Monday, July 27, 2009

My HairStory - "Good Hair vs. Bad Hair"

Monday, July 27, 2009
My Hairitage

Long, thick, dark brown
Naturally wavy, relaxing straightens
My hair has taken on many hairdos over time
And throughout my life, people have always ask me about my ethnicity
My heritage…
I was five when my hair started to grow down my back
Busted down the middle, two braids, one on each side
Strangers asked: “Are you part Indian?”
I’d shyly respond: “No…I’m Black.”
As a teen, sporting a swinging ponytail, friends boldly stated:
“You gotta be mixed!”
I’d respond assertively: “No. I’m Black.”
During the summers, my hair takes on a curly-Q coiffure
Some inquired: “Are you Hispanic?”
Puzzled, I’d respond: “Uh, no…I’m Black.”
Even when it’s hanging straight down from a tight wrap and grease
I’ve been questioned: “You got some Asian in you?”
Baffled, I’d defiantly respond: “NO. I’M BLACK!”
From my strong roots to my highlighted tips,
I’ve always been aware and proud of my hairitage.

I entered this poem in a contest for Soft Sheen-Carson in 2006. Although I didn’t win, I did however receive an honorable mention for my effort. But, it wasn’t the contest prizes that prompted me to enter; it was the contest’s campaign to share our hair stories that resonated with me. The poem above is my story and may not be shared with everyone reading this. However, this discussion about our hair is LONG overdue and I hope that I am one of the few voices in changing our attitudes and views towards our hair.

I felt compelled to write this post after hearing about Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair which is schedule to be released in theaters this October by HBO Films. Rock produced Good Hair shortly after his then 5-year-old daughter, Lola, came to him crying and asked “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” Rock committed himself and set out to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black hair culture to find out who put that question in his child’s head. However, it’s much more to this documentary than Rock’s comedic one-liners and wisecracks. He is serious about getting to the root (pun intended) of how we view our hair and the effect it has on our activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem. I am glad that this documentary is exploring our hair culture; however, I’m heartbroken that it had to come to pass because a 5-year-old child was inflicted with some angst over her hair.

Like I stated before, we all have our stories and our likes and/or dislikes about our hair. For those who are not African-American and who is reading this, please understand that this is a deep-rooted issue in the black community. It stems so far back to slavery days that this single post alone would become a dissertation if I tried to cover everything concerning black hair culture. But, I won’t (well, not all in this post). I will however discuss my thoughts on this controversial topic and my opinion of how we can stop passing on our hatred for our hair to our children.

For me, I've heard that I have pretty or "good hair" my entire life. BUT this compliment never came from those in my family, but mainly from those outside of my family. There were no differences made between other members in my family or me when it came to our hair. When I was younger, I never felt that having thick, long, naturally wavy hair was a positive or a negative either way, because everyone in my family has various grades and lengths of hair. One person's hair was never considered better than another family member's hair. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I began to fully understand what "good hair" meant when it was directed toward me and its connotation.

When people would tell me that I had "good hair," often times, it was said in a negative way, usually with an eye roll. I didn’t understand why girls wanted to cut my hair in grade school. I never understood why people would say to me: “You think you’re better than everyone else” just because of my hair. It was all very baffling to me, because I didn't think of my hair as "good" or "bad" either way. I really didn't and still don’t think much about it to be truthfully honest with you, because my hair just exists. It is what it is! I don’t like or dislike my hair, OVERALL, I am happy with it because it's all mine! (And yes, my hair is all REAL! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that, but I digress…) My hair does not make me who I am, I was born with it and I cannot change it anymore than I can naturally change my skin complexion, eye color, facial features, etc. And the same goes for everyone else in our culture, no matter how hard we try. I live with who I was born as everyday of my life because I embrace my characteristics, I don’t flaunt it in a superficial way nor should I feel less confident about what God gave me because of other's insecurities about themselves.

I love being black because I believe our features are so broad and arguably more wide-ranging then other ethnicities around the world. But, when we should be embracing our culture and our looks, we are pitted against one another by our pasts, society & media standards, and sadly, each other. We all have seemingly fed into it at one point or another, knowingly or unknowingly. But, in my opinion, hair seems to be the scapegoat in addressing much deeper issues: as a culture, our “light skin/dark skin” complex and one’s individual insecurities about their own looks. This is what I have a problem with, because in my experiences the “good hair” comment towards me was almost never about me. It was never about who I AM XI is on the inside. NO! People would look at me and “perceive” me to be a certain way because of my fairer complexion and long hair.

I’ve heard it my entire life! Well into my adult years, I still hear the same negative connotations reverberate as I did in my youth. Most recently, a friend once said to me that she couldn’t have children with her boyfriend because he “had nappy nigga hair” and her family would frown upon it. She went on further saying that she and her mom were the darkest in complexion in their family, and that there were definite differences made between them and those other family members with lighter complexions. This is part of her story that obviously affected her negatively and I’m sure many others out there as well. So, I completely understand that our stories differ in that respect.

However, I would love for us to all get pass what we know of our past (I hold no ill will or grudges toward those girls who cut my hair in school) and what we see in movies and on TV. I want us as a whole to look pass what long, straight hair is compared to what shorter, coarse hair is... or to some what "good hair" and "bad hair," respectively, is perceived as. Let’s stop feeding into this babble! I know I for one completely despise it. I despise it because we are continually perpetuating it and we are passing our issues onto our children, the future generation. Now, I do not have children of my own, but I see it playing out once again through my 8-year-old cousin who is being teased right now in school because of her long ponytails. My Mom and aunt wanted me to talk to her, but I struggled the same way Chris Rock did when Lola came to him. How do you explain to them why they are being teased for being the beautiful little girls they are? How do you tell them to rise above it, and that others are “just jealous” of them? What do you tell them…and how do you stop it?

Well, in order for us to stop it, I would like for all of us to check ourselves first. Take stock within yourself. Think about what you are saying and doing and how it continues to perpetuate these stereotypes. Next, I would LOVE for all Xfactors to strike “good hair” and “bad hair” from our vocabulary. Let's just stop saying it altogether! We HAVE to move on from the negative connotation of what "good hair" and "bad hair" is. Most of us ALL have hair atop our heads and it’s either healthy (good) or damaged (bad). End of story! Because if you ask the cancer patient who is completely bald what he or she believes is "good" or "bad" hair, I'm pretty confident that he or she will say HAVING hair is "good hair."

I’ll stop here for now as I leave you with that last thought…But, this is an issue that is very near and dear to me for many reasons. However, there is SO much to cover because I've just skimmed the surface. I’d like to revisit this topic over time as the movie premiere nears and once I’ve actually viewed the documentary myself. So, this post just may become a dissertation as I explore various facets of this topic in the future (such as styling – natural vs. processed).
Stay tuned!

Now that I’ve shared me stories and experiences with you, I’d like for you to share your “Hairstory” with me! Be it positive or negative. Let’s have a very honest and open discussion and dialogue about this very controversial topic.

Also, check out the Good Hair trailer coming to a theater near you!


XIKhai said...

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

V-WeB said...

great topic! i could go on and on with my hair stories over the years....never from me experimenting myself! back in the day i swear every professional had their chance at making me bald...i can do "bald" by myself is what i used to say haha.

now i've actually found a stylist that knows what she doing and she had me try a little weave, not against wearing it anymore...if you don't have the hair you want, buy it:)

i still thank God for relaxers though, i would be a hot mess without them haha!

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