Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Recent Hair Experiences.

I was talking with a friend about my recent experiences surrounding Black women and hair, and she replied that Black women are the most susceptible to unwarranted behavior. This, I would have to agree with.

This spring break I completed service projects with a group of diverse college students. I was amazed at the behavior, responses, and attitudes surrounding Black hair, but not to exclude Black women in general. I don't believe you can talk about natural hair without including race.

Let's start with a Koren exchange student who asked if my hair was real. I responded, "why?". A friend replied that I was being rude and I should just tell her. She then prodded, "I'm going to ask again. Is it real?", as if I was required to respond. Let me add a disclaimer: This is not an attack against the woman. I am simply sharing an experience. She later apologized and I hold no hard feelings against her. Honestly, if I wouldn't have witnessed her touching an African woman's hair everyday and asking a friend if her hair was real and if she could touch it, I probably would have answered her. The argument came up that since she was from Korea and there aren't Black people there, she should be entitled to my response. My rebuttal is that she is not entitled to a response, nor is she entitled to access to my hair because I am different than her. It is that sense of entitlement to Black women that I am against. I did not observe her once ask a White woman or Hispanic woman if their hair was real and if she could touch it. They're aren't many Hispanics in Korea either. Also, if you feel that I am supposed to give information or access to MY body because someone doesn't understand, than you are also insinuating that all Black women are the same. Everyone has a different opinion and a different perspective. What may be acceptable to some is not acceptable to others. 

What also wasn't acceptable to me is that someone tried to include me, but essentially excluded me. After a church service, a group of 4-5 students were sent home with a local family to have lunch. While the wife of the family was preparing lunch and telling us a little bit about herself, the husband came in the door. The first thing he said was directed toward me. "Did my wife tell you she grew up in Africa?" he consciously asked. I politely replied "No," and bowed my head. I am American. I know nothing about being raised in Africa. Why would that be an appropriate question to ask? He we go again with the differentiation. He then follows up with, "I have been around African Americans all my life and I still don't understand their hair." What sir, is there to understand? It proves that hair isn't just what's attached to your head.

And we can't talk about attachments to your head without addressing weaves. I was at the park and a beautiful Black baby was playing. She was around 2-3 years old. Yes, she did have kinky hair. A Black woman exclaims, "That girl has some rough hair. She's going to have to get a weave when she gets older." Why does Black hair have to be something that needs to be altered? I have nothing against weave or relaxers, but why can other races wear their hair how it grew out of their head? Black women are their own worst enemies. They degrade the very element they are. Black women are not only debased by their counterparts, but are also subject to ridicule from our own people.

We've got put an end to this. Being exoticized and treated like black sheep is not permissible. We can't expect society to treat us any differently if we treat ourselves like we are insufficient. You don't have to alter yourself to be satisfactory. You don't have to tolerate being treated like a spectacle. I beg this not just for yourselves, but for future generations.

I ask you to challenge your beliefs. Question the way you view yourself. Do you believe you have to change yourself to accommodate other people? Or maybe you feel like you have to alter your appearance to please yourself. Observe the perceptions of Black women.

1 comment:

  1. I am right there with you for these experiences. I went to church a few weeks ago and was completely ignored with my hair in it's natural state. It was almost as if everyone was in shock that I went outside like that. Many times before that when my hair was straight I was "approachable," and ppl talked to me. I also got the whole "you can't wear your hair like that," from my mom. I asked her why other races can and she replied, "because it's straight." It's sad. Naturally beautiful is the way I choose to stay regardless of the criticism and stares.