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Black Girls and Nappy Roots:Relaxed

Nation & World Editor

Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 11:10

Going to such a progressive school like Howard University, it's easy to find a variety of informed black students who are culturally enlightened and proud of their rich heritage –– which is a beautiful thing. 

However, just because I have chosen not to trade in my perm and flat iron for an afro or dredlocks does not make me any less "culturally in tune" than anyone else. Yes, all black hair is beautiful –– emphasis on "all."

So why does that phrase seem to apply more for black women who have chosen to wear a natural style than for black women who chose to relax or add weave to their hair?

I whole-heartedly reject the notion that straight hair, weaved hair, dyed hair or relaxed hair is an attempt to "assimilate" with European culture. I'm not saying that that's never been the case, but it certainly does not apply to every black woman who chooses not to "go natural." I never have and never will want to be anything other than a black woman.

Hair, just like clothing, is a form of personal expression that every woman should be able to style freely without fear of being judged by someone who thinks that they've fallen victim to the influence of popular culture –– and even if she did, isn't that her prerogative? Does that make her any less of a good representation of a Black woman?

When you impose your own styling preferences on others, you're not only making them extremely uncomfortable, but you're encouraging cultural suppression.

Back in 1997, the movie B.A.P.S. formally introduced the world to something black people have known for a long time: black women can truly get creative when it comes to their hair –– blonde weaves with the words "BOO-YAH" written in rhinestones on the back, loops pinned to the side of the head, bangs and even sprigs of hair styled to emulate a waterfall.
Some may call it "ghetto" or "country," but one thing that can't be denied is that it is unique to the African-American experience and serves as one of the many representations of black culture. Encouraging a specific hairstyle to be applied to all the women in a cultural group is like encouraging the world to create a monolithic view of black women.

We should be embracing the diversity of our hair, just like the way we've learned to embrace the diversity in our skin tones. 

It almost reminds me of the scene in Spike Lee's "School Daze," where two groups of black women fought over their hair differences, instead of embracing each other's variations. That was over 20 years ago, so why are we still so caught up in it today?

Being at Howard, I have personally felt like I've been looked down upon by women who wear natural hairstyles, as if their way is "right" or "better." 

It would be a very inaccurate representation of our people if we all tried to all rock the same do. I know, embrace, respect and love the history of black women's hair. From Madame C.J. Walker to the Angela Davis ‘fro; from cornrows to kinky twists and dreds; to weaves, pressing combs and relaxers.

Just because I chose to rock the latter does not make me any less Afrocentric than any other black woman.  I really don't know what the big deal is anyway about hair; it may be relaxed now but in five years, who knows? That's what I love about our hair: we can do it all!

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