I have been reading several articles recently about black and mixed heritage women being discriminated against because of their hair. Aside from the military’s new hair regulations, which are absurd, many of the stories are coming from school aged children being harassed in school for their natural hair. And it had me thinking about my own experiences with hair.
I remember being as young as 5 and having my hair either in braids, permed and later on weave ponytails. All of my life I understood that unless my natural hair was down my back and straightened, it was not to be seen. I never even knew what it looked nor felt like, because it wasn’t my own, it was something to be altered. It was not beautiful, rather unmanageable because a comb could not easily glide through either my naps or curls, I really didn’t know the difference. See Angela Davis nor any of the revolutionary women of the 60’s who claimed Black is Beautiful were our idols. And, while I stopped getting perms in 10th grade, it wasn’t until 4 years later during my second year of college that I finally found the confidence to ditch the braids, and sew in weaves and wear my own hair. I have not looked back ever since. However, we must understand that our hair has always been used as a societal tool to tell us that we were different and ugly, if we did not look like the women staring back at us on the TV screen. Perms and hot curls were design for black girls, to imitate the long locks of white women. And, now there is a cultural attack going on against black people who are reclaiming their identities and understanding the power in something as simple as our hair. While, this has always been an issue in the workplace, it is now permeating in our school systems.
First, understand that this is not simply a fight about how one chooses to wear their hair. It is the age old black fight, to be seen as human without having to change who you are as a person. We must begin to educate our own children on their self-worth and beauty. The fact remains that until we begin to create our own educational systems the cultural injustices inside of these schools will AlWAYS occur. I am not saying that we cannot be educated amongst other ethnicities; however, we need to stop allowing white culture to be the only educator of our children. If you look around, you will see that most other cultures, including Jewish, Greeks and Chinese people have their own cultural schools outside of the mainstream educational system, that teaches their kids about self. We as black people rely solely on others to educate our kids and this is something that we must begin to supplement outside of the classroom. We can begin by taking our kids to cultural exhibits at museums, exposing them to an array of black music, including Jazz, Blues, R&B and Hip Hop. This shows them all sides of their culture and not simply what the media portrays or what they see in their neighborhoods. We must also supply them with an array of black books, literature and tv programs that opens their minds to the true struggles and successes of black people. Most, importantly, our most important asset are other people. Find older people in your family and/or community and have them impart their knowledge on our young people, for they are living records of history that cannot be forgotten.
I recommend everyone pick up a copy of the book “The Warrior Method” A Parents Guide to Rearing Healthy Black Boys” by Raymond Winbush, it will change the way in which we begin to raise our children.