Early this year, Stacy Dash topped social media trending topics following her statements criticizing the exclusive nature of Black History Month and the Black entertainment based network, BET. “There shouldn’t be a Black History Month,” Dash said. “We’re all Americans. Period.” Contrary to the actress’ beliefs, no “period” should exist after the phrase. The true and accurate idea of an American has no simple definition; adding a period can only prove limiting to the diverse cultures and ethnicities of the nation. In addition, the separate space reserved for black culture and praise is necessary. Without the existence of this space, the arrival of issues such as the one at hand arise. This issue being the shame and denial of ethnic beauty within its own circles. With the conscious or unconscious desire to fit the “All American, period” mold, many Black women straighten and manipulate their kinky roots.
I revisit the previous statement that there is no defined American. In yesterday and today’s society, there is. This defined American represents beauty with her straight, shiny locks. Not only is this image projected out in public and through entertainment, but the image is passed from one generation to the next, to little black girls, to whom these goals are unachievable. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, little dark skinned Pecola describes her own observations on the matter. Reflecting back on her childhood she recalls, “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs– and all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.” This treasured image leads back to the desire of Black women to “de-kink” their natural hair textures to more closely resemble the beauty of white features previously exposed to in their youth as well as in their adult lives. It is important to note that even today, a magazine with beauty tips centralized around Caucasian hair textures is considered international, and for the use of all women.
The relaxing of hair has almost become apart of African-American culture. Truthfully, it is a business. According to Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, the industry providing the necessary products to these women is worth $9 billion. In the same film, actress Nia Long says, “There’s always this sort of pressure within the black community like, if you have good hair, you’re prettier or better than the brown-skinned girl that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle.” In the purchase of product to achieve this “good hair,” the money is given to businesses predominately owned by non-blacks.
The media is not all to blame for this negative feel toward natural hair within the Black community. As small children, when most little girls have natural hair, more often than not, mothers use small tooth combs with unforgiving strokes that painfully pull and tear the hair. Whenever the child is placed between the mother’s knees on the floor to have her hair done, it can bring on tears before the process begins just by remembering the last session through the mental association the child makes between the comb and the process. Generationally influenced not to embrace the natural kinky texture, many do not know how to properly care for this hair type. In many cases, the child’s hair is only natural until the mother decides her daughter is old enough to get a perm. However, natural hair does not have to be difficult to style and keep healthy.
There are benefits to going natural. In terms of self confidence, embracing natural hair texture may provide a free, rebellious-type of satisfaction in finding beauty in unconventional beauty. So much can be discovered about what hair can actually do! There will be plenty to discover from hair type and curl patterns to new growth (the kind that you won’t cringe at and slap some relaxer over). There are health benefits as well. Harsh chemicals won’t be added to hair, damaging it. Also, reading hair product labels for ingredients will become a fact and habit of life. As ingredients become more and more important, checking food labels for natural and unnatural ingredients will also become habit. What enters the body will become just as important as what you put on it, and on your scalp. Don’t hide from the kinks!