find my insecurites with my permed hair, or hair weave but with the face of beauty that was being portrayed to me. Natural doesn’t equate always to nappy, so do what you feel is best for you. Cause weaved up or not, I’m fly as hell!

  33. Carrie Jordan

    Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Beautiful Black Woman!
    I read all the comments. It is not nice to call this woman ignorant…and Yes, some of our minds are
    still enslaved. But I ask you to think about this for a minute.

    Black People are the majority, we set the rules. We determine what is beautiful. We want all female employers in corporate America, models,
    etc. to wear their exactly like we say…and that is
    the way a black woman wears A NATURAL.
    Reverse your comments now as though you were
    not black.

  34. Hello Ladies!
    Im very happy to be at this forum. I spent the last 40 minutes reading to all of your interesting points of view. And here comes mine…

    I am mixed Puertorican, dominican black dad (with a strong african heritage) and a light skinned mom. My hair is curly, dry and coarse. I was always the one with short, “bad” hair when I was growing up. I remember my mom going crazy every morning trying to style it and me having to put up with all the mock from the kids at school because of my afro.

    When I was 14 yrs old my mom took me to a Dominican stylist for my first perm. Thank God!! Finally, it was possible to let my hair grow long without all the painful detangling and day to day high maintenance. I started using dominican hair products and the change on my hair was amazing. Their techniques to manage “afro” hair are all about deep conditioning the hair, ALWAYS roller set it (using a setting lotion to protect from heat)and then if you want your hair straight then they will style it using the blow dryer and a round brush. No grease, no oils, no gels or foams. That technique would keep my hair bouncing and behaving for two full weeks until it was time to wash my hair again. I would get a perm every three months, and my hair grew all the way down to under my bra line.
    I moved from Puerto Rico to Charleston, SC barely a year and a half ago, and as soon as I got here I was confronted with the question: “Who is going to take care of my hair?”.

    I went to all kinds of hair stylists. All colors, races, old, young, cheap and expensive. On all of them I received pretty much the same service. Wash with the “house” shampoo, condition with the “house” conditioner, wait one minute, rinse it out, put a lot of some kind of foam in my hair, into the hood dryer to get the hair dry and ready to flat iron it.

    I had no other choice, so I started to follow the trend and it took only six months for my hair to start falling to the point were I was embarrassed that my boyfriend and son would see these “tennis-ball-sized” balls of hair in the bathroom wastebasket. I developed dermatitis on my scalp and it was evident that my hair wasnt getting anything good from the products and techniques that I was paying for.

    I started to import the products I was using back home and found a stylist that was willing to learn something new. In a matter of two months my hair was back to normal and my scalp is back to being healthy.

    With all this said, I want first to tell all the people that believe Im not “black enough” that all black people come from the same place and have the same heritage: Africa.

    Second, that after my seven months research I have found what I consider is a tragedy: the huge amount of beautiful, young and bald black woman is getting to epidemic proportions. I consider it a health issue to be honest. Sadly, when I talk to them about it I see their little daughters 8-9 years old and already have bald spots and receding hair lines because of the stressed hairstyles. By the time they are 14 they are already using weaves and by the time they are 18 they are using weaves…..permanently. We have to educate our women and mostly our girls that a weave can be a great ACCESORY NOT A LIFESTYLE.

    Third, I learned that you have to educate yourself and be very aware of your hair care. Dont let anybody rush your hair. Make sure your hair gets plenty of time to get nourished and conditioned (can you eat all you need to be healthy in one minute per month?). If you wear weaves, make sure they give enough time for the glue to dissolve (I have seen how some negligent stylists pull weaves and it makes me cringe). Make sure your scalp is clean and try not to clog it with grease, remember: our scalp is an extension of our face. Would you keep your face greased up?

    To me, doing a perm three or four times a year worked wonders. It made my hair more manageable, shiny and less prone to breakage. I have never done a perm at home, with over the counter products or by somebody that doesnt know or is not licensed to do chemicals.

    Recently I joined facebook and people from my elementary school years posted a picture with me and my afro. My coworkers cant believe that was my hair, I always tell them that is still my hair, its just now under control.

    We all have our beauty, we just have to learn how to do the best with what we got and I found the Dominican products and techniques is MY way to achieve beautiful, healthy black hair that I enjoy styling every morning.

    If you have any questions or comments about what products I use please contact me at afrovida@live.com. Thanks for reading!

  35. Zion

    Kittyhummerkitty,

    Your over reaction is exactly why sometimes useful dialog does not take place. The author stated that she does not want anyone to pass judgment on black women who wear weaves, wigs, etc. She simply wants to attack history through the discourse of black hair. Yes, the black women you have named are successful, but even Tyra Banks did a show where she herself stated that her hair weave does put her just a little closer to the coveted “white girl” image. When some of my white peers were talking, they did describe Beyonce’s hair as that of a white American. Whether we admit it or not, due to lack of education we believe that long flowing locks are synonymous with being white. Yes, in the AA community we must have a dialog about self love because our journey is not the same as that of white Americans. I told my white girlfriend the other day, that yes, white privilege is more than money, but it is the idea that you get the okay on all fronts because of who you are. It is assumed that white women are beautiful, and that it takes a “special” black woman to measure up to that beauty. Yes, this dialog needs to be had.

