Skip to main content
Curly Nikki

The Treatment We Expect

By January 27th, 202133 Comments

By Andrea Dawn

A while ago, I came across a quote that really grabbed my attention. It said:

Some Black people are so focused on the bad treatment they expect to receive, that they fail to see the good treatment they are receiving.

I don’t know who to credit (or discredit) for that quote, but I remember thinking that it might contain a grain of truth.

Fast forward two years, and I’m about four months into my natural hair journey. I’m in a supermarket, standing in a checkout line, waiting to pay for my groceries. Standing in a checkout line one row over from me is a White woman, probably in her early 60’s. I can’t help but notice that she’s staring at my hair. Every time I turn in her direction, I can see that her eyes are fixated on me. At one point I make eye contact with her and smile. No reaction from her; just a stern, unsmiling stare. By this time I’m feeling very uncomfortable. Then the negative thoughts show up. “What’s her problem?” “Hasn’t she ever seen a Black woman with natural hair?” “That’s right, it’s called an afro! Deal with it!”

A few minutes later I’m bagging my groceries, and I notice that the woman is walking towards me, on her way to the store exit. As she walks by me she pauses, leans over and says, “Young lady, your hair is lovely! Just beautiful!” And off she goes, her face still stern and unsmiling.

At that moment, the quote I had tucked away in the back of my brain started flashing like a bright neon billboard.

I’m now 16 months into my natural hair journey, and I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since that encounter. I’ve gained confidence and perspective. If I notice someone eyeballing my fro, instead of assuming they’re a hater, I assume they’re an admirer. Or better yet, I don’t assume anything at all. Does it really matter whether a complete stranger likes or dislikes my hair? No.

I’ve taken off my boxing gloves, and that’s made my natural hair journey a whole lot easier.

When it comes to your natural hair, do you sometimes find yourself expecting “bad treatment” from other people, even though they haven’t given you any reason to expect it?

33 Comments

  • DanielleG says:

    This has always been a problem for me, I grew up in areas where I would be the only black girl. Being stared at and expecting the worse is nothing new. Since being natural it has only gotten worse but the article has put it in perspective for me- the opinions of others shouldn't matter and no matter the true thoughts of others I am just going to assume they are jealous admirers and feel insanely flattered.

  • Netta Dee says:

    Wow I tell those things to my students all the time. Just live and stop expecting the worse out of people. Now I do go to places where I might be the only black person and don't care. I want to have fun like everyone else in the world.

  • Lana says:

    Great story! This is definitely something I (and probably many of us) have experienced. I was really (and sometimes still am) self-conscious about my hair. I hated it when people would stare at me. It made me feel uncomfortable and I just KNEW they were talking about my hair. I'm so much more confident now that I don't really think about what others think.

  • Kelly says:

    Great, GREAT post!!!!!!

  • sammiegotsoul says:

    I have been like this about many things in lifee , not just hair. I actually grew up a BIG CHUNK when I did my big chop and I actually forced myself to stop that thinking right there in the salon because that type of imprisonment will keep you down under if you continue to think like that , escpescially with natural hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I really value this blog, so I appreciate everything that is posted here…even when I feel that certain things might not apply to me. However, every once in a while, something is posted that completely exemplifies why I come here everyday, several times a day. This is another one of those posts. Thank you!

  • luvnM3naturally says:

    Standing in line purchasing holiday gifts overheard the conversation of two females standing behind me. The conversation went something like…I don't know how she combs it out, I couldn't do that. There I was getting all stink faced with the side eye only to hear hear the one female say…Yes you could MOM your hair is beautiful too! Instantly all smiles!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love the stares, whether they come from a negative place or a positive place. I love natural hair. I love that my hair stands out in a crowd of relaxed, weaved, uninspired, cookie cutter heads.

    December 29, 2011 8:41 PM

  • Anonymous says:

    I love the stares, whether they come from a negative place or a positive place. I love natural hair. I love that my hair stand out in a crowd of relaxed, weaved, uninspired, cookie cutter heads.

