Photo: Courtesy of Michael Jul
Melissa Harris Perry said it best on her MSNBC show, “Black women’s hair is political” and indeed it is. The politics behind Black women’s hair stems from centuries of struggling with the unruly disposition of our hair; battling with the Eurocentric standards that we would only begin to halfway achieve by either relaxing our hair or putting a 500 degree hot comb to it. Those hot comb days were every little Black girl’s rites of passage; a passage that would soon result in wounds because of the endless comparisons between what we were biologically pre-destined and the conflicting images of what we were told was “beautiful.”
The natural hair movement serves as a safe space for Black women. It serves as a place where we can come together and learn about how to treat, maintain and upkeep our natural texture; a conversation that beauty sellers, for many years, have opted out of joining.
It troubles me that this exclusive space that is rightfully “ours” is slowly becoming more and more inclusive. Firstly, I am all for inclusive spaces and sharing with other groups the politics of Black women’s hair, but I don’t believe we are in any position to include other races when we have not fully embraced the diversity amongst ourselves.
Despite the slogans and hashtags advocating for natural hair, there is still a hierarchy that exists within the natural hair community. Too often the textures that are showcased to define ‘natural’ are curly/multi-racial textured hair, excluding “sistas” with kinkier textures; this is problematic. CurlyNikki, a popular website for naturalistas, recently posted an article featuring a Caucasian blogger, Sarah, who talked about her experiences and accepting her natural hair. The article received mixed reviews as some post-racialists discussed moving away from exclusivity and towards equality, while others such as Jamilah Lemieux, Senior Editor at Ebony Magazine, discussed why other races should not be included in our sacred space–and I would have to agree.
The natural hair movement is a sacred space for Black women. In fact, I don’t know of any other spaces that attempt to dispel societal beliefs about Black women’s hair that has been engrained for hundreds of years. A space that disapproves of the banning of locked hair in elementary private schools or the military’s attempt to police African-American women’s hair; a space that was uniquely created to serve a group of people that have been so marginalized by the beauty industry. I can’t begin to understand why, in the beginning stages of our self-acceptance, we would want to revert and include the same standards that we are oppressed by. I am all for inclusion, but I am also for the entire acceptance of natural hair and not just desirable textures. In due time, our safe space can include others, but right now, as we work on accepting ourselves, it needs to be exclusive to us.