  36. Gaylyn

    This is a very interesting article about Black womens’ hair. I, too, used to be addicted to wearing hair weaves. It started when I was in the ninth grade. In the beginning, I was only wearing it for to extend the length of my hair(which for some reason would not grow past my shoulders). As a child, I’d always had a head full of hair, extremely thick and coarse. Sometimes, I would use Pink Oil Moisturizer lotion on a daily basis just to even manage my hair. Eventually, I took a break and switched to wearning ponytails on a continuous basis. I’d still washed my own hair, but I barely wore my own hair at times. To make a long story short, the last time I wore weave, it nearly damaged my hair and I had no idea that there was such a thing called scalp damage. Thank God that I took the tracks out in time because I was at the beginning stages of scalp damage. Two things helped my hair to come back healthy: moving to Houston where there is much better hair care and cutting all the damaged hair off to start the process all over again. My hair was so damaged that I had to cut my hair to underneath my ears. My beautician told me that I’d better be lucky that my hair was thick because I had some very weak spots from where the weave was at. As a result of going to her two to three times a month, barely using heat, and always getting hair treatments, my hair grew from ear length to bra strap length in under 2 years! I am still astonished that my hair came back from such damage. The weird thing is that when I wore the weave, people asked me if it was my real hair, and now, people REALLY don’t believe that this is my real hair. From that last incident, I said that I will never wear weaves for as long as I shall live and I am embracing the hair that God gave me. Yes, I do get perms because due to living in Texas, I can manage my hair better with one as oppose to me living in New York or California where I’d probably not need one. Now, I’m embracing my naturally long hair and just keeping it healthy, lively and am very curious to see how long I can grow my own hair. My message to all Black women is that if you care for the hair that God gave you, it will grow. It just takes great hair care and patience!!

    Gaylyn

  37. This is one of the most beautiful, honest and profound articles I’ve ever read.

    Being a black woman who had relaxed hair for half her life and just recently (2 years ago) did the big chop and went natural, I can seriously relate…

    What you said about going natural being very liberating is an understatment! It’s one of the most spiritual things I’ve ever done. Even moreso now that I have chosen to loc my hair (it’s been just over a year)

    It’s a real shame how black women think that their natural state isn’t good enough. I’ve had so many women say to me (even members of my own family), “you’re good, I couldn’t do it.”

    These days I look at them with their relaxed hair and I say the same thing…lol. As a group we need to learn to love ourselves for what/who we really are.

    Mind you, I’m not knocking anyone for their choices and just like I did they will have to come to it on their own that natural is best. I even offer advice for the care of chemically altered hair, because whilst I don’t do it anymore, when I did, I did a very good job at it.

    More power to you for writing this. I am definately bookmarking your blog because this is the daily reflection that we need to change our mindset as a group. I dream of the day when natural hair is the norm and not a novelty.

    Black women are SO gorgeous in their natural god given glory. My wish is that more of us would realize that.

    Camille – Black Womens Beauty Advisor

  38. Chai -

    I found this page quite by accident and am intrigued by the article and emotionally charged responses. I am an African-American woman. My hair is relaxed like clockwork every ten to twelve weeks. It has been relaxed for at least the past ten to twelve years and I am unlikely to ever stop relaxing it. I prefer my hair in loose waves but my natural hair is curly. In fact, my relaxed hair is also curly. The difference is that the relaxer allows my stylist to set my hair and it is more likely to hold the larger curl or wave I prefer. Without the right product, my relaxed hair will frizz and curl as if it were not relaxed at all. My hair is generally considered by others to be good hair and I agree. What makes it “good” is that it behaves most of the time. The right, or wrong depending on how you look at it, weather conditions can turn my perfectly coifed do into the most unmanageable afro on God’s green earth. The right cut and product (and my amazing stylist) make my hair Pantene commercial-worthy. (Ok, not quite but a girl can dream.) I only wear it curly when vacationing.

    Here’s my question: I don’t relax my hair to erase over-curly, coiled or “bad” hair. I like the versatility that relaxing gives me and I can’t accomplish that with my natural hair. My particular circumstances don’t seem to raise eyebrows with other African-American women because I’m not accused of erasing any part of myself through my hair. Why are women with over-curly, coiled hair not allowed the same latitude without judgment?

    My second question: My African-American mother has naturally straight hair. It frizzes but doesn’t have a consistent curl pattern. She gets a permanent wave a few times a year to add body and wave to her hair. Is she trying to be black (silly because she already is) or trying to be like her white counterparts who curl their straight hair or just trying to find a hair style that best complements her lifestyle?

    I spend about $3,500 each year on my hair and it’s worth every penny to feel good and look good each day.

    Thoughts?

  39. Mica

    Okay, so I found this site my accident. I was looking for information for blow-outs and came across this. I currently wear a natural. My hair has a natural curl pattern that looks like coils when I wet it and let it air dry. It is absolutely beautiful! I get compliments everyday because people think that I have a straw set. I was looking to have it straightened becasue I wanted something new for a little while but I am deathly afraid of changing the texture of my hair and I by no means want to do that.

    My mother took me to the salon at about 10 and told my grandmother, who owned the salon, to do something with it. It was apparently unmanageable. She put a Bantu in my hair, and you know that stuff is like pure lye, it is so darn strong. At times I felt that I was in the scene of X where “Detroit Red” is washing that “lard” out of his head in a toilet. From that moment on, I felt that if my hair was not bone straight, that was something deathly wrong. As you have experienced, my hair begin to break off. It wasn’t until college that I went to get a touch-up that my stylist mentioned the curl pattern of my hair and said I should go natural. So we cut off all of my hair and my boyfriend at the time freaked out because he said I looked like a little boy. From then I went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Relaxer….natural….it seemed to never end. But at some point, it had to. I had to release the addiction to chemicals. Now I am not by any means saying that one is better than the other. I will support my sista in any way because I want her to feel beautiful, but I will admit that I give a little more support to the sista going natural because I know and understand the looks and the comments that family and strangers feel so compelled to give without even a slight feeling of why-am-I-in-your-business guilt and the “oh-my-god-I-can’t-take-this-any-more-stage” of the growing out process so I offer that extra push they need.

