Dark Girls & Nappy Hair: Parallel Nuances of Self-Hate?
So unless you have been under a rock the past 48 hours, you know that OWN premiered Bill Duke’s documentary “Dark Girls” last night. Social media circuits have been inundated with comments about the film. The piece argues that there is a proclivity towards lighter skin tones, which are perceived as more attractive and desirable. I feel as though the same bias exists in the black community in terms of hair texture.
Even though everyone and their momma is going natural, take a step back and look. How many images of kinky hair versus curly hair do you see in the mainstream media? How many times have you heard a woman say” My hair is too nappy to go natural” or “She got that good hair, she can go natural”. “Good” is to hair as “light” is to skin even in our current culture. Until 2010 you would’ve caught me referring to “good” hair as curly/wavy hair and “bad “ hair as kinky/coily hair.
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I can’t think of a group of people other than of those of African descent where the overwhelming majority of the female population worldwide goes to such extreme measures to change their hair texture. When I was growing up in the 80’s, getting a relaxer was like a rite of passage –something to be excited about. I remember getting my first “kiddie perm” –a Just For Me. I felt so pretty with my bouncy silky hair. I also remember waiting to let the stylist know when it was burning my scalp because I wanted my hair to be as straight as possible. And, for the next 22 years, every 6-8 weeks I would willingly subject myself to scalp irritation and discomfort all for the love of straight hair. It sounds so utterly ludicrous to me now. But that was only 3 years ago.
This meme summarizes a lot of natural hair journeys. Myself included. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to coveting that type 3 hair type when I saw my coils in cotton after my big chop. I hated what I saw in the mirror and felt as though my twa was ugly. Luckily I came to my senses after a few short months.
For the thousands who grow to accept and embrace our true texture, there are just as many, if not more, on the opposite side of the coin. There are women who are obsessed with curl definition and become upset when they realize that there is no product or technique to convert their cotton into curls. There are women who have been devastated and gone back to relaxers or heat training their hair after cutting their relaxed ends released kinks from their scalps. There are women who are natural but who cover their hair with weaves because they feel like their texture is something to be reviled instead of revered. That is a level of deep self loathing that has been passed on from generation to generation. It’s one thing to prefer to wear your hair straight, but it’s another issue all together when you feel that only way you CAN wear your hair is straight. Do you see the difference?