I became saved when I was eighteen years old. Not by the blood of Christ per se, as I did when I was a young nine year old, but by the blood of my ancestors whose stories had been silenced by a white supremacist system who didn’t want the history of how they were treated as animals throughout our nation’s history.
Reborn I became aware of the mistreatment of all black bodies, but especially the female black body. For years African-American women have been used as not only slave laborers but sexual slaves for their masters. Soon after they became the slave to the woes of African-American men who suffered emasculation at the hands of the same masters who were raping the women he both vented to and abused because of his disenfranchisement.
The top issue for black women at the turn of the century was the discussion of hair. Often referred to as “pickaninny” or “peezy heads” African-American women have been berated because of the natural state of their hair. As a result many black women resulted to relaxing their hair or using weave to be more accepted in both the professional and social societies. With a 120 pound, blonde haired, blue eyed 21 year old as the model of beauty in this country black women entered a marathon against all nationalities to be accepted under this standard of beauty and it always seemed they came in last.
And, with commentators such as Don Imus who referred to black women on a basketball team as “nappy headed hoes” black women felt more of an urge to compete with the beauty standards established for them and their other female counterparts. I remember when my best friend began her transition from relaxed to natural and our black female vice principal vehemently protested against her wearing head wraps throughout her transition, despite the fact we attended a historically black high school where the population was 99.5 percent black.
And, I read the article concerning Pam Oliver, a prominent name in sports reporting. Pam has over 19 years experience as a reporter and her knowledge of the game was overlooked because of her hair during a recent report during a NFC game. Many badgered her about her hair asking if she had been “electrocuted”or if she chose to “wear a mop” on her head. It is noted that many of these comments were other black women who obviously do not understand the hatred they have toward themselves and their hair.
I began to reflect. I am the guy in the grocery store who will see a black woman with natural hair and tell her she is beautiful. I am the guy who is always encouraging his female students who have chosen to go natural to continue along their journey of self identification. But, I am not the guy to berate black women if they are not natural. But, I began to reflect because I used to be. And, it was a black woman, a female mentor who is like an older sister to me who made me realize that criticizing black women who have relaxed hair or who wear weave is not healthy, either. Women choose to wear their hair the way they do because they want to feel beautiful, accepted, wanted and for many of them it is their hair that allows them personal expression.
I may not always agree with the way black women choose to wear their hair, but as a man, a black man, I have to support them and if they choose to go natural for whatever reason, great! If they do not make such a choice I cannot be an added force to the oppressive powers that be that tell them that they are ugly even with relaxed hair. It is a personal choice women make based off their experiences. It is not my responsibility to provide another negative experience.
India Arie said it quite well, “I am not my hair.” I know many women with relaxed hair who know more about the history of African-Americans in this country and the Diaspora than many women who are natural. And, I only stress that to say it is important to allow our women to come into their own in their own time.
And, for other black women to berate another black woman because her hair is not as neat or as straight as they would like it to be is not fair and it is not healthy psychologically for the women who are berated. Self-love is a learned behavior and it doesn’t come easy for any black person in this country. And, we will only further self-hate in other blacks if we continue to publicly pick on them. Hairism, as coined here, is only a strand of the general term of racism and we shouldn’t be racist against our own selves. Let’s be more supportive. Let’s be more accepting and remember “each one, teach one.” If you have a suggestion for a black female in regard to her hair please remember, it is not what you say, it is how you say it!
See the article here: http://www.whur.com/whur/its-unfair-that-black-womens-hair-gets-so-much-negative-attention-yet-again/
J. Prince, Princepality 87