    So back to my blow out. I’m thinking that maybe I might pass on the blow out tomorrow. Save my money. I’m beautiful, Dammit! Carol’s Daughter has been doing me just fine thus far so why change it up, plus my hair is growing like crazy and is healthier than ever. So I may not get the looks or a date, but hey, my curly fro can keep me warm!

  40. I think that women should do as they feel but they should be honest with themselves as well. You should really ask yourself why…why a weave? why natural? why relaxed? I think one should be truely honest about their intentions towards their hair and their body.

  41. Po'Sha

    The real issue for some people is not the racial aspect though. I know this girl and she has amazing skin that is very dark and flawless but she has a very strong jawline and cheekbones…in other words she could pass for a man. She is very feminine as well and is always wearing makeup and dresses but she is always being mistaken for a man if she is not wearing a weave or extensions. It’s sad because her hair doesn’t grow very long but it looks really nice short and natural but when we go out people or always calling her sir.

  42. kasey

    I am not going to debate this issue. I will say that I have had processed hair and for the past 10 years i have been natural and I love my kinky, kurly hair!!!
    Will neva eva, neva eva eva go back to a perm. To each it’s own do you boo boo. If sistas want thinning hair from perms and weaves so be it or balding edges from traction (traction alopecia ) then go for it. Me myself, I’ll continue to enjoy my full head of kinks and kurls.

  43. VALERIE BENJAMIN

    I’ve attended cosmetology school and learned a thinga2 about hair and its anatomy and wish to further my education. I too hav been going natural for about a year and a half. I chose tocut all of my relaxer out after going in depth regaurding the products used in the chemical relaxer. I am definitely not knocking the sisters with the relaxers because ive done it for years you know. I can’t complain too much about the product used in the relaxers so much simply cuz look@the other things we are depositing in our bodies. But to start somewhere is not bad either you know. Everyday is not like Sunday with the natural but I must admit it carries so much meaning to it NATURAL. For the most part i found myself walking around with no reason to hold my head down because i feel natural and im not trying to portray somebody im not and never want to be but myself. I hope you can understand where im coming from with that. I can only speak for me. But growing up all i was shown on the regular was relaxers and relaxation. You feel me. Going NATURAL is showing me a difference in my life. It brings out and recieves the trueness the realness in alot of things I thought was beautiful. And in all due respect beauty is a feeling its the attitude your motivation that makes you. HONOR! RESPECT! Dont get me wrong I can truly say i am attractive but it so old to here p po saying how you look either sexy or something in that nature. When you havnt bn feeling beautiful on the inside. Wow this can go on and on. I LOVE MY NATURAL HAIR AND IM GONNA KEEP IT. MAINTAINANCE AINT ALWAYS EASY BUT IT MAINTAINS ITS PURPOSE. TRUST!

  44. Jabbar Amin Bond

    Black people straighten their hair and black men keep their hair cut short generally I believe because its more “acceptable” in American society. Most of the people in America have straight hair whether they are European-American, Asian, Mexican, and pale skin. The Africans (Black Man and Woman) are the only ones in this whorld (world) with this great hair and we are taught to hide it, cut it off, burn it or dye it. I am a black man. I remember in high school (I’m 30 now) even the guys wore texturizers. I did myself and I know that it was because I didn’t know my roots. It’s been a long time since thoes days of confusion. I once heard a Sudaneese woman Kola Boof say “I don’t need good hair I have Gods hair”. I remember how hard it was to comb my natural hair as a boy and thinking damn it hurts. Even when I got it to looking good people of would tell me you need to cut it. You can feel it you know that they don’t want to see you as your natural self. That’s why like so many of the sisters said every image of black (African) women in the media has straight hair. They profit to have African (black) people confused. For a long time I wore a fade or a low cut and a wave cap like most black man today still do until one day I was like I’m letting my hair grow and I haven’t looked back since like 2002. (The texturizer I stopped in 10th grade). But its not just here. I visited Tanzania in 04 and I was asked by one of the Tanzanian women why I wear my hair like that (in an afro) I said Why? She said the men all cut their hair but I think your hair looks nice. Its been a long time since I went to the barber shop for a cut. I would usually only get my hair cut if I had to look for a job. However since I’ve been more self employed I don’t have that concern. I think that once black people are self employing eachother more black women especially will be able to rock the crown like it should be. However when she has seeks employment from others she has to give it up and convince herself that she looks better this way. This is where media plays a big part. So come on black man lets get it together for her sake so we can be free. Once we do lets make it mandatory that no one will be hired if your hair is not natural. I learned alot in Africa even about caring for our hair. I learned how to take care of it and clean it through my own struggles without man made products. Thats what its going to take you really learning the crown. I came to a point now where even combing my fro everyday got to be a hastle because it was breaking or like Erykah said “flat on one side”. Finally I learned to just fashion it with just my hands water and a certain thick natural plant oil from ancient Kush days. It was used to light lamps but when you buy it from the store here it’s poor quality because it has been refined. You have to make it yourself. Believe it or not black people you should be washing your hair with just raw clay by first pounding it to powder putting it in you hair then wetting it. Look at the women from Angola and the Masai. Its clay in their hair with oil. Anyway back to the clay. Let your hair get heavy with the wet clay and water and it will coalesce into its natural spiral patterns. You can let it sit for a while till it gets dry then rinse it out. It will feel better than the best chemical shampoos and conditioners you can buy then when you rinse it out with some good distilled water. Then find that oil and put it in your hair. Any natural oil will do but the one I speak of is best because it helps your hair retain moisture. Yea there will be a little sand from the clay but you will be happy. If you live in the south Mississippi ect there is clay everywhere in the soil dig it up. If you have to go buy the clay buy brown or red clay not white. Yea this question stays on my mind with us and our hair. It’s critical. I always want to ask black women, “why are you doing that to your hair or to tell them that they would be more pretty than they already are without that fake straight hair.” It’s going to change though Cephus and Cassiopia are on their way to the pole position.

