Natural hair. I embrace it because it is a part of my identity. I love its versatility – I can braid it, twist it, style it in a puff, blow-dry it, straighten it…the possibilities are endless!
However, these feelings about my natural hair did not always exist. When I was younger, I desperately wanted my mother to perm my hair, but she refused.
In primary school, girls in my year or even younger had their hair permed. I believe this is because society perpetuates the idea that one must have straight hair (or Eurocentric features for that matter) to be deemed ‘beautiful’ or accepted in society and that natural hair is ‘unprofessional’.
Even though I wasn’t pleased that I could not have my hair relaxed, I am grateful that my mother refused and wasn’t influenced by societal standards or trends. I have been natural my whole life, my hair is healthy and it continues to grow. As I became older, I began to embrace my hair and I have done so for all my life.
In secondary school, I soon realised that I was the only Black girl in my year who consistently wore my natural hair. There is nothing wrong with protective styling (such as box braids etc), but it seems as if some Black girls are not proud of their natural hair.
My mother would braid my hair every Sunday, which would be done professionally with loving care and attention. This was our weekly ritual. However, I am fortunate to have a mother who can braid and create a variety of styles with my hair. Therefore, I do not have to spend money on having my hair done.
There were occasions in secondary school when a group of Black girls made fun of some of my hairstyles. I would also be stared at. A few White boys even had the audacity to touch my hair without permission. On another occasion, one of the Black girls stated, ‘you’re brave to wear your natural hair!’ On reflection, this highlighted the insecurities that they felt within themselves and the negative feelings they had towards their own hair which is quite sad.
For Black people, hair and identity are intertwined.
Those experiences did not alter my love for my natural hair. However, looking back I may have felt awkward and perhaps intimidated as I was a bit shy. Now that I am older, I continue to embrace my hair with confidence.
When my mother and I wear our natural hair with pride going about our business, there are occasions when we are asked ‘is that your real hair?’ Some comments are compliments and others are out of curiosity. A misconception regarding natural hair is that it cannot grow (which isn’t true). I have medium length hair and my mother has long hair. It seems as if some people cannot comprehend that Black women can have naturally growing hair.
It is pleasing to see in recent years the emergence of Black girls and women celebrating and embracing their natural hair. This is known as the “natural hair movement”. I do believe that this movement still has a long way to go in encouraging more girls, teenagers and women to embrace their “blackness” and go natural.
My love for natural hair reflects the people I follow on social media. This includes natural hair youtubers/influencers who share pictures and create videos documenting their natural hair journeys and hairstyle ideas. They also promote self-love and that ‘Black is beautiful’ as well as ‘#blackgirlmagic’ (something that the media prefers not to highlight).
Kianna Naomi (an influencer) highlighted that “every girl has the right to do whatever she pleases with her mane, but I also know that the journey it takes to love what naturally comes out of your head is the journey where my true liberation began. From one 4c girl to another, grant yourself permission to love your own hair before you ask for society’s permission”.
Her words resonate with my feelings about natural hair – it reflects the idea of being authentically one’s self despite society’s views and without suppressing aspects of one’s self (such as one’s natural hair). Societal standards should not prevent anyone from wearing their hair with pride. Having the confidence to do so and ignoring negative opinions and stereotypes others may have regarding one’s hair is a start.
Even though natural hair discrimination exists for example in workplaces and schools, this does not deny the fact that for many Black people, it is not ‘just hair’. For Black people, hair and identity are intertwined.
According to the Essence magazine website (July 2019), hair discrimination is now illegal in certain states in America e.g. New York. The CROWN Act (which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) prohibits discrimination in workplaces and schools based on hairstyles and textures. Although this law was created in the United States, I believe a similar law should be introduced in the United Kingdom as well. A specific law such as the CROWN Act aimed at protecting Black people, simply for being who they are, only proves what is obvious; we have a long way to go in terms of achieving racial equality.