  • Erica S says:

    That story was REALLY interesting. When I first stopped straightening my hair and wearing weaves and just rock my natural texture, I was terrified. I work with a lot of white people and they LOVE dishing out the black jokes and my expense. I just knew I would hear all the jokes now that my hair was a lot less "like theirs." But ironically, everyone LOVED it. People would compliment my many different styles that I was experimenting with. I think as african americans we're already defensive because we were taught by our parents and grandparents to be. Even if we weren't given a reason to expect it, we tend to put this same guard up as women when it comes to our hair.

  • janubie says:

    This is so true for me in all situations. I can be extremely defensive, oftentimes it's unwarranted.

  • Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I'm anticipating mostly curious stares and inquiries as to why I went natural but other than that I have no room for the negative anything, whether it's coming or not.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article! Sometimes i do also expect the worst, and this article was great as a reminder about it doesn't have to bee bad. We dont know what people are thinking so it could also be good as well. Some people just stare sometimes, even if they like it, but it's just a habbit for some i think and dont really think about others, and if they could think that you stare in a "bad way".

  • Anonymous says:

    Sometimes but not when i expect it. On a good hair day, good or bad comments doesn't seem to faze me either way. Only time I get the negative thoughts is when I get the long intense stares from a peer, that never says a word to me just stares at me everytime I walk by them or when I'm in the same room filled with people they look give me the side eye and then start to whisper. There the same people you see all the time. The people that others in the room point out their body langues is off. The woman with the relaxed hair or super long weave(not knocking it cause I still like thoses styles)That I feel is thinking "what the hell is she thinking" look on her face. The one that will comment on a social network telling me I need to comb my hair, "um hun it's an afro I have to comb it to get it that way". Even after speak to them says nothing turns and whispers to her friend and I say whateves I wont speak to you again. It may be good comments she's whispering (I doubt it) but I can't help think otherwise.

  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent article! A good reminder to not try and guess what others are thinking. We are not mind readers!

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this article! I have to agree with some of the other responders that I receive more compliments often from other races other than my own. I recall one incident on lunch break one day. It was a 'not a good curl pattern day' early in my natural hair journey, but I still rocked my TWA. I saw two immature black women obviously amused with my hair. I overheard one say some thing to the effect of ' some folks should not go natural'. It upset me to the 10th power! Then as I was leaving with my food I spoke to them with a simple 'have a blessed day'. The look of confusion was priceless. Later I had to check myself after my husband quickly reminded me of how beautiful my hair was and although I was still learning it was God giving and therefore perfect. So I asked myself why do I care if they like my hair or not. It is sad my 'sisters' wouldn't support my natural journey, but looking on it now it wasn't worth my worry. Since then my journey has improved even that curl pattern now that I have gained more insight on how to care for my hair. Its a testimonry that I don't care what you do if you think negative you will feel negative. I select to embrace the positive even when others try to down my parade!

  • hairscapades says:

    I soooo agree with this post and Sweetdrk1, your grandmama is a GENIUS;)!! Anywho, as many have said above, I think the assumption that people are looking, talking or staring often comes from a place of insecurity about oneself. Not to sound narcissistic, but when you know you look good, you can't help but think that people are looking at you because they recognize it too;)!!

    Shelli

  • Anonymous says:

    I've basically been natural all my life and I still kinda suffer this whole self-conscious thing sometimes. But I'm not scared of people hating it, I feel like I'm partially responsible for people's perceptions. It's kinda weird, but I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing.

  • Anonymous says:

    Reminds me of the quote: I'd rather be looked over than overlooked 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I can totally relate to this post. I sometimes get combative when I get too many long stares in my direction, while rocking my curly fro. I admit I often jump to the conclusion that people are judging and hating on my hair. But, my mother has told me on more than one occasion that these folks may actually be admiring my hair, not dissing it. She stated that strangers always stared at me, even before I went natural, which is something I never paid much attention to. I guess she may have a point there. I try not to get offended by the long stares, but they do make me feel uncomfortable.

    Last week, I flat-ironed my hair and rocked that look for about four days. People still stared at me, exactly like when I rock my natural curls. My pressed hair look so voluminous, shiny, and bouncy that people kept looking at it. It was then that I realize that maybe people are admiring something interesting about me, rather than judging or looking down on me.

