Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Naturals Benefiting from "Straight Privilege"

I read and responded to a discussion on Facebook from Kinky Curly Coily Me (KCCM) regarding how you feel when you see a woman who is natural but "masks" her true texture.  I had a lot more to say, so I'm carrying the discussion over to my blog.  Thanks KCCM for the inspiration!

First, I have to say that it's a woman's choice to wear her hair in anyway she chooses.  I'm not a natural hair advocate for those who are not interested in wearing their hair natural.  However, it does rub me the wrong way when someone comes over to me and say "Hey - I'm natural too!" and I look at them and cannot tell that they are natural.  This is because her hair is straight as a pin, it's tucked away under a weave or consumed by extensions.  If you're wearing your hair in a protective style or you occasionally straighten it, then I'm not specifically talking about you because your "unnatural" look is temporary, but if that's the way you always wear your hair, then here's my five cents on the topic (cuz you know I have more than two - lol).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Natural Hair - Fad or Paradigm Shift?

With my mom & aunt proudly sporting their TWAs

"Don't remove the kinks from your hair.  Remove them from your brain." ~Marcus Garvey

I believe there are people who are jumping on the bandwagon because natural hair is such a big thing right now.  However, I believe that this is bigger than just a passing fad.  I believe we are fortunate enough to be witnessing a paradigm shift.  For the first time, many of us are experiencing our hair in it's natural state and realizing that everything we were led to believe was wrong.  We are realizing that we can wear beautiful hair styles without the assistance of hot combs, chemicals and weaves.  We thought that Corporate America was not ready to embrace our coils, but we now realize that natural hair can be professionally styled and not hinder our career progression (although some are still debating this point).  We are finding out that men generally do not shy away from natural hair and that many are drawn to it.  We see our confidence hitting an all time high and we are forming strong relationships with our fellow natural sisters, transitioning sisters and naturally curious sisters.  We are not making political or fashion statements.  We are learning to love ourselves naturally and we're spreading the knowledge!

I remember the first time I wore a fro.  It quickly went from a proud moment to a traumatic experience for me.  I started the day with a few of my fellow natural sisters and they made me feel so good about my hair that I felt like a queen.  Moments later, I went to visit my family and it only took a few seconds for them to break me down.  I was met with hysterical laughter, comments about how nappy my hair was and questions of when I would straighten it.  I knew my family meant no harm and I had shocked them with my new do, but I had to admit that their reaction did hurt.  It was a long time before I wore a fro again, but I experimented with other natural styles.  Over time, my family's reaction changed.  They were surprised at how soft my hair was and amazed at all the beautiful natural hairstyles I wore.  My mother was shocked at how thick and healthy my hair was and she began asking questions and telling other people about my hair.  Now my mother and my aunt (her sister) are both natural.  It took my mother awhile to embrace the natural look and she wore hats for a few months after the big chop - bless her heart!  But now she openly wears her TWA.  On the other hand, my aunt embraced her new natural look right away! My aunt's walk changed to a strut.  She grew a couple of inches because she stretched her neck up so high (lol).  She even had a sparkle in her eyes I didn't remember seeing before.  She loved her new TWA and she received lots of compliments!  I know for my mother and aunt, this was definitely a paradigm shift and I'm glad I was able to be a part of it.

My grandma, lovingly known as "Mama Lizzie"
She may be 100 years old, but she's a progressive thinker!

The other story I have to share is the first time my grandmother saw my natural hair.  I was wearing an afro puff at the time.  She asked me to come over so she could see my hair.  I was a little nervous because of the way my family reacted to my afro and my grandma always had silky hair that hung down her back without any heat or chemicals, so I thought she wouldn't understand or like my new hairstyle.  Also, she was born in 1911 in the deep south, so I knew she had to have a negative opinion of natural hair, but when I bent over so she could see and touch my hair, she said "Beautiful.  Just beautiful."  What a moment!  Don't let that sweet smile fool you.  Mama Lizzie holds her tongue for no one, so I knew she meant those three beautiful words and that made it extra special for me!

Not every is as progressive as Mama Lizzie and a paradigm shift does not happen instantly.

If you are struggling to embrace your natural hair, hang in there.  If your family or closest friends are not accepting your natural hair, be patient.  If someone tells you negative things about your hair, don't worry.  They may still be a part of the old mindset.  We all know that may only take 20 - 30 minutes to remove kinks from your hair, but it takes a lot longer to remove them from your brain.  Stay strong - it gets better and you never know who may follow your example :-)

~Loving Me Naturally