note: links to articles are in bold
Not too long ago, I had a discussion with one of my brothers about a young woman he was dating. His friend had recently gone "Au Naturel" but she was having trouble accepting the way she looked in her natural hair. To him her beauty was obvious and he absolutely could not understand how she could not see it. Although he preferred her natural beauty to her chemically treated and extension laden hair, she understandably had some trepidation. Like most African American women her parents kept her hair in cornrows and braids when she was a child. When she entered elementary school, she began to have her hair straightened and her hair was permed by middle school. She has never really known the texture, look or feel of unprocessed hair. Of course, there is nothing wrong with permed or straightened hair but some women are taught that there is something wrong with natural hair. Unfortunately, some messages related to the politics of black women and their hair are learned in school. Since it is that time of year when our children will be heading back to school, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some the lessons we learn about our unprocessed hair.
School can be challenging for most children. It can be even more challenging when you are different (read: unique). Children receive messages that tell them that they are lesser, not as beautiful or acceptable with unprocessed hair. It is even more amazing that these messages can come from school administrators that try to discourage some young women from wearing their natural hair. In fact, some schools like Montverde Academy in Florida have tried to pressure young women to conforming to an imagined beauty ideal by demanding that they "get their hair done”. In some incidents school administrators have even created policies that restrict natural hair, even going the distance to actually physically check to see whether students have hair extensions or not. This sends an erroneous message (read: lesson) to our girls about what is and is not acceptable in terms of beauty, respectability and hair aesthetics. This can lead to lifelong insecurities and alienation which can damage self-esteem. So, when we are told by our partner we are beautiful with our natural hair it may be hard to believe it and even feel it.
However, the lessons we learn in school are only part of the problem. The first place where we learn to accept ourselves for who we are begins in the home. In fact, the lessons we learn at home greatly impact and can counteract what we learn in school about what being different, being beautiful and being nontraditional means. We can help counter these messages by supporting and encouraging hair diversity. We need to teach our young naturalistas that all hair is beautiful no matter the density, curl pattern, or porosity. In addition, we can teach our school age naturalistas that differences do not equate to being bad or being lesser. If you or someone you know is having doubts about going back or starting school being "Au Naturel" there are tons of great vloggers, books and magazines that encourage and support curly, kinky, and coily gals!
In honor of going back to school and slaying while you do I have uploaded a video and some useful links. If you have some fantabulous back to school natural hair styles or lessons learned, please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We would love to hear from you! And as always..slay woke!
Here is a video with a few quick back to school hairstyles from Victoria LaShay . Isn't she the cutest?!
Other articles that you may like:
The Politics of Black Women's Hair
Black Women and Identity: What's Hair Got To Do With It?
Hair Matters: African American Women and the Natural Hair Aesthetic