  45. Tilda

    I’m a white woman, hope it’s ok to comment.

    I have kinda nappy hair myself and since I’ve let it grow (had it super short for a long time) the pressure seems to be on to “do something” about it. People have asked me if I ever considered straightening it. I won’t. Ever. I bought myself a nice tub of African Gold and embrace the curls!

    I am pretty sure that my experience is quite a different one from the ladies here.
    Just thought that it might be nice to read that other races can relate at least a bit.

    I am planning on getting dreads one day, when the hair is nice and long! :)

  46. Nesha

    I am natural my own self. I have been for a year and I love it. of course people have their lil comments on it but i don’t care. any kind of hair is beauty. but its just something about being natural that brings out the ethnicity

  47. Rick

    Just yesterday on Oprah, Beyonce said when she wears a wig, she acts different. ?. Are the black women trying to hide something. Some of these weaves on TV look so fake and ulgy. In the Bible, God likes his Woven Hair!

  48. yahava

    Man, I use to get perms, but I stopped in the ninth or tenth grade, lol, I’m only nineteen, he he, not cause it was breakin my hair off but because, I had an eewwwy in my hair and the shampoo the doctor gave me stripped every thing out my hair, even the little indian doctor(from india, lol) said I had nice hair, so I just decided not to get them nemore. My hair is really curly and yeah sometimes its hard to deal with, and that’s when I bring out the flat iron, its freakin awesome to wear my hair curly and strait, everybody loves it, and if they don’t its their opinion, who cares? Really? I love my hair even though it’s hard to maintane sometimes, its still freakin awesome, I have a sister who is mixed of puerto rican and black and we have the same freakin, hair its so freakin awesome! But as far as I know she black, I’m black, so it doesn’t matter me and her both help each other with our hair, bonding time, but yeah to women who want to wear their hair natural, awesome, to people who get perms and all the other stuff, even more awesome, I myself say that when my hair gets back long again I’ll get a perm, but am so terrified of the damage it might do, somebody help me, I went to the beauty salon for prom and they didn’t know I had natural curly hair, cause my hair was bone straight from me flat ironing, boy were they in for a surprise when that water hit my hair, they had thought I had a perm, they all said I didn’t know you had virgin hair, whatever that is, lol it was soooo funny, but she straightened my hair and that was that!

  49. Dee

    I really enjoyed this article. There is a lot of truth to what has been said. I have recently gone natural, approximatley 3 mos ago and it has been the best decision I have ever made. I didn’t do it because I had damaged hair….The idea of natural hair has been eating at me for months. I have had every style from perms, weaves, wigs, braids, etc and have found that not only is my natural hair beautiful, but much healthier than it was with perms. I guess the biggest problem with my going natural was convincing my husband that it’s beautiful and I’m still me. He was used to seeing me with long, chemically treated hair. I use to spend so much money at the shop on perms, color, all kinds of different hair treatments just to keep my chemically treated hair healthy…that is ridiculous. What’s even worse is that my old hair dresser doesn’t speak to me anymore, she didn’t think I was gonna do it, but I guess I proved her wrong lol. I can’t speak for any other black woman and what works best for her. All I know is that the time had come for me to make this choice and I’m happy to be nappy!

  50. Ingrid

    I hope one day the majority of black women will realize that their beauty is enhance by their natural texture of hair and the right hair cut or style for their facial features and head shape. Also proper maintenance and natural hair products that does not destroy the hair.
    Also the helix hair type is your antenna to the universe. Helix is a wonders and mysteries of the rhythmical resonating patterns of Nature. From the spiraling galaxies to the curvy-linear form of DNA, the swirl of the pattern of hair on our heads to the rhythm of our hearts, we along with the entire natural world are made from these same magical wave patterns.Helix reveals the pattern that is archetypical to all life
    Peace

  51. Gail

    Interesting Article, a good read. I can definitely understand where you are coming from. It is not about knocking down the women who wear weaves and perm their hair. Because, simply stated, it is our hair and our choice…but it is about the women who are AFRAID to go natural. The women who can never imagine their hair in it’s natural state. It is a sad truth for some. But really they have to see the many options they have with their hair even being natural. Maybe women should be more informed.

  52. I got so tired of going to the hairdresser and spending 1/2 a day there just for a perm. I was a single parents with two active girls. That was a hugh waste of my day. I tried to be slick and schedule appointments before I had to go to work in the evenings. That didn’t work. Made me late a couple of times. I got tired of the chemicals. I have been wearing locs for about 11 years now. It would have been longer but my baby at the time (4-5 yrs) said it would be ugly. Fast forward 5 yrs. I decided I was going for it. My baby still thought the same thing-uglyness-but it didn’t matter. I got negative comments from friends and family-”I have to see how I feel about it” “The jury is out” “I don’t like that” “Are you going to keep it like that?”. I got no support. They did’t realize it was about ME not THEM. Since it has grown out ( down to my behind-I’ve cut it twice), most now gives positive comments. Even the baby girl who is now 21. I’ve had those that want me to start theirs. For me, the transistion was easy. What was not easy was the negativity from loving friends and family-who I needed the most. That was a learning experience in itself. Why is it I have more compliments from white people?

