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Commentary: I Am Not My Hair

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"You have natural hair, so you're naturally about Black empowerment." This was a statement made to me by a random person. Someone who knew absolutely nothing about me other than my name and what he could see with his eyes. Yes, I proudly sport a TWA (teeny weeny afro) and yes I'm about Black empowerment, but the two things are mutually exclusive. Making an assumption like this isn't only troublesome for natural women but to non-naturals as well. If a sister who embraces her kinky curls is assumed to be pro-empowerment, does that mean women with relaxers or weaves are anti-Black? Of course not. Though afros may be associated with the I'm Black and I'm Proud era, for some women it's simply about aesthetics. Some were tired of using harsh chemicals. Some wanted to see what their hair would look and feel like without being manipulated. And some just like the look. Every woman has a different reason behind her hair-story. Women with relaxers rarely, if ever, have to deal with presumptions about their character based on how they wear their hair. However, it seems many people create a mental outline of a woman who choose to go natural. She's a kente cloth wearing, incense burning, India Arie listening, tofu eating, hater of any woman who uses the "creamy crack." Not necessarily so. There's no singular set of beliefs we all share. Though some (close-minded) napturals look down on women who choose to get relaxers, for most this isn't the case. The natural versus relaxed divide is one that shouldn't exist and for most women it doesn't. Choosing to rock our hair exactly as it sprouts from our scalp doesn't make us any more intelligent or liberated. I've seen natural sisters (and especially brothers) get baffling looks from onlookers who see a non-Black male or female on their arm. Does a 'fro or locs mean this person can't be an equal opportunity dater? Or is it just assumed this person is so pro their own, that they'd never date outside the race? In the same way that hair doesn't determine someone's political stance, it certainly doesn't dictate a code to dating. Hair is just a style, not a predetermined lifestyle. This may be hard for some people to understand, especially with the intense online community that includes hundreds of forums, blogs and YouTube channels devoted to naturals. There's a certain solidarity among us because we understand common struggles (how to maintain moisturized tresses, where to find a salon that doesn't charge insane prices, etc.). But just like any group, it's comprised of individuals who are varied in thoughts and beliefs. No two coils are alike. So what does natural hair say about a woman? Absolutely nothing other than she likes the style she's currently sporting. Maybe she'll switch it up one day or maybe she'll forever be natural, but either way, it doesn't dictate who or what she is.
Filed Under: Sound-Off
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