How can we create a sense of a natural hair community when we continue to “police” one another? By “police” I mean how we (try to) keep each other in line so we don’t break those so-called rules that “naturals” are supposed to live by. I bring this up because I recently had a conversation with a friend basically trying to answer the question, who really has natural hair? We talked heat styling versus no heat styling, straightening, etc. Basically, it helped give me a bit of insight of how I honestly feel about people who identify as “naturals” but who never wear fros or have their hair straight 90% of the time.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider some people to be more “natural” than others when it comes to hair care. The less manipulation the better, the less you straighten the better, the more natural/organic products the better, etc. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’m really trying to process and own up to my own biases and prejudices.
But this isn’t really about my personal hang ups so much as it is about a trend I’ve seen of people in the natural hair community trying to enforce all these so-called “rules” of what it means to be natural onto someone else. It’s one thing to have these automatic thoughts or perceptions about how someone feels about their hair based on how they wear it BUT it’s a different beast to call people names or try to denigrate their identity as a natural by invalidating their experience. Here are some examples of things I’ve read or heard about natural hair: Stop complaining, at least you don’t have kinky hair…your hair is curly! Straight hair isn’t natural. If you don’t have a fro, you aren’t natural. When are you going to braid that? Why don’t you get locs? But it’s their hair, not yours. So why care? Why do we do this to one another? Why do we do this to ourselves?
It troubles me that for some reason people seem to be hard-wired this way. We categorize ourselves as different from another so that maybe can make ourselves feel better about our own decisions. I do it too and I hate that about myself. I’m recognizing I’m also part of the problem. It’s sort of a wake up call to myself that what one person does to their hair has no reflection on me whatsoever so why should I care? Why should you care?