Speaking and raising awareness about the importance of black people embracing their natural hair, has become a passion of mine because, all my life I’ve subconsciously been taught that my hair in its natural state is never good enough. It always needs to be handled or tamed; it’s either rigorously blow dried, straightened, put in extremely tight braids, permed or just hidden under wigs and weaves, but just leaving the hair curly in its ordinary state is never an option. Whereas in comparison white girls are always able to leave their hair freely without strain; in films I would sometimes see a white girl running late for school who didn’t have time to do her hair and so would rush out of the house whilst her hair was wet leaving it to airdry as she makes her way to school. This for me as a black girl was a scenario I could never relate to, there had never been a case where I could leave my hair to the last minute, its either I would have spent painful long hours in the salon the weekend before or it would have been permed ready and acceptable for school.
Within the black community hair has always been heavily focused on; more so than any other community. Placing such importance on something as trivial as hair has caused many black girls to become very conscious about their appearance from a very young age. So, whilst they should simply be focused on enjoying their childhood/youth like their white counterparts they are concerned with whether they look good enough to be in their environment. This amongst other pressures we face in society for simply being black and female can lead to severe insecurity issues, self-hate, never feeling like your good enough and just always being conscious of everything you do. This is something that needs to be eradicated. I want black girls to grow up confident, carefree and proud of who they are and not to feel ashamed of themselves because they do not meet the expectations of a society who purposefully marginalises them. This can only be achieved by tarnishing, questioning and challenging societies expectations of our hair, we have to love our hair despite the fact that no one else does, we have to wear our natural hair so that other black women feel comfortable to do the same. We need to wear our hair out at various functions: work, parties, graduations, galas, weddings etc so that fellow black women feel that their hair is worthy to be in all atmospheres. This further teaches the younger generation of black girls that they are perfect the way they are and do not have to succumb to societies rigid views of beauty.
Some of you reading this may wonder is it really that deep? its just hair. Well in all honesty its deeper because on the surface it’s just hair but at the root of the issue it is discrimination. Hair is just one of the many features that black people are told are wrong or are ugly. Asides from our hair, we are taught that being black is ugly, we are mocked for our big noses’, ‘big lips’, our native languages and traditions. Everything about black people for some reason is less than substantial. At some point we have to question why is that?
Why is it that because we don’t look a certain way that it is wrong?
Why do we accept that our looks are wrong and needs to be changed?
The answer is, because it has been ingrained in us that European features are the norm and that Black/African features are abnormal and therefore wrong and so we ourselves believe that our features are ugly. It is important for us to revolt against these opinions (because that is really all they are) as they harm black people and make us feel inferior when we are in fact equal with every other race. By doing this we widen the standards of beauty which prevent many from feeling excluded and it also helps people to know and understand that there is no direct picture of what beauty looks like but that beauty comes in all colours, sizes, heights and hair textures. Following this we need more black women in the media embracing and showcasing their natural hair as this representation signifies to black girls that they are welcome to be themselves at all times and that in every industry, they wish to venture into. It also teaches them that they do not have to change the way they look in order for them to fit in but are perfect just the way they are.
At this point I would like to state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to occasionally straighten your hair, wear a wig or a weave, the problem is when black women to opt for these hairstyles over their natural hair because they think it is of a higher value than the beautiful kinks and curls that grow out of their scalp. All hair textures and lengths are beautiful. The purpose of this natural hair series is to educate black people about their natural hair and to help them to understand that the negative depiction of their hair are fabrications and they should learn to love their hair.
Written by Kimberley Nwaeze