By: Nia Satterfield Brown
Graphic by: Victoria Lee
In the black community, there are a few things that we hold dear to us, most importantly our culture. Hair is a topic that members of a black family, male or female, constantly talk about and think about. We’re always wearing new styles: cornrows, box braids, twists and a plethora of other looks to maintain our hair. In sporting all of these different types of styles, black girls and young women are subjected to public scrutiny about their hair because it deviates from the European standard of beauty and decency. Further, many have had to conform to social pressures whether it be for a party or to look like their straight-haired classmates. It is crucial that young black women and members of other communities perpetuate positive images and celebrate black hair. Black girls should be able to wear their hair without fear of scrutiny. Natural is not ugly, natural is beautiful. It is crucial that a space of self-love and commemoration is created to oppose the negativity representations of black culture.
Many are also treated unfairly through white individuals touching their natural hair and asking invading questions such as: Is that real? What does it feel like? Especially in a professional setting like school or the workplace, it is highly inappropriate to just touch one’s hair. Though it might not seem like it, this action is micro-aggressive behavior, as you just assume it’s okay to touch a person’s hair and then proceed to touch it without receiving permission first. A black person’s hair or body as a whole is not on display. Unfortunately, many young black girls are put in an uncomfortable situation where they must endure this behavior if their white classmate asks if they can touch “your hair ”. Should she say no, she is at risk of being labeled rude or difficult by her peers. One should not touch a black woman’s hair, instead, if you are interested in their hair, maybe ask: How long did that style take? What is the name of that style? It is deeply important to understand a black woman’s struggles and the last thing they want to experience is being handled as if she were an animal.
A crucial part of the black experience is learning how to deal with others touching your hair. Growing up, I remember not being very expressive about how I felt when people would touch my hair without permission or have preconceived ideas about it. As I’ve matured, however, I am now able to effectively communicate my views and correct people when they are wrong. It takes a lot of strength and courage to stand up to others whom you think might not respect you, accept you or even like you as an individual. Despite this, it is important to stand strong against prejudices and make your voice heard because it is a valuable one. Once an individual gains that confidence to stand up for themselves, it proves to be a truly meaningful experience because self-confidence is a huge obstacle that many girls and young women are faced with today. Black girls especially must maintain a lot of confidence in order to lead the lives they do whether that pertains to professional or social life. There are a plethora of decisions that one must make such as: do I straighten my hair? Do I have time to get box braids? Will my friends judge me? Will my boss accept me? These questions are constantly running through a black woman’s head. It is difficult to think that to some groups of people, hair is a trivial thought in the back of their heads, however black women must make numerous decisions about how to wear their hair.
It is important to recognize how much a black girl deals with in her day to day life. These girls and all young women of color should be commended for the obstacles they face each day and the role they play as some of the strongest individuals in the world.