As a child, my first experiences with other young children centered around my hair. My mother took 45 minutes every morning to force my roughly 4 inches of hair into a variety of barrettes. No matter the side plaits, the center piece of every hairstyle was a large bow. The years of 1996 to uhh roughly around 2005 were centered around my shiny forehead from the grease that escaped my then dry hair scalp, and the bow that held my pitiful 4 inches of hair. I cant quite recall the mantra that the little bastards used to chant; I think it was something to the effect of “Bowhead, Bowhead, she aint got no fohead”. Yeah, children were very kind. Anyway, fast forward to middle/high school, the time of the relaxer. Now I will go on the record by saying that I have never had a multitude of hair, nor has it been long. On top of not having much hair, due to relaxers, the sun, dry scalp and just being rambunctious, I have literally had all of my hair fall out in a sink, with a sew-in, taking down a quick-weave incorrectly, and the good ole death to edges hairstyle; micros. For some reason, my mother thought it was okay to keep these braids for a year. Yeah, my hair has been through some things, as well as my self-esteem.
What I want to touch on today is the importance of hair in black culture and all of the negative images and thoughts that we enhance and encourage within the black community. Now we already know that slavery was something that did occur, and that the hierarchy was decided via skin and hair texture (among other things). House slaves were brighter skinned and possibly had a looser or straighter curl pattern (we now know that they looked this way because they were illegitimate children of the slavemaster); whereas, the darker slaves were considered field hands. Fast forward to post-slavery society, the “bourgeois’ or elite culture were typically fairer skinned afro-americans. These were your college educated people in the early 1900’s. Now that you have a slight history lesson, I want to attack one solid phrase that makes my skin literally crawl every time that it is uttered from a black person’s lips. I want to abolish the term “good hair”. I think I was about 14 years old when I heard an adult, NOT A CHILD, but an adult say something to the affect that “such and such is so pretty cuz she got that good hair”. I remember going home and asking my parents what that meant, and they laughed and explained to me that it meant hair that was looser in curl pattern or straight. From then on, my parents and I would randomly shout “oooo they got that good hair” and then we would laugh. But when I would speak to other friends about it, I realized that this term was anything but a joke. One of my closest friends describes her upbringing as being separated from her family members through color and hair texture. She even went so far as to say that her fairer skinned, looser textured hair having cousins were given preferential treatment. And sadly, she is not the only person that has told stories like these.
My parents took the time to explain to me the differences that black people have due to us being a mixed race, and they enforced that our differences make us beautiful. I internalized that, and so bald and all, growing up, no matter how short or coarse my hair was, I had a confidence built within myself to combat the stigma society imposed on the brown skinned woman with short hair. But what if I would’ve heard the term “good hair” when I was 7, and then further attributed “bad hair” to myself? Would I have the confidence to go out into the world and to deal with not only black people, but people of other races questioning who I was and what I was destined to do based on my hair, or lack thereof? Just like Oprah wanted to ban the “N” word, I want to ban “good hair” from the homes of colored folks. You are literally crippling your little black child before he or she can even understand what walking feels like. If you are praising her, then you are making the pretty in her prosper due to one element; she is beautiful because she is ALIVE, not because you can put water and pomade in her hair and not hot comb it. If you are praising someone else by saying it in front other black children, you are therefore affirming the opposite about their hair texture. If mommy says Alicia has good hair, but gets frustrated with me, my hair must be bad. News flash black people, being black is a struggle all in itself, then you throw in being a woman and thats all she wrote. Society will tell your little black girl through history, through the media, heck, even through other black men that she is not good enough. We don’t need cracks in our foundation. Trust me, we have our entire life to let other’s hammer away at everything you have tried to build.
The point of my rant is this; whether bright, dark, or brown, short hair or long, curl or straight, permed or natural, WE ARE ALL BLACK WOMEN. We are all in this together. Instead of being fixated on your daughter’s hair texture, something that’s OUTSIDE her head, make sure you are focused on what is going INSIDE her head. You should be preaching that she is beautiful and affirming that by making sure that her true beauty is within. Attributing her worths too her physical looks and ONLY that will be detrimental to her growth as a person.
In 2007 when Don Imus called the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team a bunch of “nappy headed hoes” it incited riots. That anger that people felt all over the world about his blatant ignorance and disrespect for black people is exactly how I feel when black people go on tangents about good hair. Perception is reality, and it’s up to you to change the lens through which you view yourself. Your little black children look to you for affirmation for beauty first, and it is YOUR job to instruct them that ALL black hair is beautiful! I say “Good Riddance to Good Hair”!