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Is The Natural Vs. Relaxed Hair Debate Perpetuating Intraracial Discrimination?

Is The Natural Vs. Relaxed Hair Debate Perpetuating Intraracial Discrimination?
By Kanisha Parks

After reading all of the responses on Facebook to my article, “From Natural to Relaxed: A Growing Trend?” I realized that when it comes to hair, we truly have many dissenting opinions. Some comments were combative, and it made me wonder why we’re willing to sacrifice decency and respect for one another for something as simple and superficial as hair?

Even though I personally live by the notion that it’s just hair, I also realize that every woman has a different history with her hair, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, I also believe that we are all so much more than the hair that grows out of our head, the hair we chop off, the hair we throw on, curl, color, or relax. We have jobs/careers, businesses, families, friends, social lives, and other interests besides hair. But are we now allowing the very same movement that has united us, divide us? Now that I’m relaxed, have I eliminated my ability to partake in this sisterhood, this community that I have been a part of for so long?

I hope not. But while reading the comments, I couldn’t help but feel the pervading divide between us, as though one is better than the other.

It’s the same notion that society has impressed upon us for so long, but in reverse. The overarching belief has been that straight hair was (and still is, for some) considered “better” than curly/kinky hair in public or the workplace, etc. But after the natural hair movement erupted, women started shunning other women who choose relaxers. It’s still discriminatory—but as a result of those negative experiences, now we’re doing it to ourselves.

Just like the #TeamDarkSkinned vs. #TeamLightSkinned debate, intraracial discrimination (discrimination within a community) is real.

As Morgan Saraya Howell writes in her thesis for Arizona State University,

“Although there are frequent protests by African Americans against discrimination from other racial/ethnic groups and initiatives for equal treatment both in society and in the workplace, the issue of discrimination primarily regarded as intergroup racial bias, (i.e. discrimination within a culture or group) . . . has typically been ignored”

It’s true. We go in on each other as though we’re enemies, judging each other’s hair decisions just because they don’t agree with our own. I’ve been on both sides, but even while being natural for 7 years, I simply viewed other women’s hair choices as none of my business. But we can’t dismiss the weight of the argument, peep some of these comments:

“All ya’ll I’m about to go back to creamy crack” type of so called naturals were never really natural for the right reasons. You bandwaggonned & hopped on a trend. Leave it to the consciously aware & stop making it look like just 1 of our phases. Thanks. #TeamNaturalForLife”

“I’ll always find it ridiculous that black women are the only group of people who say their natural is too much or not right for them. We’ve got black girls all over the world bleaching and perming trying to achieve a look that is detrimental to them.”

“I love my natural hair but it IS work. This ain’t no ‘brush and go’. I take GREAT care of my hair and I am VERY informed. But it’s still a lot more work than when it was relaxed. Please don’t pass judgement for what sistahs do with our hair.”

I think it’s important for us all to have opinions and be able to share them with one another, but when it comes to having natural or relaxed hair, why are we so quick to judge one another?

GiGi, who runs the Instagram page “naturalorrelaxed,” says:

“My page is for all: Natural, Relaxed/Texlaxed, Transitioning, and also Locs. I do this so that we can all come together as one, give each other advice, and share experiences. Every day I witness discrimination when it comes to hair. It’s very sad to see people bullying one another because they are or are not natural or they are not relaxed. The reason is that ever since the natural hair movement began, a lot of women assume they know everything about every person’s hair, which isn’t the case.”

Our sense of community should be stronger than this natural vs. relaxed debate. Just like all skin types are beautiful, so are all hair types. We have enough to deal with in our daily lives. The least we can do is support and build each other up, not tear each other down. Let’s put the hair debate to rest once and for all and get to more important things.

Do you believe the community we’ve built is stronger than our hair?

Is The Natural Vs. Relaxed Hair Debate Perpetuating Intraracial Discrimination?
Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, “Love Letters from the Master.” Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at

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