I read about this documentary by Chris Rock several months ago in Essence magazine and have been anxiously awaiting it's debut.
After his daughter ran into the house and asked why she didn't have good hair, Chris Rock set out to discover the roots (no pun intended) of where the whole good and bad hair debate began. I have to say that I have fallen victim to the whole fallacy of straight = great. I remember growing up wishing I had hair like my Mexican friend Theresa. I didn't want white hair because I was taught that they smelled like dog when their hair got wet. (I'm saying...that's what the old folks told me.) Theresa never smelled like dog after we got out the pool. And she went home showered and let her thick Hispanic hair air dry into perfect spiral ringlets. I on the other hand, had to go home, shower, blow dry, grease, hot comb, grease, curl, grease...well, you get the idea. Finally, my mother just couldn't take it anymore and I was put in braids. It was either that or I couldn't go to the pool everyday.
Oh the beautiful kanekalon extensions....how I loved to swing them momos back and forth. I finally had hair that moved and I loved it. In my defense, I didn't know any better. Because if mass media was to be believed, if your hair wasn't straight and silky ala "good" then you weren't really about anything.
Fast forward to high school, I still LOVED swimming. I swam varsity until my junior year. But swim practice every day on black girl hair is not the business. So, after taking them out for the beginning of high school, it was back to the braids I went. And in the braids I pretty much stayed until about 3 years ago. It was then that I discovered "The Press." Yes, child. A good blow dry and a marcel iron and I was no longer trapped by the lye. (For my white readers, that isn't a typo. Lye used to be the main ingredient in the chemical relaxers black woman (and a few men) used to straighten our hair. I don't think most good relaxers use lye anymore though.) My hair was silky, smooth and if I'm being honest a bit more fine than I expected it to be. (That was a bit of a let down. My stuff was almost wispy...insert wah-wahh face here.) Unbeknownst to me, I had the proverbial "good hair." And I began to notice a trend. White guys who normally wouldn't really talk to me when I had twists, (see photo)
found me less threatening. I got numerous compliments on how great my hair looked and "how soft" it was. The latter usually coming from well meaning people of...ummm...non-color. It was amazing the transition that occurred simply from straightening my hair. And I realized how easy it would be to get caught up in the whole "good hair" mindset. If I were so inclined, I could believably proclaim, "I have Indian in my family." And on plenty of occasions after I got my hair highlighted (oh I will ROCK a highlight) , I have been mistaken for or asked if I was mixed and/or Hispanic. I don't see EITHER when I look in the mirror. But whatever...It would be very easy for me to slip into the high and mighty "I'm light, I'm right" mentality if I were less secure in my blackness.
But my black is beautiful. And not just because my hair is straight. Not just because my skin is caramel. And I wish more black women realized that their black is beautiful too, regardless of the texture of their hair or the color of their skin. We must do better to affirm ourselves and affirm our sisters, daughters and anyone else we may know who struggles with knowing that they're beautiful.
I encourage all of you to go see this film when it comes out. Maybe it will get the discussion going and maybe it will changes some deep-rooted, long standing, ignorant ways of thinking.