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).

When I was in college, I took a White Racism course.  I took it because I was intrigued by the title especially since I went to a predominately white university.  Some of the details of that course is a topic for another post, but the point that I want to make is other than the professor, I was the only black person in the class.  Of course that meant that when we discussed racial issues related to black people, I had to represent the race.  There was one young lady in the class who was Jewish and she stated how she could relate because of the persecution Jewish people face.  Initially, something didn't feel right about that and I didn't know why.  I knew about the Holocaust and I knew about some of the negativity and racism aimed at Jewish people, but I didn't feel that she and I were in the same boat.  While I'm trying to figure out my confusion, the professor explained to the young lady that she couldn't fully relate to the racism black people experience because no one would know that she was Jewish unless she told them.  A black person does not have to announce that he/she is black.  You see it right away and that person would partake of any racism or stereotyping that goes along with the label.  If this young lady decided not to mention that she was Jewish, people would think that she was white and she would benefit from what was described as "white privilege."   That's another very interesting concept we discussed, which led to a profound out-door class activity that I never forgot.  I'll definitely share that in another post.

Anyway, I used that story, not to get into a discussion on racism or Jewish vs. African-American struggles, but I used it to explain why it rubs me the wrong way when someone looks at me and say "I'm natural too!" and her texture is masked.  In my opinion, these ladies cannot relate to me.  I'm not saying that they don't have struggles, but their struggles would be different.  Maybe they're struggling to keep their hair from reverting back to its natural state while I'm struggling to minimize tangles and single-strand knots. And although it's all love in the natural hair community for embracing our natural texture, that is not everyone's point of view.  We also deal with those who think our hair is unkempt, dirty, not combed (although that part is true for me lol) and unattractive.  Ladies who constantly masks their true texture do not experience those things. You wouldn't know they were natural unless they told you, so it sounds to me as if they are benefiting from "straight privilege."  There's nothing wrong with that if that's what they choose to do.  I'm just saying I feel less of natural hair vibe with those ladies than I do with the ladies wearing their natural texture.

~Loving Me Naturally


  1. You brought up a really great point and I love the analogy. Great post!

  2. Good post! I agree 100%. This is how I think about how I don't relate to naturals who rely on straighten or wear weave/extensions 24/7.I like the analogy with the struggles of Jewish folks and people of African descent.

  3. Thanks Mangomadness - I'm know this can be a hot button topic, so I'm glad the message went over well. Also, glad to see I'm not the only one thinking like this!

  4. Oh my goodness, this is the best description of what I've tried to describe various times. Yes, I am not the kind to tell you what to do with your hair, but if it's natural, why can't I ever tell?

    If your hair is being 'masked', as you put it, by heat, weave or braids, are you really enjoying/embracing it and telling the world that it is what it is?

    Great analogy!

  5. Hey Niki - Glad that analogy worked! I agree that everyone should do what they want with their hair, but those who never wear their hair in its natural state is not experiencing what the rest of us are experiencing so I don't believe they can relate. One is not better than the other - they're just different.

  6. Hmm... I never thought of it that way. I myself, took a Race & Ethnic Relations course my freshmen semester and we discussed "white privilege." I never related it to natural hair though. Interesting! I'll have to give this some more though for the future. lol

    1. Thanks for the comment Sylvia - sometimes my mind draws connections that surprises me too! :-)