A Little Story About Hair…
I remember standing in the café line in college one day. I was trying to decide ahead of time if I wanted to grab a pound of curly fries or a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza as big as my head. My junk food dilemma abruptly came to a halt when I overheard two young ladies behind me talking about someone’s hair. “Ugh! Why did she even come to school if she wasn’t going to do her hair?” One of them groaned in disgust. The other giggled in agreement. I looked behind me. There was no one behind them in line and ahead of me were standing three gentlemen. I attempted to make eye contact, but the two ladies swiftly and awkwardly turned their heads away in different directions. My suspicions had been confirmed. The “she” they were talking about was me.
It’s More Than Just Hair
I returned to my face forward position in line and fantasized about confronting them… for all of five seconds. Now it was my turn to slide food onto my tray. I stayed silent. I placed a slice of pizza and curly fries on my tray and walked away with a lump in my throat, and an overwhelming sense of guilt.
No, I hadn’t spent hours blow drying and straightening or glopping a number of different products onto my hair as I often did. But I did do it. I simply smoothed my natural hair (no use of hot combs, flat irons, or chemicals) back into a poufy ponytail with my bare hands. Just the way I liked to wear it sometimes back when my hair was long. So why was my hair so offensive to those two young ladies? And why was I so quick to believe them when they insinuated that my natural hair was not beautiful? Probably because Black hair is not praised or glamourized in mainstream media. Probably because African-American hair is not glamourized in general. I was conflicted. Part of me felt guilty for feeling ashamed of my hair, and the other part of me felt guilty for staying silent.
The Point of This Post Is Not to Stir Up Reverse Racism or Hatred. That Will Get Us Nowhere.
I am African-American. My hair in its natural state is a loose curly fro. I didn’t know it back then, but that is not a bad thing! In case you were wondering, the two young ladies I mentioned were not of African descent, and perhaps had never been exposed to Black culture. I don’t know. I don’t know their stories. And I have forgiven them, and wish them no harm and all the best in life. That is not to say that I condone bullying or ridiculing others, but the point of this post is not to stir up reverse racism or hatred either. That will get us nowhere.
I only wish to share my story because I know I am not the only Black woman who has ever been made to feel unbeautiful for her natural features. And I want to share with you the victory I have had from the pain that comes from such humiliation. What better time to do this than in the midst of Black History Month.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Over the years God has been teaching me to love myself and the way He created me, despite years of rigid standards of beauty and bullies (in and outside of school) telling me otherwise. Through His grace I am learning to fully embrace my biological beauty and my African-American heritage. After all, He was the one who elaborately knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Other people’s negative opinions on my looks should not matter when the creator of the universe (my heavenly Dad!) thinks I am absolutely beautiful! His word says that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139:14) —brown skin, thick curly fro and all!
Embrace Your Beauty!
So to all my mocha sistahs, please love and embrace your beauty. This includes your natural hair. I’m not saying we need to strictly be wearing natural hair styles all day every day—I’m all for a good weave or pressing it out—but I just want to encourage you to not be ashamed of your hair in its natural state; be it long, short, afro, tight curls or loose. Personally, I do not believe that there is a such thing as “good hair” or “bad hair.” Just as I don’t believe that there are good skin colors or bad ones.
Only Love Can Drive Out Hate
Looking back, I don’t regret not turning around and “telling the girls off” like I had fantasized about, because I have come to truly believe the words that Martin Luther King Jr spoke when he said: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Shout out to MLK and the movie Selma!).
Back then, I wouldn’t have had the right words for them because I didn’t love who I was enough. However, I am happy to say that if I were in the same situation today, I would be able to turn around and tell those two young ladies that I think my hair is beautiful. That it represents my African-American heritage and that I am proud of that. And I would encourage them to learn about African-American culture and Black history because it’s pretty awesome and important.
We Are Beautiful!
Although Black History Month is coming to an end, it lives on every day in each of us. People of African descent, this is the wonderful way God made us. This is the beautiful way He chose to make an entire people: different shades of brown and the hair of African warriors. Never forget that.
We don’t hear it enough from society, but Black women, we are beautiful. YOU are beautiful. And to every woman of every color, I urge you to love yourself, the skin you’re in, and the hair on your head. Jesus does.
Happy Black History Month!!!