  53. Why do some of you need to compare to white people and state that they wear weaves and wigs as well and etc.?
    Are we them? No and no we’re not all the same. Look at your self and look around you, who owns it all? Not you, Not Us.
    Therefore, the mentality that we have is inferior to them and yet it’s been perpetrated that we are all equal. Now we have become docile and can’t even come together to even own a block on a metropolitan neighborhood, at least not where I’ve been.
    So how can any of you dare to compare yourself to them, even when it comes to hair.

    Our hair is our crown. Anything stylish, we have already done ourselves before anyone else.
    So don’t compare, just celebrate that the white poison is out of our hair.

  54. k.walcott

    Jabbar Amin Bond….I was in Tanzania around that time too.

    kcw7@duke.edu

  55. sharron

    Can we all just love ourselves for who we are, remember when we all die hair, money,fame,and ethnicity want matter god don’t judge those thing he judge one’s soul.

  56. I agree with you- this conversation is long overdue. I didn’t know how much hair meant until I asked my wife to go natural for a while and see if she likes it. Its so bad that nothing gets done at times outside the house if the “hair is not done”.

  57. Fred Hewitt

    I am delighted to join this conversation. I hope that my input would help my black people, regardless of the hues of the skin understand that they, in my eyes, look UNREAL (and in quite a few instances, downright ugly) with their heads covered with all that unnatural stuff.

    But I should tackle my own gender first.
    What’s wrong with Obama, the two black men on CNN and several other prominent black men?

    But first, I should ask: what’s wrong with their barbers? Why do they have to inflict our young men with such unnatural haircuts?

    Black men are altering the natural growth of their hair.
    Instead of combing the hair back, which is natural, they are brushing and combing it forward.

    And the barbers are putting razor marks along the foreheads which give our black men a stern look.
    And because of this, it seems to me that black mens’ hairlines are receding faster.
    And quite a few of them have resorted to having shaved heads.
    And, God knows that young black men need to have the hair on their heads to invite combing so that our brain cells will be stimulated thereby helping us to get smarter.

    But I must say as a tribute to our young men that they are not slicking their hair like the Black men of yesteryear.

    It is true that white women resort to unnatural ways of hair enhancement, but white women generally have hair that is long and wavy and perhaps, more easily managed. Whatever is added,
    is not as distinctly different from the hair we know white women are known to possess.

    But, for God’s sake don’t tell me that Oracene Williams and her two charming and intelligent,
    talented daughters’ personae are improved with those wigs that they wear.

  58. Cinnamondiva

    As a biracial woman who looks white, I have one “black” feature that gives me away…my hair.

    When I look at childhood pictures of myself, I’m blown away by my long puffy hair. Back then it was mostly braided into pigtails or styled in gorgeous twists. My mother battled with my hair.

    I was a cute little girl…but I grew up feeling ugly and inferior. I didn’t believe I was pretty. In the late 80′s, I attended a private school with mostly White children. There were very few children of color, with the exception of Asian and Hispanic kids. Only a handful were Black.

    My earliest memories of my hair are painful…not only the combing, but the way I felt about it. At 6 years old, I had internalized certain beauty ideals. I noticed that teachers were sweet to the little girls with long, silky hair flowing down their backs. If they were blonde? Well, they were considered perfect. They weren’t so nice to the ones with “nappy” hair. I remember being out with my mother and my younger sister, who happens to have both naturally honey-blonde hair AND blue eyes. She has soft, flowing curls. She has never relaxed her hair or put chemicals in it.

    We were at the grocery store and the cashier (a Black woman) stared at us. Then she says to my mom, referring to my sister: “She is sooo pretty”. She ignored me. My mother was visibly bothered by this. She told the cashier thanks, but we were both beautiful girls. The woman said dismissively: “Well maybe, but the little one has prettier eyes. Her hair is better too”. I will always remember how that made me feel.

    There were so many painful incidents with my hair. In middle school, a white boy that I considered a friend told me that I had “n***er hair” out of the blue. The same thing happened in high school while I sat in class. This Hispanic boy with dark skin uttered the same vile insult at me for no apparent reason. When I was about 21, a Hispanic female friend of my ex-boyfriend made the same racist comment about my hair. It felt like being slapped every time people would say these things to me.

    The men I’ve been with? Most of them have been insensitive when it comes to my hair. The Black men I dated before I met my husband expected my hair to look like a White woman’s. Anyway, I’m not with them anymore. My husband is White, and I decided to school him on my hair type. While we were dating, he innocently made some backwards comment about preferring my hair to be “smooth”. I told him that I don’t naturally have “smooth” hair without the help of chemicals. Being half white doesn’t mean that a person will have straight hair or fine, wispy curls. My sister has that type of hair. I don’t.

    He didn’t understand Black hair or the notion of racist beauty ideals, believe it or not. So I explained it to him. After that, he understood that you don’t ever criticize a Black woman’s hair.

    You all made some wonderful points. Hair is a very sensitive subject…I feel emotional talking about it. To those of you who don’t care, your experiences were probably not painful. But those of us who care about this issue need to be free to have a conversation about it.

