I Am My Hair
I remember growing up as a girl, that I would do everything I could to please someone. As I grew into an adult, the desire to make others happy at all costs took on a life of its own. This especially was true when it came to romantic relationships. I would go to great lengths to appease my partner. My thoughts, desires, dignity…little mattered as long as he was happy and comfortable. Once, I even straightened my hair, because I was told that he was “used to it” and “liked” it that way. It did not matter that I was two years into a hair journey where I did not desire chemicals on my healthy coils.
One day, I remember a church leader going so far as to say that women with natural hair had a “spirit on them” and that he “didn’t like it.” I found myself bobbing in agreement like a bobble-head doll. Even though deep down I did not agree, that small, inner voice was shut down by my need to make other people comfortable. What made me feel good about me was of no consequence.
As a Black woman in America, I am often asked to dress, talk, or act a certain way to make others… feel comfortable. One day I woke up, and I decided that if putting you at ease meant losing parts of me, that was not a burden that I was willing to bear. As Black people in this country, it is the norm to be expected to behave and look a certain way in order for others to feel… comfortable. Their comfort, however, is not our responsibility. Furthermore, it is okay for us to decide that we no longer want to play that game, and we would rather walk in our authentic being. Unfortunately, all of us will not reach this point, and society isn’t ready if we do.
Our hair, in particular, has been a longstanding issue in the Black community. It is the reason that at one point in history, our ancestors embraced the term “Afro Americans.” It was not merely because of a connection to Africa, it was because of our hair. Our rich, beautiful, distinctive hair was something that they cherished. The afro symbolized power, strength, and unity. This is something our predecessors understood that some in today’s time cannot grasp.
It is not okay to tell people that they should change something about themselves that is reflects an inward matter. The sooner we accept the arrogance behind this way of thinking, the sooner we will have eliminated one of the major discrimination points in America. Instead of telling people who have done no wrong to shuck and jive or conform for a paycheck or relationship, perhaps standing with them will lead to a change in attitude and a more welcoming society for all.