The following article was featured in Vinegar Hill Magazine online (Jan 30, 2018) and in print (March 2018):
by Kori Price
As a little girl, I wanted long, straight hair like my friends had. I wanted my hair to be sleek and shiny, to bounce and sway when I walked. My dilemma? I was black, they weren’t. My hair was a coarse, tough, thicket of naps. It was unlike my white friends’ hair and even unlike some of the black girls I knew at school. They had “good hair” and I had “bad hair”.
Good hair versus bad hair has plagued beauty standards in America far too long. It has held us back from embracing not only our hair, but who we are as well. I relaxed (chemically straightened) my hair after feeling pressure from bullies on the school bus and pressure from less obvious places: black actresses on TV, black women around my hometown, and my black Barbie dolls. All of the black women I knew or saw had straight or relaxed hair. Having unkempt or “out-of-control” hair could be grounds for being talked about both inside and outside of the black community: “Why did her Mama let her out the house with all that hair all over her head?” or “Now, that’s unusual…”
Relaxers made my hair brittle and breakage was frequent, often nulling any new growth I had. Over the course of 10 years with relaxers, my hair never grew longer than its mid-length bob. I was frustrated and upset. I wanted nothing more than to have long hair. No amount of trimming or greasing or deep conditioning would help. I had to stop relaxing it, cut off the permed hair—the “Big Chop”—and go natural, a last ditch effort for growth. After the initial shock of the big chop, I learned how to take care of my natural hair, understanding what it needed and what I could do with it; I learned to love it. At last, my hair was healthy and growing. I was defying the stigma that my hair was bad and that I needed to fix it.
No matter what background or ethnicity we belong to, hair, or the lack of it, is a part of our appearance. It’s an integral piece of how we present ourselves, helping define our personality without us having to say a word. When our hair is not accepted or when it’s deemed “bad hair” we can start to think that maybe there is something bad about who we are. Maybe we aren’t pretty or beautiful because our hair doesn’t look like the women in the magazines we read or movies we see. Maybe we’ll draw too much of the wrong sort of attention or look unprofessional if we opt for a bolder haircut, locs, or a voluminous twist-out.
These notions, of course, are all false.
My hope is that 28 Days of Black Hair will both provide a glimpse into black culture and will inspire conversations and discussions with your friends, coworkers, and family members during and beyond this year’s Black History Month. I hope that you will talk about the similarities and differences between your backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences. Through thoughtful and respectful discussions, we start to understand each other. We can further shape, develop, and share our own individual truths.