    I want to stop relaxing my hair. I wish I had the confidence to rock my natural hair and love myself. I wish I could walk in the rain. I wish I didn’t covet the hair of white women. I wish people with my hair were represented more often in a positive light. I wish people wouldn’t imply that I’m ugly or unfeminine because I don’t have so-called “good” hair. I wish the terms “good” hair and “bad” hair would go away.

    Whether another Black woman wants to relax, press, lock, twist, cut, curl, color, braid, or weave her hair doesn’t matter to me. My problem is with people who talk about natural Black hair as if it is something to be ashamed of. Attitudes like that have caused many Black women (including myself) to believe that we are not beautiful. It needs to stop.

  59. All I can say is that I agree, I am sick of seeing white-like black women on TV, I would love to see more women with dark skin, broad noses, and natural hair.

    I have natural hair, and there’s nothing to fear. In fact, I am complimented for it constantly. When my friends see me after a long time and say they miss me, they usually add “and I missed your fluffy cotton-ball hair as well”.

    I don’t know why women have been programmed/influenced into thinking they are not good enough, and there’s always something to improve/perfect. It’s not all the media’s fault.

    My mother and father encouraged me to wait until 18 to relax my hair, and after 7 months, I was begging to be natural again. I missed my thick, curly, NAPPY hair. I lost 2 inches, now it’s just below my shoulders thanks to those deadly chemicals.

    Anyway, I just want to say I agree with you and I am sick of seeing straight-haired puppets walking around. Time for women to wake up and love themselves again!

  60. @Cinnamondiva

    You said it so well.

    Hair sensitivity might not be universal among Black women, just as awareness is not universal among us.

    But personal experiences DO matter. And for many of us, personal experience is what drives our relationship with out hair.

    @Everyone Who Reads

    I’ve almost every hairstyle mentioned in these comments except a weave. I’ve worn my hair long, short and dyed colors not found in nature.

    I’ve even shaved my head completely.

    I’ve had natural hair that fell past the middle of my back when straightened.

    The first time I chose to wear my hair unprocessed (grade 8) it was because I realized that I didn’t understand WHY wearing it that way carried such a stigma in my community.

    I’m old enough that afros had been in style when I was too young, and my hair not kinky enough, to rock one. When I was 13 or 14 years old, and I’d grown out my unfortunately experiment with a Jheri Curl, I wondered what had happened to the girl who’d wanted an afro so badly, I sometimes stuck homemade concoctions in my hair just to make it stand up.

    I’m not certain how old I was when another standard of beauty replaced my reverence for the afro or “natural” but I remember what happened when I started to miss those days: I was mocked. I met resistance from others of all races. And not until the year I graduated from college did I end the back and forth of chemically straightening my hair, getting annoyed that I’d bowed to a standard I didn’t believe it because I was caught up in what others believed in (I should mention that, at the time, I had an über-supportive White boyfriend who would braid or twist my hair for me), cut it off and grow it out, over and over and over again.

    As the author wrote, and which a few commenters hear appear to have ignored or missed altogether, I don’t condemn women who choose the weave or the sodium hydroxide or the ammonium thioglycolate. But I DO wish all Black women with kinky hair would consider the reasons why the might choose to change before making the change. And I wish all people with all types and textures would consider why kinky hair is so often considered unacceptable. And I wish they’d consider the hurt that their words might cause when they condemn Black women who choose it.

  61. kuz

    I am going to say this first. I am a black male. Nevertheless this topic is related to me as any topic that affects one of us is related to all of us. I currently live in Japan. I have spent time in over 13 countries. I wear dreadlocks. Anyway my main point is this. My natural hair in a country such as Japan makes people very curious. As many Japanese do not interact with foreigners daily. Seeing a black male with dreads is even more of a rarity, but people see it and they like it. It seems desirable, but in japan so are white people with blonde hair and blue eyes. Japan has amazed me with how they view things, but nevertheless they are quite xenophobic. My dreads shouldn’t be too long, but of course any place is like this with long hair even with other japanese people.
    my experience in America(home) has varied. Random people I encounter when I do errands may see me as trouble, or interested in where I got them done, or may not care at all. A majority doesnt care. Some see me as trouble and cause trouble, but I believe regardless of hair they would have held these views. Simply put if a white person thinks because your hair looks more african and hates it. Then more than likely that person didn’t like you for being of african descent in the first place and isnt worth your time. This can be applied to companies. For me I am still in academia but even so I have interned with my dreadlocs. Ultimately for jobs, it is how you carry yourselves.

    I believe though the type of discrimination people who choose to get a natural hair style goes through is from other black people. We are very much the most hung up about this. Black women have indeed hidden their natural hair for far too long that they forgot what it looked like, I can assert further that everyone in America has. And when a white person sees a young black professional with natural hair. All sorts of questions are asked, can I touch it? why is it so curly, and soft? How do you wash it? How do you keep it so tidy? How often do you need to cut it? What is hair oil, and why do you put it on almost daily? These are questions of curiosity. Not so different from when I am asked them in Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Turkey, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Macau, Brunei, etc…. I truly believe African Americans on certain things give each other the hardest time, and often for no other reason than forcing a perceived norm based off of a premise that we wont be accepted by the mainstream society if we dont drastically throw away our ethnic and cultural identity that we spent 400 years creating, and trust me that is an extremely short time for a culture to have existed. Point being said an elder may say there werent any dreadlocs, or fros when they were young, but of course our culture is young, and these changes will happen especially now that we are in an age of trying to figure out who are, and where we will be going as a people in the future. Yes, we are oppressed, but of course if your hair is quite messy, you didnt comb it, or you dont worse on a regular basis. You may become a social reject by everyone, but if you do those things. I wouldnt worry so much, but of course we as black people give ourselves the hardest time. Even highschoolers will have rules dictating what is black and what is not. These things do more harm than good. And lack of social cohesiveness does a lot of harm.

