Natural Hair & Care

Under attack June 27, 2010

It’s been a very long time since I have written and this has been mostly because I have been so overwhelmed by subtle and destructive messages about our natural hair that I have simply chosen to remain silent. I’ve chosen not to say anything in the hopes that someone else around me would complicate comments about good hair and beauty. Since no one seems to be saying anything and these comments seem to be crushing my spirit and challenging my generally strong sense of self, I have to write.

I’ve made many changes in my personal life since I’ve last written for this blog. The biggest change is that I’ve moved back home from a predominantly white city. I think that I was naively nostalgic for a home that did not actually exist. Having lived among people who did not look like me for quite some time, I imagined going home and being celebrated, accepted, affirmed and embraced and while there were many things about me that were affirmed, there were also many things that were not–namely, my hair. See, I am a passionate proponent of natural hair in every form. I think that my/our hair has the most beautiful and arrogant texture that I have ever seen. I have written poems and stories with our hair as the central character. I have even included hair in a term paper at school. I am our hair’s biggest fan. Sometimes, I think I am our hair’s only fan.

In one exchange with my grandmother, who is 81, I realized that I had imagined what I was looking for at home. She reminded me of what home was really about. Sitting at the kitchen table she turned to me and calmly asked me if I was ever going to perm my hair. That was really one of the more innocent exchanges because I said no and the conversation was over. I think that I was really hurt  by a comment that came much later. See, I started seeing someone, who is from a fairly conservative background. I know they are conservative because we actually share the same background. I’m the maverick. So my grandmother asked if this new young man had made any comments about my hair. She asked me if he liked it. I looked at her for a long time before answering and calmly explained to her that he did not seem to have any problems with it but the question depressed me. Is my hair something that people should have a problem with because it is natural? Is it something that has to be approved? Why is my hair the topic of discussion? Why is it so crazy for me to actively choose not to process my hair?

As you know, it is recital and graduation season. My young cousin had a dance recital the other day. The dance recital alone deserves its own blog entry! Waiting outside of the auditorium before the event started, my sister and I searched for our four year old cousin’s tiny face and eventually concluded that we could not find her. In every picture, these young girls were adorned with ornate crowns of weave that made them indistinguishable. In act after act, young girls bounced around with shiny ponytails that were not their own and I could not help but think about the message behind this very strange choice. Had the parents and the dance director come to an agreement about what is appropriate for a recital? Does our own hair not make the cut? Eventually, I did find my cousin. She was there, under a very large weave.

I think that I decided that I would start writing again and being a voice for natural hair and beauty last night. I was at a friend’s house. His niece is graduating on Monday. She tried on her very beautiful dress and shoes and paraded around the house while we eyed her proudly. I asked her if she would be carrying a bag and she laughed at me and said, “I’m not going to carry a bag, this is graduation!”. However, when I asked her how she was going to do her hair she very flatly explained that she was going to wear a weave. It was ludicrous for her to think about carrying a matching bag but very normal for her to wear a weave. I was astonished and speechless. When are we going to really see the ridiculousness of our attachment to hair that is simply not our own, in any sense.

Anyway, this is getting long so I will stop here. What messages have you been receiving about natural hair?


Following black dollars January 24, 2009

Filed under: extensions,weaves,wigs — R.D. @ 3:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

• Even though African-American women make up less than 10% of the population they buy 70% of all wigs and extensions purchased in the United States.

• Where does the money end up? Following the money, we see that black dollars are pumped into Korean owned businesses. Koreans dominate the Black hair industry. In fact, a top beauty magazine about African -American hair is only published in Korean (Beauty Times) for black beauty store owners.

• In South Central, Los Angeles, the owner of Beautiful Wigs says 99.9% of his clientele are African-American.

• Koreans have been creating their own products, which are sold in black beauty supply stores. By creating their own line, they buy out existing black-owned companies and control retail and wholesale distribution.

• Many Korean owned stores refuse to purchase black produced hair products. They are telling black companies that their products are no longer in demand.

• The archives of a (The Chosun) respected newspaper in Korea reveal a relationship between early Korean business owners and the United States that has existed since the 60s. The government was urged to ban the export of raw hair so that no one, except for Koreans, could export Korean hair. Months after the Korean ban, the US banned the import of wigs made from Chinese hair! This ban on Chinese wigs allowed Korean wig merchants to have a monopoly on the wig and weave business.

• A quote from The Chosun: “In the past, wigs were considered luxury goods in the West, but these days they are considered a necessity, especially among black women in the United States.”

For more information, check out Aron Rainen’s documentaries on black hair. They can be found in the side bar under the documenthairies section.