When I discovered the natural hair community online, I felt as if I’d been living under a rock. Where had I been?? With all of the resources and testimonials available online, I probably would have gone natural long ago had I discovered all of this information sooner. With that said, I’m glad that I didn’t tune in until I was at the end of my transition. My decision was completely self-involved and uninfluenced. That is important to me because my journey was very personal and linked to a significant change in my outlook on life.
Once I came out of my cave and tapped into the network of natural hair resources online, I saw that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this liberating change in perspective. I read stories about women like me who were becoming more self-aware and confident as they transitioned or big chopped. To my dismay, I also saw many women using the relaxed vs. natural debate as a way to cast judgment and label each other. At one extreme, some natural hair advocates believe that black women who relax their hair are unevolved and don’t love themselves. At the other extreme, you have relaxed black women who view natural hair and the women who rock it as unsophisticated and unkempt.
School Daze, anyone?
Just like light skin vs dark skin, skinny vs full-figured, and the haves vs the have-nots, we have let hate creep in to distract and divide us as if there is just one definition of beauty. It’s just hair. It’s just an accessory that God have us to play with while we are in these bodies. We can use it to express ourselves or not. We can relax it, weave it, curl it, or not. In the big scheme of things, when we look back on how we lived our lives, whether we were relaxed or natural won’t matter. We are all complex human beings whose experiences lead us in different directions. While I associate my journey to natural with my journey to personal enlightenment, this is not the case for everyone…and that’s OK.
I don’t intend to play down the significant impact of the hair debate on women in the black community. I am aware of the implications and deep rooted emotions. I know there’s a need for discussion about the self-esteem issues, cultural stereotypes and pigeon holes. But we should all check ourselves for any degree of intolerance that may be influencing our attitudes in these discussions. Diversity of opinion benefits everyone and is necessary to avoid group thinking. As women of color, we are all shades, textures and sizes of beautiful and our capacity to be open-minded with each other will only make us a stronger force in the world.
So, while I want my two daughters to feel beautiful with their hair in its natural state, I also want them to know that they have choices. They can wear their hair however they want and still be authentic and beautiful. I don’t want them to define themselves by anything but character. All tangible things like hair, clothes, skin, shape – the things that define beauty for many people – are guaranteed to pass away. We should enjoy what we’ve been blessed with and have fun with it while we have it. Our preoccupation with the physical will only result in egotistical thinking which is counter intuitive to inner beauty and sisterhood.