  62. Kendra

    Hmmm…I can see another side of this. For black women, we have abysmal marriage rates. I, for one, think some of us look utterly fantastic with short hair. But a trend I’m seeing is women in their late 20′s and early 30′s chopping off all their hair and going for natural, shaved looks. Then they watch in agony as all of their friends with relaxers and weaves get married, one after the other, as they sit at home alone. It’s one thing to express your natural beauty, but quite another to expect men to just “accept it.” I would love to loc my hair, but I’m 30 and unmarried and I won’t even take that risk. I want a family and a marriage more than I want to express my RIGHT to look natural. I can shave my head AFTER I’m married. That’s the same justification women use for being obese. They say “he should love me for who I am.” Okay, maybe there are men who like big women, but you’re narrowing your prospects, overall. I lost 40 pounds when I decided I wanted to marry. I think for some of us, we get so disillusioned with the lack of marital opportunities that we cut off our hair in frustration. Then get more frustrated when we can’t get married.

  63. Allienova

    I know I’m a bit late to this conversation but the very last comment broke my heart. First the comments about men not paying attention to girls with natural hair is a matter of location and the kind of men your around and frankly where your looking for said men. I’ve gotten MORE attention due to my natural hair rather than the relaxer look I sported 3yrs ago. I’ve had men come up to me when I was sporting a tiny curly fro stare at my hair and say straight up: “GOD, I love it when girls do their hair like that!” The same is true of several other black women who are also natural that I know (and if you look around the net many others too).

    Secondly, if a man is with you because your hair was straight and you where a certain size then I question the basis of the relationship. If you are relaxed or natural, big or small his response about your image should be: “That is not why I’m with you,” or something similar.

    Please note before any flaming or whining starts:
    1)Am I saying that such shallow men (and women for that matter) don’t exist? Hell no, we see them everyday some of us sleep next to them every night.

    2)Am I saying that you shouldn’t look nice or be in shape? Hardly. I am all for being the best *healthy* you. Natural OR relaxed/weaved haired sisters should make an effort to look their best.

    I too also see these women with the short hair and in some cases it looks great on them, in others not so much. I can’t help but wonder if it’s more of the fact that they just got lazy and yet want to be natural (or just didn’t want to relax any more but not learn how to take care of natural hair/ OR is just plain too chicken to learn and this is seen as acceptable naturalness?). They feel that boy short curly hair =natural and/or easy no care hair. Again not so much. You’d be surprised at how many men DO ‘just accept’ natural hair in either short or long glory. I’ve found it more that women fuss about their hair more than men. As long as you look attractive and approachable most don’t really mind. (See comment above before the yelling starts)

    Ms. Kendra, I feel that you are equating short hair with lack of marriage and that the frustration due to lack of marriage can lead a woman to cutting her hair off which simply perpetuated the cycle of singleness. I can’t help but find such a theory flawed on many angles. I can name several straight haired sisters with size 6 bodies who aren’t married and just as frustrated there are several short and or natural haired sisters who are in the same boat too. I can also name several who’s boyfriends and husbands are asking them to stop with the weaves and relaxers because they don’t like it.

    I completely understand your concern and I do sympathize but I feel that perhaps your concerns are rooted in more than just a desire to get married. Something about this seems terribly flawed. In fact towards the end you where saying you want a man more than you wanted to ‘express your right’ to be natural.’ So…natural (or short haired) sisters don’t get men? Am I narrowing my prospects by just being a natural (short) haired sister? Hell if so I haven’t found it to be such a bad thing so far. If a guy’s going to say something negative to you because your hair isn’t straight or your not a single digit size it but he will smile and complement you if you are I want to know if a such a man is even worth your time anyway?

    Please correct me if I have some how misunderstood. My deepest apologies if so.

  64. Darlarosa

    I think the point here is that NO ONE should feel ashamed of their hair. This article isn’t calling women who relax or straighten their hair insecure. It IS saying that many women who would go natural do not is because their is stigma against the kinky state that is common amongst black women. For years Blacks were taught that essentially white is right and everything else, in particular blackness, is wrong and thus ugly. It is not just blackness. In India skin lightening creams still are a hot commodity, in Japan women have begun getting cosmetic surgeries to look more western. It is fine if someone wishes to do such things, as it is with relaxing hair. The issue is when everything that is not western, light, and straight becomes the abnormal ugly standard. The issue is that people still call “Good hair” anything that’s straight and half decent and “bad” hair anything that is kinkier than being simply wavy or curly. No one should ever feel ashamed of their natural looks. It is ok if you wish to change something about yourself, but there is a difference between changing yourself by your own decision, or simply changing yourself because you have been told you need to change because you are ugly. Everyone should be able to do what they like without shame

  65. monique

    I literally almost got into a fight with a girl in my school who suggested that I get a perm as she sat with her friends to snicker etc. I called her out on it and was about to half strangle that chick. Smh. I don’t get it. I mean black women can wear w.e. they want or any other race however they want but why is it with blacks we persecute each other for wearing It the way we want ? I’m black and puerto rican and spanish do the same thing but not as much as the blacks. I came into the locker to change for gym and a hispanic girl said hi pretty lady and complemented my hair yet a black girl talks down to me? It makes no sense. Self hate is disgusting.I actually come to find my hair grows a lot more when I wear it natural anyway so what’s the issue. Idc how black women wear their hair but don’t bother someone else because of how they want to wear there’s! I’m only 17 and it drives me crazy to my hair being thought as ugly because I don’t want anymore heat damage from straightening it!

