Why black hair and black lives matter
April 30, 2016 at 4:30 am
I’ve found a divide within the black community that reminds me of the "All Lives Matter" response to the Black Lives Matter movement. And it has to do with hair. I decided to go natural two years ago after I got a sew-in that left my scalp bleeding and edges breaking. I did it cold turkey and haven’t looked back. I found inner power and a newfound liberation through my hair change. I was undergoing my own renaissance and was welcomed by a thriving natural hair community in person and online. I started to have pride in the tightly-coiled curls that grew out of my head. The same hair I was told was undesirable by the media was now an important symbol of my existence as a black person. A confidence I’d never had appeared, and a new light glowed brightly in me. However, embracing my natural hair was met with resistance by some as they assumed my confidence was an attack on their relaxed hair. Just like some people assume me acknowledging that my black life matters is an attack on others.
For me, personally, “Black Lives Matter” is a phrase of reassurance that I needed to hear after my hometown literally burned.I grew up around 15 minutes from Ferguson and was home the day Mike Brown was shot and the following uprisings. Then I abruptly flew back to Southern California to somehow focus on my studies at University. My self-esteem plummeted, and I lived in a constant state of fear for my black father, black cousins and black friends. We needed reassurance. The black community was hurting after years of systematic oppression and Black Lives Matter was born to be that voice of comfort. I didn’t realize telling my friends and family — such as my little cousins who barely understood what was going on —that their life mattered would somehow become a controversial statement or a declaration that separated the nation, but it did and #AllLivesMatter was born. What frustrated me the most was how All Lives Matter tweets and phrases started to appear out of the woodwork as a direct response to Black Lives Matter. I thought it made sense that after seeing TV broadcast after broadcast of unarmed black men being shot 10+ times like animals, that maybe, just maybe some black people might not feel like their lives were valued. I thought maybe after repeatedly seeing pictures of Mike Brown's body spilling blood, or Eric Garner dying before my eyes would garner empathy, but the phrase “black lives matter” was met with resistance and misunderstanding from those who thought black empowerment meant black supremacy. So I was told over and over to be quiet and accept that "all lives matter." Just as the Black Lives Matter movement can be seen as controversial to those who don’t understand its core value, so can this natural hair movement that's sweeping the U.S. Uplifting natural hair has become a social media trend that has made its way into the marketplace. When I go to Target, I can walk away with enough natural hair products to survive a zombie apocalypse with a poppin' twist out. There is a viral pride in natural hair that has been growing over the years. I was having a conservation with a few black girls who felt like they were being attacked and discriminated against because natural hair was rising in popularity. But just because Tumblr is filled with beautiful photos of natural hair doesn’t mean that natural pride is an attack on relaxed hair. Yes, all hair matters equally and is beautiful, but it’s time to uplift hair that’s been beaten down for so many years. Even with the natural hair movement gaining momentum, European beauty standards still reign supreme. Natural hair still isn’t appreciated in some workplaces and has gotten girls suspended from schools. When afro-puffs are still being seen as dangerous or unattractive, we need a reminder that natural hair matters and it isn’t a threat to women who choose to relax. The media knows that relaxed, weaved, or straightened black hair matters. Just flip through a magazine or turn on the television and you’ll see. And...No, having Shea Moisture or Carol’s Daughter doesn’t mean that natural hair is universally-respected and treated equally. Just like having a black President doesn’t mean that black people are treated equally in the United States. Just because natural hair representation has increased, doesn’t mean that the inner work is done. There are natural women who put down women with relaxers, and that really isn’t okay. My only aim is education. I want to help spread awareness that natural hair is a valid choice that’s equally as beautiful as chemically-processed hair. The natural hair empowerment movement is fighting decades of beauty standards that made people within and outside of the black community see natural hair as undesirable. Straight hair has always been praised, and we know that it’s seen as beautiful. So, yes, "all hair matters," but right now I’m focusing on natural hair empowerment, and I should be able to without controversy. Natural pride is not an attack on relaxed hair just as black pride isn’t a declaration of black supremacy. They’re about undoing systems that have been unjust and uplifting the spirits of the black community in any way possible.