by Dr. Phoenyx Austin
I was part of a discussion this past weekend where the hot topic of choice was black people who don’t like natural hair. The discussion was actually initiated after I received a tweet from a beautiful natural haired girl who asked for my opinion on why black men don’t like natural hair.
Now questions like this are often a touchy subject for black women, and black people in general, but I wanted to offer my honest opinion. So what was my response? Basically I responded that it’s been my observation that most of these black men who dislike natural hair actually have a “complex” – most often due to systematic brainwashing. I don’t think it’s as simple as just having a “preference.”
But do I get angry at or bash these black men? No. Not especially when I see how they (and black women) are flooded with images of a certain “standard of beauty.’ And not especially when these same black men even witness so many black women lending validity to this “standard of beauty” when we choose to alter our appearance to look more like our non-black female counterparts.
And for me, the natural hair issue is really no different than the “color complex”- namely where black people have a preference and greater acceptance for lighter skinned individuals. So when it comes to my opinion on black men who dislike natural hair and have other “preferences,” if I were to put myself in these young black man’s shoes and attempt to think like them, my thought process would go something like this: “Why get the generic, imitation doll when what I really want is the Barbie?” Get my drift?
Sometimes we make jokes about these complexes in the black community- think Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks- but it’s actually a very serious topic. And the issue is not limited to the United States. For instance, I was reading an article in The Grio just yesterday about the growing trend of skin bleaching in Jamaican slums. It appears that despite widespread health warnings, many adult Jamaicans are obsessed with using risky methods to lightening their own and even their children’s skin. The story created much discussion on The Grio’s site, and many black people here were quick to make statements about how “sad” and “mentally enslaved” those poor Jamaicans are. But for me, this growing practice in Jamaica is no different than when black women in the United States continue to relax their own and their 6 year old child’s hair- especially after we’ve all seen the coda can scene in Good Hair.
Will all black people ever come to a point where we’re totally accepting of our natural beauty? I don’t know. The sad truth is that people, not just black people, do harmful things to themselves to look like other people all the time. It’s nothing new. But if anything at all, maybe continuing to have these types of discussions about race and natural hair, no matter how uncomfortable, will be a source of support and enlightenment for the individuals who are truly yearning to come to a place where they can finally accept and love themselves.