As a black woman, one of my biggest issues that I have had with my identity ever since I was young, was my hair. The way that I would fix it and the style that I would wear, determined how other people would view me and treat me. Ever since I was a little girl getting my hair done was a very crucial thing to me. You see, I love the attention that it would bring me all the compliments from the other students and teachers and the jealous stares of my “enemies” Brought me joy. I would feel like an absolute beauty queen. I was known for changing my hair every single day, each style better than the one before.
Sitting in between my godmother’s lap With a book in my hand while getting my hair done was my favorite childhood memory. The attention and care she gave every single braid and the way she made sure each part was clean and neat not only made me feel loved but, it also made me feel like no one could tell me anything about my hair. I looked good and I knew it.
Back in my country my people were different but similar in so many ways. Different facial features,personalities, and some were light while others were darker, but our hair was very much similar, but we took pride in the beauty that it held. No matter how short or long or tangled that it was, it was ours and we loved it. Because I grew up in such an environment that was so accepting of such uniqueness I was under the impression that everywhere I went would be just as accepting or even more. It wasn’t until I came to America at the age of eight that I realized the rude awakening I was in for.
I started living with my stepmother that didn’t know how to properly handle natural hair because she cut her’s off before it would get to a certain length. She would put chemicals in my hair to make it straight so I would look “presentable” in the eyes of everyone around me; because God forbid I went to school with the beautiful hair I was gifted with in its natural state.
I would find myself missing my mother and God-mother frequently, whom both were hairstylists that would constantly remind me how beautiful me and my unruly hair were. The hairstyles with the bubbles and the bows that would only enhance the beauty of my hair were my favorite part of my morning routine. However, coming to America and observing how badly I was treated for accepting my hair as it is; by people who looked exactly like me with the only difference was that their hair was straight, I would find myself climbing on top of the tub to look in the mirror and asking myself “is it really beautiful”.
I would constantly feel envious of how the other girls’ straight hair would fall so effortlessly down their backs and blow in the wind like a cliche scene from a movie. So From the age of 12 to 15, I would often find myself with the heating comb and flat iron at hand constantly giving my hair heat damage. As I straightened my hair more and more, It wouldn’t fall perfectly like the others and I didn’t feel any more beautiful than I already was.
It is extremely depressing to see the amount of young African-American children they get discriminated against due to their hair. Evidently, according to an article written by the New York Times an 11-year-old girl who is attending a private Roman catholic school in New Orleans What’s at home due to the fact that she had braided hair extensions. The school officials claimed that because the student‘s hair wasn’t “natural “ it went against their handbook but refused to speak to reporters regarding such handbook. Similar to that incident, A young man that was attending a high school in Mont Belvieu, Texas was suspended due to the fact that he did not want to cut the locs that he has been growing since he was in the seventh grade. When I read these articles I was appalled and angry at the fact that someone would threaten the education of a child just because of how their hair looks. The extreme measures an individual would take to simply discriminate against a group of people because of their culture is insane. Our hairis our culture and it holds a lot of historical background and being forced to change it to fit into society’s standard of beauty and what’s normal is very unfair.
Society has a bad habit of making young children question their beauty and essence. As young black children we were taught to push back our authenticity and fit in the crowd to make everyone else happy. But what about our happiness? Our hair is our individuality, why do we have to change it to make everyone else feel comfortable.
Jacobs, Julia, and Dan Levin. “Black Girl Sent Home From School Over Hair Extensions.” The New York Times, 22 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/us/black-student-extensions-louisiana.html.
Jones, D. C. W. A. K. (2020, August 20). A Texas school system can’t make a Black teen cut his dreadlocks, court rules. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/08/20/us/texas-hair-injunction-trnd/index.html