I was born in the late seventies, but became aware of the many nuances of black folks during the early eighties. The few black people on television, back then, were either clowning, struggling or dancing. As early as five years old, I noticed that brown women with kinky hair were either extremely rare, disguised under wigs or subject to appearances only in a Antebellum themed movies. I gathered that these were not images that the modern time wanted us to appreciate. The nullification of the previous decade’s black pride era was in full effect and the flash of the eighties had begun with “light-skinned people worship”. Given my nearly beige hue, this proved to be a conflicting time for me. I had neither straight hair or the covetous wavy hair. Scores of young black girls were utterly confused about my racial identity and I was commonly asked “What are you mixed with??”
My most famous and petulant answer “Chuck and Cheryl!!!! (*my parents)
However, continued exposure to other young & conflicted black girls, of multiple hues and hair textures while in elementary school, found me to be increasingly annoyed with my hair. By the time i was nine or ten, my inner questions were -Why wouldn’t it stay straight? Why did it hurt so much to comb? I loathed those press & curl trips to the salon for years because my hair tangled PAINFULLY when it was air dried and then held the heat of the hot comb. My young eyes spent a lot of time wishing i had the more “coveted” texture so that I could avoid the horrible pain of trying to make my hair cooperate with the styles of the time. Age 10 found me in my first relaxer and exposure to the worst pain of my life…SCALP ON FRICKIN FIRE!! But I was willing to endure that. This “perm” made life easier on my mom, so at the time, I thought it was a miracle product
My late father had the hair that I secretly wanted. His biological parents, both biracial (maternal -black & native American, paternal -black & white) had passed on a rather striking off-black and wavy texture of hair to my dad and uncle. Daddy’s hair cut well, washed quickly and had shine that made your jaw drop! I loved brushing it and watching the sides and nape “feather”. There was definitely an inner conflict in me at a young age, coupled with the guilt at all my mom had previously endured to keep my hair done.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, nothing much has changed in modern culture. Even through this recent upsurge in natural hair worship, the ever-present “bi racial curl adoration” is still present. Instagram is an interesting new social media tool. Its users market and post images to other followers of the things that are important to them. One natural hair themed product sample seller post hourly images of images of curly haired, bald, sometimes nappily coifed or head-wrapped black hipsters. However, its the images of the bi-racial women that make a play for the envy button in every black girl, further fostering the decades of cultural insecurity. Perhaps the poster is unaware of this, but the frequency of the images of the curlier haired women cause me to believe otherwise. There was also some subtle controversy over the recent “The Secret to Long Natural Hair” YouTube video. Amongst the evidential hilarity of the message, the perceived condescension from the lighter-skinned bloggers on “reducing envy and merely waiting for your hair to grow”, upset a few people and its understandable. Making public jest of our issues will always incur some level of backlash and it takes a mature mind to explore this topic with as much delicacy as possible.
These are the effects of The Colonized Mind, and honestly, its not so f____g funny!
Colonization occurs when a foreign culture inhabits a indigenous groups territory, cultivating and guarding the land and its people as their own. My definition of this as it applied to the collectively damaged psyche of black people, is that we have allowed another cultures dominant racial features to become etched into our mental profile of what beauty is. As if it is not insult enough to some to be black, there is also an unmistakable and unchangable aspect to racial blackness…the bend and twist of our natural hair. Its one of the few things that surgery can neither hide or permanently change. The kink is an ever-present reminder of whose we are. Mitochondrial Eve is always standing there, one hand on Africa and the other on our head, making sure the world knows that we belong to her.
Observe other colonizations where black peoples are involved. The first thing the foreign group tends to do is destroy monuments of royal faces by destroying the nose and other obvious racial distiguishers, re-establishing the local context of art/beauty to fit their standard, destroying tribal cohesion and the dynamics between the rich and the poor in whichever country it is taking place. We would have to be really silly to think that in 600+ years, the entire diaspora of black persons hasn’t been effected by these changes. We all have a tiny apartment in our brain that is still willing to house the notion that our beauty cannot be our own and we must seek to “control, calm or manipulate” our look into something that is easier to swallow by the dominant culture. In other words, natural or not, there is still that part of you that wants to cover up those nappy edges! (thank you Ntozake Shange)
My favorite event of 2012 has been Solange Knowles self removal from being a representative of Carol’s Daughter Cosmetics. My girl said “I never painted myself as the team natural vice president” after scores of newbie naturals criticized her for not getting control of her tightly curled (and beautifully disheveled!) hair. She also is quoted as saying “I’m actually no longer apart of Carol’s Daughter, but throughout my entire time working with them, I was constantly fighting for the right message to be heard” ….
I love her. She will always be my favorite Knowles sister.
My message is really simple (even amid my aforementioned topics). Dont cover your nappy edges. Explore them, touch them and the heart strings that they are often connected to. Explore that room where the insecurity lives and challenge yourself to break the connections to your value and purpose. Kiss your cocoa, chocolate or coffee colored hand and thank the protective melanin within it. Kiss your mama and daughter and build a place of forgiveness towards those ugly things you may have thought about yourself or other sisters. Eventually, let self loathing and colonized mental thinking move out and let confidence and self sacredness move in. In the meantime, “I will leave a light on for ya!”