Open Letter: Anti-Black Hair Beauty Standards, Judgement & Perception

This is about my NEWEST set of cornrow braids, the backlash & judgement they received from my family, my opinion on black hairstyles, and me- starting to do what I wanted to do, on my own terms. This was going to be a four-part series, but I’ve condensed into one post and I will elaborate on the themes & topics within this letter, in future posts.

I’ve been receiving a lot of criticism from my family lately and It’s expected. I am very different; It’s probably safe to say that I’m the “black sheep” of the family. The latest incident regarding MY hair consisted of my female family members saying & doing some pretty harsh things. But, being that it has BEEN happening, I wasn’t too upset. Now, fed up? Oh yes.

With that being said, this isn’t only about my hair. It’s about ignoring what people say about my life overall. It’s about rejecting societal norms and redefining every element in MY life from “standards of beauty” to “success”.

Here we go!

My junior year of high school is when I “embraced” my “roots”. Twist-outs, bantu-knots, crochet braids, high puffs, afros… you name it, I probably rocked it. It was a lot of work, it was extremely time consuming, but more importantly, it was exactly what I wanted to do. I was becoming more “conscious” and aware of things happening around me and I was completely engulfed in my blackness.

Yet, my mom frowned on it so much. My naps, kinks and curls just weren’t “presentable” and I needed to “do something with my head”. I was heartbroken. She would constantly say how she wasn’t going to make me relax my hair but I should definitely consider it. Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. She pushed and pushed for me to get my hair permed. (This would be my second perm. She’d permed my hair for uh… “manageability purposes” when I was much, much younger. It damaged my hair  and I began transitioning around 6th grade)

Fast forward to now. After I got my relaxer at the beginning of my senior year in high school, I cut my hair extremely short and surprisingly, I loved it (style pictured below).

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But now, I’m ready to embrace my natural hair again. Because of the haircut, my hair is now in this awkward, “in-between” growing stage where I can do NOTHING with it.  A few days ago, I grew so frustrated with how my hair was, so I decided to get cornrows (my SIGNATURE style). This time, however, I switched it up and had them styled differently (style pictured below).

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I KNEW my mom wouldn’t like my hair. I also did not care. That’s not out of disrespect for her, but respect and admiration for MYSELF. After my aunt finished my hair, she took pictures; something she normally does when trying new styles.

Then, a day later, this happened: I was at home and my mom called. She wanted to talk about hair. *Rolls Eyes* Here we go… again.

She informed me that my aunt/hair-braider had sent the pictures of my hair for her “portfolio” to one of my cousins and I had for some reason, became a joke. My cousin and my aunts were laughing at my hair. Why? (My mom has her theories but I really don’t know.) I was annoyed. Hurt? Not so much. This theme of laughing at my expense has been a reoccurring one for the past few months. I was fed up. Another aunt called my mom and asked, “Do you like your baby’s hair?” to which my mom responded, “No.” My aunt then said, “I knew you wouldn’t. It’s not her.”

THAT COMMENT RIGHT THERE. “It’s not her…” What do you mean? 

My mom went on to give me the speech a lot of black kids get growing up: In order to get half of what “they got”, we have to work ten times harder. But… what does my hair have to do with this? Why can’t I wear my braids? Didn’t Amandla remind y’all about how important cornrows are to black women?! But these comments and the conversation my mom told me about ignited so much of a fire within me. I was SO over it.

I’m reminded by so many people that I’m different..wise…yet, people always seem to have a say in what I can do, what I should do, what I’m doing and I’m tired of it. Now, after being the laughingstock of my family (they jokingly call me Sojourner Truth) because of me vocalizing my opinions on certain things, I was beyond irritated to find out that now, my hair is an issue. Yes, my braids are a problem. I have an aunt that is the epitome of “Misery Loves Company” and she’s 100% positive that I fit the misery mold (and it’s obvious in her actions that she’s anticipating the worst for me). I also have a helicopter aunt that checks my Facebook page and reports back to my mom as if she doesn’t already get on there. And now, I have my mama basically reinforcing what society has taught and demonstrated to me for so long. I know they (some of them) care…but damn. This is what I meant when I talked about cultural appropriation. Kylie Jenner can get her braids and it’s OK, because she’s a rich, white-washed, celebrity girl. But when I do, I’m not presentable and I’m not going to fit in at my nice, suburban PWI. They keep telling me that I’m different but they expect me to conform to societal standards of beauty. How can all these people keep saying that this is “not me” & this is not a style that fits me? How the hell do they know me, with I don’t even know me?

My mom went on to tell me the story of the lady at my church who complimented my mom’s braids one Sunday. The lady went on to say that she would like to get braids but her job wouldn’t allow it. She works for the FBI- the same organization who has a war on the black community. Of course that isn’t common knowledge, but how can we expect for things to change if we assimilate to unjust rules. We will never be given justice. We must take it.

Now, I don’t mean to be that hardheaded, defiant, young, black girl, but just as everyone else has something to say about me, I know what’s in me and I know what I’m here to do. I also know how I want to do it. I deserve to wear what I want to wear. I deserve to have my hair how I want my hair, without having people constantly policing me. I’m going to be great but I’m going to be great because of what I do. Not only because of my appearance. I don’t want to be a model. In the same way that God apparently tells everyone else about me, God tells me about me.

Oh, and then you know how we all have that one hating ass cousin? Well, I just so happen to have a damn handful. They’re talking a bunch of mess about me too. I don’t get it: everyone tells me I’m different and meant for greatness but they somehow expect me to reach my full potential by conforming and assimilating. Then, they’re left wondering why I’m unhappy and not content. You’re constantly trying to force me and “encourage” me to suppress “me”. I love my hair. I’m learning to love me and I’m tired of this indoctrinated belief system my family has. I’m hurting because my family won’t let me be me.

My aunt took pictures of my hair as if she wanted them for her portfolio but she just sent them around to other family members because 1) she knew my mom wouldn’t like them 2) as I said earlier, misery loves company & laughing at my expense meant…nothing.

This blog will include so much information: The FBI’s war on the black community (specifically black women), the versatility of black hair, the brainwashing and forced assimilation of blacks, and so much more. The language of my ‘Open Letter’ posts may will be generally informal. They are heart pieces. I’m coming to you from a place of vulnerability. You’ll witness my rejuvenation amidst disapproval.

Thank you.

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