Black Beauty

For decades, African Americans have struggled with discrimination, body image, identity, and a variety of issues that have them questioning their place in society. One issue that has also been a major struggle, especially for African American women, is hair.

As an African American woman, I know first hand the burden of caring for Black hair. We are torn between the choices of either keeping our hair in its natural, curly and kinky state, or using chemical relaxers to keep it straight and tamed.  This choice moves beyond just personal preference, but has many underlying influences from the need to conform and be accepted by society, to the pressure to please both male and female family members and friends, to the desire to remain true to one’s ethnic roots. 

I recently read an article and found an interesting quote about African American women and their hair: “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.” This statement comes from comedian Paul Mooney, but there’s really nothing funny about it.  Why are we African American women putting ourselves and our hair through the stress and expense of processing, relaxing, and straightening?  Are we really doing it to conform to the beauty standards of majority America? For most of us, our natural hair texture is not straight and silky; that type of hair is usually natural for Caucasians, Asians, and Hispanics, but not African Americans.  So why do we go to such great lengths to achieve a look and texture that’s not even natural to us? I wore my hair relaxed for 7 years. It was exhausting and expensive keeping my hair like that.

I have heard that a lot of people don’t think that natural, African American hair is professional and that straight hair is more appropriate for most work places. I don’t really believe it.  I wear my hair natural and I think it is totally fine. I have never been asked to leave work and go home to change my hair style; nor have I ever been looked at as anything less than a professional because of my hair.  But I have heard stories where African American women were questioned about their braids and locks and some have felt discriminated on the job because of the natural way they wore their hair.  I think it’s unfair an unlawful for people and employers to judge someone’s professionalism on the texture of their hair. 

Finally, Chris Rock, the comedian, just came out with a movie called “Good Hairin which he explores the measures that African Americans go through to keep their hair straight and why they do it.  After reading this article and writing this blog, I really want to see the movie. Maybe it will give me a little more insight on an issue that I, as an African American woman, have struggled with myself.

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One Comment

  1. Brenda
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nice post, Lakeshia!

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