Hair is a contentious issue within the black community. Other than color no Afrocentric feature identifies difference more than hair. I have dread locks down to the middle of my back, and daily I must deal with whites who make racist comments about how exotic it is, and blacks who are disgusted based on the so-called ugliness of its appearance. Note to all whites reading this, no you cannot touch my hair, it is not a science experiment. To blacks my dreadlocks are ugly because they are natural. As a community we have so internalized racism that we view ourselves as ugly. We routinely refer to good hair, as hair that is straight or taking on the characteristics of white hair, and bad hair as nappy or natural.
Much of female identity is caught up in hair. Throughout history, and across cultures long flowing locks have been understood as a womans crowning glory. For black women whose natural tight curls, resist lying limply down our back it has helped to support the image of us as ‘unwomen’. We do not marvel in our gravity defying hair, or wonder at its unique ability to be shaped into so many different styles. Instead we seek to alter it with hot combs, and chemical relaxers to mirror caucasian hair, in the process wounding our naturally beautiful hair, and expressing contempt for ourselves.
Like every WOC I have done the relaxers, jerry curls (yes I know I am dating myself) and weaves, all in an attempt to run from who I really am. As a proud WOC I now realize that how I was born is beautiful, even it if is not reflected in the world around me. There is power and energy in black hair that refuses to be permanently etiolated, despite our most valiant efforts. We must learn to recognize that this self hatred that we have internalized is destructive not only to WOC but to blacks as a people. Though the media continues to perpetuate white womanhood as the embodiment of beauty, such representations are an attempt to maintain the racial power structure, and are in no way reflective of what constitutes actual beauty. When we resist altering ourselves for the sake of the supposed acceptance by the white community, it is an act of self love, and it is deeply meaningful. It speaks of valuing ourselves as black women, it speaks of knowing intrinsically that power, validation and agency are our natural born rights. We can only be usurped if we own that which seeks to constitute us as inferior. I am woman, I am black, and my glory is not only my physical body, but the testimony of my ever enduring soul.