  66. saeeda hunter

    I have been through hair trauma all my life. My mother tried perming my hair (it would burn my scalp and still wouldn’t be straight) I have had curls that the next time I needed a touch up, my mother or her friend would use a different product it would take my hair out. I grew up being called bald headed, nappy headed lil black girl or they would say where are you from Africa (and that was a bad thing). I have had boys that would not talk to me in front of their friends because my hair was short, but would try to holla at me and tell me they love me after every one was gone. The only thing that saved my self esteem is that my mother alway made me feel beautiful and proud of Africa. I don’t remember the lady’s name, but she told me I was pretty when kids were calling me african booty scratcher and other stupid names just because of my hair and my complexion. As adult, around 30 something, I went natural because I got tired of perms. Everyone in my family had what you call “good hair except me” . As I went natural even my own children laughed at my hair. I wear a lot braids and my hair would grow a little fro ova the braids in just a day or two. I have had to deal with it shedding and falling out, not long enough for styles I want. But when my hair is healthy I love it. but with the ups and downs of natural hair I still love it.

  67. me

    As black people, our hair sets us apart from every other race. A black woman’s hair is never just hair. Since the belief is that straight Caucasian hair is the best, when a black woman wears her natural hair she is met with suspicion and hostility because she is rejecting that belief. It can’t just be that you wear your hair that way because you like it, you must be a criminal, drug addict, Black radical, lesbian, have a lower income, or be infected with Aids or Hepatitis.
    I was in seventh grade when I first had my hair processed. All of the girls I knew had their hair chemically straightened and I was not only teased in school , I was harassed at the salon by the hairdressers for my nappy hair that they claimed was so hard for them to comb and iron. Beaten down and humiliated , I finally gave in. I remember sitting in that chair, my scalp on fire, and feeling that I was doing something so unnatural and wrong, like part of me had died. In a way it had. It was the beginning of pushing the real me down and putting on a mask to please others.
    What happened to me in that salon is what the beauty industry has done on a mass scale to all women, but especially black women. They sell their products by making women feel that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t get “the Look”, which is whatever they come up with. If you don’t conform you are met with ridicule, shunning, and public humiliation, especially from other women. You are made to feel like a loser who can’t get a job, man, ect. if you don’t conform. I’m forty-one years old and though I wear my hair in locks, I still struggle with the desire to fit in. Do you look like you would if others weren’t judging you? How many of us are really free?

  68. Fred Hewitt

    Please do not try to fit in! You are of mankind. And your hair is good and beautiful. It makes that unique contribution to humanity’s colorful fabric.
    If you find your hair difficult to manage when a little long, have it cut short and comb it as a black man does his hair.
    I have seen many smart, professional, lovable, black women who manage their hair quite simply and well, without resorting to those ugly wigs and the other paraphernalia that many black women employ for such distasteful hair dressing.

    Let me point out that I am of about two-thirds African and have kinky hair and am married to a woman of Full European descent. But remember, science tells us that Europeans came out of Africa!.
    I have four grown male children who are married to or live with women of all shades of blackness and textures of hair.

    I have three sisters with hair of a kinky texture who don’t wear and dislike wearing wigs. I have many nieces. Few have worn wigs.

    It seems to me that all black women have to do is to keep themselves looking smart and tidy and pay a lot of attention to their avoirdupois.
    Your new found self-respect will release you from the artificial things that make you look pretty ugly.

    But then you have role models like the William sisters and their mother.

  69. Jamila Anisi

    I just recently went from shoulder length relaxed hair to a shorter style. Then I Cut it all off and now have a fade. I have never “liked” or “enjoyed” getting a relaxer. It’s no use going every couple of weeks to get it done especially because my hair grows super fast. But I do feel like we are pressure into having that “look”.

    Someone said that white women are always getting extensions. That’s not the issue here. They are not changing the complete texture of their hair with harsh scalp burning chemicals.

    I had locs from about 9 years old to 14 years old. I had a huge afro before I got locs. It was so hard because my classmates jeered at me for having what they called “doo doo braids” and “snakes” in my head. They grew to be just below my waist when I cut them all off and ran straight for the perm. Surprisingly everyone secretly loved my locs and admitted this when they were gone.

    Now I’m choosing to embrace my hairs natural state again. I’m still in a permed mindset and I’m trying to get myself out of it. More of us need to get back to our own good and beautiful hair.

  70. Lilianna

    Yes, at least when I wear my long hair straightened, I don’t have to pull it off every night and duck past mirrors beacuse I hate how “picky” my hair looks.

  71. To each its own. If you like to flow your hair by george flow it, if you like the natural thats your freedom to do so. I am doing my own thing and i dont need anyone to help me with my idenity and one thing for sure hair does not make the woman this woman makes the hair. Sisters stop beating each other down. If you like your weave wear it if you enjoy perms and know how to take care of your trussels then perm it. I am so greatful that i can wear my hair the way i want to an not to please others. It seems that we are worring about the wrong thing these days hair only make up a small part of who we are. I have seen bald women who are beauitful as well as women who’s hair is so nappy that they cant do a thing with it, so why are we rocking on this. every other generation we go into one fade or another, this has been done before in about ten years or less we’ll be harping on something else. leave it alone…ETHEL doing her own thing…..

  72. qi

    Thanks for the write up. I stopped relaxing my hair after I took time to read the chemical content in the relaxer. So many of my friends and family have tried to change my mind since the change. Actually i thought i was all alone till last month i found out the are people like me. I am proud of my hair

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