Along with the liberation that so many African American women and mixed chicks gain from ditching the relaxers and rocking our kinks, we sometimes face major issues with our hair, society, and other ladies who have gone natural.
Let’s talk about it!
- Lack of moisture. Because natural African American hair likes to coil around itself, natural oils from our scalp don’t travel all the way down the shaft, resulting in dry hair. This means that naturals have to find products and regimens that work specifically for our individual heads! It’s so tough sometimes. The LOC method (liquid, oil, cream) may help one girl out but another girl’s hair may not like oils at all. It’s trial and error and sometimes errors result in brittle hair that snaps and breaks while we try to retain length. I personally need real help in this area. My hair won’t stay moisturized for anything!
- Heat tools. If you’ve been natural for a long time, you may miss those days of straight, silky hair that just blows in the wind – ugh – I’m having flashbacks. You may get tempted to pick up heat tools, after all, it’s better than a chemical right? Not really. It may be okay for some natural women but not for all. Some ladies spend years growing out beautiful curls, straighten their hair for a special occasion, wash it two weeks later, and it doesn’t revert. This is so painful because generally, heat damaged hair has to be grown out. Oh what a set-back. Thank God for heat-protection sprays and such. Even with use of the most meticulous straightening practices, some naturals are never the same even after one tiny little pass of the flat iron. One day, I’ll talk about my issues with heat and what I do when I want straight hair.
- Being a product junkie. Some of us get excited every time a new hair product for naturals makes its debut. We buy it, try it, love it, then leave it, and it rarely becomes a staple in our hair care arsenal. Personally,
being a product junkie isn’t in my budget but some ladies try a bunch of different things that claim to add softness and definition without checking the ingredients first. Sometimes, new hair cremes, butters, milks, puddings, and other varieties have additives that dry out natural hair over time or cause build-up at the scalp. Ladies, you may even have a skin allergy without knowing it! Then a month will go by and you’ll wonder what’s happening to your hair! What’s with the thinning, breaking, and shedding. Perhaps it’s a new product that’s behind your hair set-back.
Laziness. I’m guilty. Natural hair is work. We have to make sure that our hair stays moist, create protective styles, babysit our ends, and be on the look out for those tiny single-strand monsters. I don’t know one person who actually has time for this but we do it. Some nights, however, I just go to sleep without a satin scarf or pillow. I’ve gone days without moisturizing.
I have used my finger nails to tear at single-strand knots instead of going to get scissors and my hair pays for it. Being lazy about hair care is definitely another set-back once you notice those frayed, dead ends.
Then we have to deal with society…
Just recently, a 7 year old girl was pulled out of school by her parents because of
the prejudiced school policy that targeted her natural hair. The child was told that her dread locks were unacceptable for school and do not meet the dress code. Afros are also banned in this institution of ignorance as it is classified as a distracting, faddish hairstyle. Right, so now the hair that God Almighty created for us is unacceptable and faddish? Oh but it’s perfectly alright to throw some dangerous chemicals into our hair and burn our skin with irons in order to meet a societal standard.
Pardon my sarcasm but society had better get a grip and whomever is making these rules can take them elsewhere. We wear our hair according to how it grows and according to the practices that we feel are healthy. Society will just have to get used to seeing more twists, braids, fros, locks, and kinks because we aren’t subjecting ourselves to the ideology that there’s just one path to pretty.
Perhaps the most annoying natural hair issue, or hair issue in general is facing the ridicule and criticism of a natural hair zealot. These are people who preach at other people who don’t embrace natural hair in the same exact way that they do. They bark at you: If you tex-lax, you’re not natural. If you straighten your hair with heat, you’re not natural. If you style your hair or use defining products, you’re not natural. If your hair products aren’t found in the earth or made from kitchen ingredients…not natural! And blah, blah, blah.
So you mean to tell me that black women and biracial women have found a way to free themselves from societal aesthetic pressures and other women of the same movement are trying to put those shackles back on again? The whole point is to be free from hair norms and discover the versatility of African-American hair. We have all agreed that no two hair textures or curl patterns are quite the same. Why are women slamming others for the way they do things?
Let me tell you this. If you want to straighten your hair with heat and it doesn’t hurt your curls, do it. If you get your protein from coating your strands in egg whites or if you use a store-bought treatment, who cares? If you want to define and stretch your curls rather than wear them tight and undefined, that’s your business. I’ve actually heard of women who have a problem with ladies who seek to define their curl pattern. They classify this as a form of self-hate and they tell people that they’re not truly embracing their natural hair if they aren’t happy with it in its fresh-from-the-scalp state. This is ridiculous. To each his own. Wear the hair that makes you feel comfortable.
Oh yeah, and if you wear a weave as your protective style, or just because you like it, do that too! It’s your head!
As for the controversial tex-lax process…
If you want to add chemicals to your hair to loosen up the curl pattern, do it. In my opinion, this isn’t “natural” but I believe that the natural hair movement is not only about rocking your God-given texture. It’s about the fact that we don’t have to do things according to social norms anymore. All hair is beautiful. So my over-the-top hair preachers must have a seat. Letting our hair grow the way it was always intended to is not another avenue for setting rules and shoving people into a new box.
So these are the most common issues that I see in the natural hair world. If you notice any others, feel free to comment. I plan to do some self-examinations to 1) Ensure that I’m not a radical naturalista and 2) Take better care of my hair. I also want to hear about other women’s hair resolutions, natural or not!