    No matter what I try to keep my head up and walk with confidence. Even if someone is hating on my hair, at least they will realize that their opinions are meaningless to me! I absolutely love my natural hair!

  • Trice (BreatheFashion3c) says:

    I just love this article because it is so darn true. Many times it is our own self-consciousness that fires us up with attacks, making us ready to throw them at anyone in our paths….without even giving the other party a fair chance to react. I can't lie, these days, i am just doing me and not worrying if anyone else loves it or hates it. As long as I am following God's word, not harming anyone else, and I am being the best mother I can be to my precious toddler, then the rest is dust under the rug. With that being said, if I decide to walk outside with a gigantic curly fro, and someone else decides they hate it, I will still tell them thank-you with a smile and keep it moving. Do you and I will do me; in love. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Since I've started my natural journey, I must say that I didn't know how White people would react to me. Particularly since I am a high school teacher at a school that is mostly White. Despite what I was expecting, I ALWAYS get compliments on my hair! It's usually the White boys who compliment me most often, followed by the White girls, then the Black students. Go figure!

  • GGmadeit says:

    great article..reminds me what my grandmother always said "you are what you react to" and here is how she taught me that lesson. My cousin called me a "female dog" and I ran upstairs to tell. He was gonna get a woopin. Well how shocked was I when my grandmother turned on ME! What is YOUR name? she kept very sternly saying. I was like lady that boy called me a itch!! Beat him (in my head of course) After going back and forth she finally said "I should beat you for answering him, if you don't hear YOUR name, they are not talking to you" Thanks for sharing!

  • mandi says:

    Gr8 post!!

  • Anonymous says:

    " But why is the quote specifically about black people? Couldn't this apply to everyone?"

    Maybe it was said in a context/discussion that was talking about black people? Why zone in on that? as stated it's obviously applicable to all areas of life.

  • Anonymous says:

    Its been white people…(Is what I meant) :-)!

  • Anonymous says:

    In my experiences, it's been white who mostly have positive things to say (about my natural hair). It's been the black people who are the most negative!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now, I'm rocking a weave (growing out a hair cut and I don't like my natural hair at the current length). I get every other black person admiring this "fakeness" (this weave) while my white counterparts say, "Your hair is nice either way however I love your natural hair". Some black folks need to buy a clue and rise above the foolishness and embrace folks preference to rock their natural hair without all the smart comments, snurls and crazeeee looks!! **#grindsmygears**

  • Anonymous says:

    This is a great article. But why is the quote specifically about black people? Couldn't this apply to everyone? I don't mean to come off as combative, but something about that doesn't seem right.

  • Anonymous says:

    i agree, i recently had too apply this every area of my life…i look for rejection, even conjure it up and then deeply internalize it…it was chipping away at my soul as I began to lose trust in people, started to develop anxiety issues again and started to become a recluse. Gotta check yourself sometimes 🙂

  • naturallyappealing says:

    I can totally relate. When I first big chopped I was like a cobra snake ready to strike at anyone who had negative comments or stares. But then I realized that if I got any stares it was just from people who knew me and couldn't believe that I had cut my long relaxed hair off, not because it didn't look right or they didn't like it. Once "I" got totally confident with my new look, I could care less what anyone thought, it didn't matter if people stared or had anything negative to say because I was happy with me and that is all that matters. It is amazing though that as I go through this "spiritual" hair journey there are so many other life lessons that I learn along the way.

  • LadyV69 says:

    I did when I first went natural two years ago. I assumed people were whispering behind my back and thinking negative thoughts about my hair. After a couple of months, I took a step back and noticed that most people paid no attention to my hair whatsoever. And for those that did, their opinion really didn't matter.

    I realized my bout of paranoia stemmed from a lack of confidence. I hadn't worn my hair natural since middle school and I knew that I was going against the norm and I wasn't sure if I was up to the challenge mentally. The saying, "Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind" is apt.

    This article doesn't just apply to hair but to our everyday lives. We're bombarded with negative stereotypes about us in the media from the cradle and a number of us internalize them to the point where we can't recognize what good treatment is.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing. I also have had negative thoughts when people are staring at my hair. This will give me something to think about.

  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent article: Reminds me it's good to not assume about what others maybe thinking about you, just wait and see…

Leave a Reply