by Erica Thurman of Erica Thurman- Life Behind the Veil
"I mean, what’s the big deal?”
With one simple sentence, my male friend seemingly dismissed centuries of politics behind “the big deal” of Black women wearing their natural hair. My first response was emotional.
“Clearly you’ve never stood in a mirror with a t-shirt/towel draped on your head. Or listened to some adult go on and on about your cousin’s ‘good hair’ while looking at yours and lamenting about how it needs to be tamed. Or stood by while men flocked to your friend with long straight hair. You’ve never felt the liberation of a big chop as an act of resistance against the mother(s) who put so much energy into your hair that even you began to feel that it alone defined you.”
At least, that’s what my memory tells me I said. I’m pretty sure I didn’t articulate it that way. I told you, my first response was emotional. Still, there is much to be said about the sociopolitical relevance of Black women wearing their natural hair. Perhaps there is more to be said about the fact that some people, even Black men (as in the case of my friend) are oblivious to that relevance.
The idea of Black women wearing our kinks and coils in their natural state is about redefining beauty and Eurocentric standards of such. Standards that remain physically impossible for women of color to obtain without manipulating our bodies and our body image.
Natural hair is about loving ourselves for who we are—completely. In embracing the one part of us that society refused to acknowledge as beautiful, we resist the low self-esteem responsible for many of the issues that plague our communities.
There is something to the sisterhood of natural hair. The head nod you get from other natural sistas at the bookstore/grocery store/church pew. The friendships formed across the country with women you have never met but who are all willing to respond to a social network cry of “my twist out failed, what can I do for my date/interview/formal event?” *Shout out to my Curly Nikki friends*
Natural hair isn’t about doing what’s easy, or cheap, since many naturals spend far more time and money on their hair than they did with a relaxer. Contrary to the beliefs of some people, we do “comb” our hair. Natural hair isn’t a fad. The decision to go natural is far more emotional/spiritual than sporting this season’s ankle boot.
Admittedly, I am a living contradiction when it comes to my hair. I will tell you that my hair is both political and not political all at the same time. It is political because the world made it that way. It is not political because my hair, in any state, doesn’t make me more or less culturally Black. My sistas are beautiful with straight hair, kinky hair, long hair, short hair, and no hair. Tomorrow, I might decide to big chop –for the third time, or flat iron, or even relax my hair (cue gasps). But that’s the point. Embracing our natural hair is one more aspect of our lives where we have the power to choose. And that’s a big deal.
What does natural hair mean to you?