(photo source: www.kontrolmag.com/staple-products-naturalistas-stash)
The trend to go natural has gone viral. Women rocking natural hair feel successful; women wanting to rock natural hair feel motivated and ambitious. In hopes to find and embrace a wholesome and complete image of a black woman that does not apologize for her hair, and its defiance of gravity, we've made the "natural" synonymous to healthy, to success.
We've created a hierarchy based on how "natural" a woman's hair seems. How many of us have seen another black woman and asked ourselves, "is that her natural hair?" If it isn't, is that synthetic hair? Human hair? How much did she spend though? Some of us are past the roots, as in whose roots, and are comparing how natural the products we use are. The beat of tongue clicking and lip pursing that drops when the word "relaxed" comes up in a circle of curly and kinky headed black women is so responsive I've started to bring it up in hopes to record a dubstep remix of the sass.
I think we can all agree the "enlightened" bunch that have taken a liking to the struggles and challenges of a natural hair journey can be bitter black women; and not the scripted Tyler Perry kinda bitter, just nasty bitter. The bitterness does not help the movement it compromises it, the exclusivity and attitude is a two-ingredient recipe for disaster. As soon as we start to resent the women who aren't going through the same struggles we are to look half as decent (said with a grain of salt) we compromise the celebration and joy that should come from that struggle.
Reversely, you've also got us not-so-much-bitter-as-clueless types, that practice natural hair as a default. Women who do relax, chemically straighten, are throwing the stank eye right back in the direction of our fros- and power to them, I would. In a piece I read recently by natural hair enthusiast and blogger Dara Mathis she brings up the golden argument; does rocking the fro make us more black/African? Is this what we're thinking? Although, she does an incredible job deconstructing the stupid here, it makes me want to ask; does leaving the kink in the curl make me just a tad bit darker toned? My nose a bit wider? My lips just a bit larger? Are you feeling stereotyped yet?
My problem with this natural hair = curly fro thinking is that having black skin does not dictates the texture of my hair. When it comes to Caucasians I've seen it all, pin straight, kinky, wavy, and curly and yet no one bats an eye at the variety. No one is claiming to be more white- or claiming others are less white depending on how they've decided to wear their hair.
In a BHS focus group I asked the gals what "natural hair" meant to them. My favorite response?
"What natural means to me? If you're wearing your hair out it is natural- it doesn't matter if its straight, curly, heat straightened, chemically straightened it all means the same thing if I can see your real roots that is natural."
The hand gestures she made as she pointed at different members in the room with various hair states and types were both enthusiastic and convincing. Might not be as much of a shock to you as much as it was to me but until just then I had of thought of "natural" as the state hair is after it's been doused in a good amount of water and shampoo. I believed in her definition. I could not have agreed more.
If the sprint towards a healthier vision of black hair is competitive, aggressive, and dismissive we are only creating a trend, and trend's pass. As someone that has unconsciously practiced natural hair "techniques" for as long as she has had hair to bicker with, I don't desire for this trend to pass.
I was the only black and bushy haired point-guard on a team of weaves and wigs straighter than the Asian forward. I was the girl left grasping for an appropriate answer when the Asian forward asked, "Why doesn't your hair go flat with sweat the way everyone else's does in practice?"
My suggestion? Let's celebrate. Not the "natural," "unnatural," or any labels of what hair is and isn't. Let's celebrate hair. If that means we run a marathon instead of a sprint then let's, just like, do that? Marathon's might be long but they are experiences of inclusion and community, everyone is in it - together, for the long run. (The line was asking for the cheesy pun, not sorry.) As much as I am a fan of the "if I can't put it on my toast then I ain't putting it in my hair" philosophy I want to share it in compassion and love, the way things of any value should be.
|"Go Natural Or Go Home - What natural means to me?"