Opinion

Our natural hair is our crowning glory, not our mark of shame

13 August 2017 - 00:00
Hair is about the freedom to express yourself as you wish.
Hair is about the freedom to express yourself as you wish.
Image: iStock

I used to think that hair was just hair. Looking back, it was probably something that had been drilled into me through 12 years of constantly being told what I could and could not do with it.

And I'm not talking about dyeing my hair purple and going to school with it. I'm talking about being allowed to wear my hair as it grows from my scalp, embracing my tight coils instead of being ashamed of them.

Instead of wanting to rebel against the school system that controlled everything including my appearance, I distanced myself emotionally from the hair on my head, seeing it as nothing more than an aesthetic feature.

If your natural hair is 'wrong', then what else about you needs fixing? Your mannerisms, your accent, your cultural beliefs?

But hair is not just hair. For some, it's an important part of your identity; a reminder of your genetic makeup, your ancestors, your blackness.

This isn't to say that if you wear a weave you're ashamed of or are betraying your blackness.

Because beyond being a part of who you are, your hair is about freedom: the freedom to express yourself as you wish, the freedom to tie your identity to your hair - as well as the freedom not to.

But if you spend your formative years being told that the way your hair grows in its natural state is unacceptable, that filters down into the very core of your being. Because if your natural hair is "wrong", then what else about you needs fixing? Your mannerisms, your accent, your cultural beliefs?

I didn't always get this when I was younger, which is why it's been incredible to witness brave girls and young women taking a stand against schools' anti-black hair policies.

To see black and brown girls standing up against authority and fighting back against white supremacy is amazing because at that age, a lot of us weren't as acutely aware of micro-aggressions and identity policing. We weren't informed enough to see that our identities were being whitewashed.

As infuriating as those hair policies are, the pushback against them gives me hope that by the time my daughter is in school, the policing of black hair will be a thing of the past, something looked back at with the same scorn as the pencil test.


ANC Conference 2017
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