In recent years natural hair moms have begun to unapologetically enter PTA meetings, playgrounds, and mommy groups rocking their curls. Many of them made a conscious decision to “go natural” as a way to teach their daughters self-acceptance and also help them learn how to navigate their kinky coils.
One significant off spring of their choice to “go natural” is for the first time in decades many little Black girls have grown up knowing that wearing their hair natural is an option. They have gone to weddings where the bride strolls down the aisle with kinky curls, had teachers who proudly rock a fierce twist out, and seen their moms do the big chop. Undoubtedly, in the last decade little girls have been exposed to a higher percentage of diverse hair images than in years prior.
Moms are now asking, “Was going natural to help my daughter embrace her hair a waste of time?” Working as a psychotherapist for fifteen plus years and being the author of a natural hair children’s book has given me the opportunity to hear their frustration and disappointment firsthand.
The seemingly obvious reason that “going natural” didn’t have the impact that moms thought it would is because for every diverse beauty image a child sees, they have probably seen thousands more that are monolithic and Eurocentric in appearance. Exposure to diverse images is very important component, but may not be enough.
In my opinion one missing factor is the lack of connection between the positive images of natural hair and the historical message. Mom’s expose their girls to positive natural hair images and expect them to make the connection of self-acceptance solely based on the image. Kids are intelligent and may need to understand the WHY behind the image.
One of the major reasons the message does not get discussed is the complicated nature of the message. After all, how do you explain to a child the painful truth behind today’s dominate beauty standard for Black hair and it’s close ties to slavery and the ugly separation of Black people based on hair texture and skin color.
I do believe there is a child friendly, age appropriate, way to discuss these difficult subjects. I further think that negating the rich complicated history from the narrative does our children a disservice. Of course, what you tell a five year old will be different than what you tell a 15 year old, but the inclusion of the WHY behind the message is important. I am hopeful that once girls understand the history behind positive natural hair images they will be more invested in keeping the natural hair movement alive.