The Ridiculous Nature Of It All
It’s a shame that this conversation continues to be had in the black community. But one only has to skim through a few forums and social media outlets to discover that black people are still concerned with the amount of melanin found in each other’s skin. To people who aren’t black this probably sounds utterly insane and it is. Perhaps it’s not so strange to those who come from an Asian background or an Indian background where lighter skin is favored and is a symbol of high status. Still, you would think that African Americans who fought and slaved (literally) to gain respect and equality in the US would unify themselves rather than find more fault lines that nurture separation.
Sadly, however, we have found more ways to sever ourselves. There’s this movement, or competition rather, of superiority based on darkness and fairness. Obviously, it stems from slavery where black people with lighter complexions stayed indoors to be pampered by “Massa” who was also most likely, “Daddy.” Meanwhile, those with dark complexions remained outside, laboring, being whipped, and scorched by the sun. Thus, we have the light skin, dark skin complex. Upon further analysis it seems as though even the slave owners didn’t seem to care about who was dark and who was light. They slept with whomever and it was their children who were born fair skinned with lighter eyes and straighter hair. Then the favored slave and her child would become “house niggers.” At least that’s my understanding of it.
This archaic idiocy has transcended time and landed in our century, buried itself in our minds and poisoned us. I include myself among those affected by this mindset but I also consider myself enlightened. I am dark skinned. I have been told I was ugly and made to feel inferior for this. I have observed the special treatment of fair black children. The comparison pictures of dark skinned black people and apes have not escaped my notice. Even I had to be trained by my mother to know and believe that I am beautiful and that my skin is perfect because God gave it to me. Yes, I used to wonder if I could lighten my tone by several shades with ingredients in my kitchen. Would guys ever like me? Would I ever be attractive by a “good-looking” man’s standards? These were my concerns before I even lost all of my baby teeth.
So now, I’m older and I know better. But I’ll scroll around online and see ignorance in places like Instagram where black women young and old are still taking selfies and captioning “Team Light Skin” or “Team Dark Skin” underneath! Aged women pass this nonsense onto children, insecure brown girls face discrimination from OTHER BLACK GIRLS in school, brown girls turn their backs on fair girls and start acting mean, and then this whole stereotype war breaks out like acne on picture day!
I’ve even noticed men doing it to other men. They’ll be playing ball outside or something and I’ll hear, “Nigga, you dark as s***. Take your black a** inside.” It’s all in jest and everyone’s laughing. But the one at the brunt of the joke doesn’t see the humor, though he’s laughing too.
I can only relate to the struggles of a dark complexioned girl because I don’t know what it’s like to appear any other way. However, I want to see the whole “Team Light Skin/ Dark Skin” thing die all together. Some feel that now it’s time to turn the tables and oppress fair skinned black people just like we were oppressed. How does that make sense? That only perpetuates the situation! You have black people, who all have roots in Africa and now live in America, sitting in separate corners scowling at each other because they’ve developed inaccurate general opinions based on melanin. Readers, are you understanding my fury?
Never again do I want to hear these stereotypes:
Dark skinned: “I hate light skinned people. They think they’re better than us. They’re so high maintenance; they think they deserve the world.” This is classifying all fair skinned black people into one way of thinking and being. How grossly misinformed.
Light skinned: “Um. Team light skin all the way! Dark skinned girls are just jealous. They look like greasy monkeys.” This is just rude and ignorant. Many dark skinned girls are very comfortable in their skin.
Dark skinned: “Guys who date light girls hate dark skin and hate themselves.” So untrue. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences. A person who dates someone lighter than themselves is not necessarily engaging in self-hatred.
Light skinned: “Yeah she’s pretty for a dark skinned chick.” A common phrase that needs to die. This implies that most dark skinned people are ugly but there are exceptions to the rule. The truth is every complexion is beautiful.
Dark & Light skinned: “Ew I don’t date dark guys.” Why? Do they have cooties?
Dark skinned: “Light skinned people are uppity and snobbish.” Please. Stop with these generalizations and biases. Some of the most down-to-earth people I know have fair skin.
Light skinned: “Every guy really wants a light skinned girl deep down.” False. When a person is involved with someone of a dark complexion it doesn’t mean that their “settling” till someone “light skinned” comes along. Once again, some people are more attracted to deeper skin tones and some aren’t.
Everyone else: Light skinned and dark skinned…They’re all black to me!
Truth! We’re the only ones really obsessing over this foolishness. The rest of the world doesn’t care about what shade of brown we are. They either love us as a whole or hate us as a whole.
Stop this. There’s a fool in every group, sect, ethnicity, nationality and it’s not because of skin complexion it’s because of attitude and knowledge. The wrong attitude and lack of knowledge births anger, hatred and ignorance.
In case you’re wondering, I’m Team Skin. I’m Team Universe. The amount of pigmentation in one person’s skin does not determine their worth, their status, or their beauty.
Black men and women need to wake up. We are continuing the same threads of injustice that we escaped from years ago. We’re teaching our sons and daughters not to love themselves but to hate others for things that they can’t control and things that God specifically designed as artwork.
We’re training them to think inferior thoughts about themselves and planting the same reminiscent poisons in their minds when we should be standing together. Whether you have deep, dark skin, porcelain skin, or one of the shades in between, you are art. Remember to measure each other by the content of character.