I have been natural for nearly five years this spring. My years of relaxing my hair were unpleasant, it burned, it hurt and I was basically coerced into to the styling chair every month by my mother. The worst part was that my hair never grew. I had brittle, weak, thin, short hair that was just below my ears. I looked at all my friends with their long hair and I wondered why my hair didn’t grow as long as their hair did. I grew up being told that I had to relax my hair, going natural wasn’t even an option. Subconsciously, I was being brainwashed to accept that my hair was inherently inferior and it’s natural state was unacceptable. Finally, I read about Cathy Howse and how the most important thing that African hair needs to grow is moisture, once I started moisturizing my hair it did grow a bit more, but still not below my shoulders.
When I got into college, I saw a video by Kola Boof where she talked about natural hair and how our hair was “the proof,” that we were made in God’s image. I never thought about the politics of natural hair. Soon, I realized that I had been brainwashed by society to hate my natural hair texture. I had never even really given it a chance, I just presumed that it was ugly and unacceptable to wear out in public. After learning about the history of African hair, I decided to stop relaxing my hair. This was the turning point. Initially, I had no idea what to do with my natural hair, but I went to natural hair forums and watched videos on Youtube and that helped me understand how to care for my hair. My mother was horrified by my decision and my father said “you’ll have natural hair and no husband.” Years down the line, my hair is the healthiest it’s ever been and it’s actually longer than it’s ever been. All those people who thought that my natural hair wouldn’t last were wrong and going natural turned out to be a great decision. Most importantly it was a huge step toward loving myself as a Black woman.
Once I embraced the natural texture of my hair , it seemed like I was able to embrace other aspect of my identity as an African-American as well. I can honestly say that I no longer desire to have the hair that is so common in other races. The straight hair. It doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I love thick, big, African hair. I think it’s gorgeous, I think it’s unique and I feel blessed to have it and that I can do pretty much anything with my hair. The stunning thing is, I had wanted long hair so badly when I was younger, but by relaxing it I was actually causing my hair to break off. It wasn’t until I went natural that my hair became the longest it’s ever been, ironically, I seldom straighten my hair now and I really don’t have a desire for straight hair.
I realize that I was so brainwashed to hate my hair that I didn’t give it a fair chance. I think a lot of Black women grow up the way I do where we’re given no choice, but to relax our hair because our natural hair is deemed inferior by others. I can see this mentality play itself out even today as a Black woman with natural Hair. When I go to the hairdresser to get my hair braided, I go to a regular salon. Therefore, the salon has Black women getting weaves, Black women getting relaxers, I am one of the few natural Black women. However, I was fortunate to get a stylist who knew how to do natural hair, so when I go she’ll usually just cornrow or roller set my natural hair.
However, when I go to the salon, I notice other women staring at my hair. When I tell them that my hair is natural, some of them tell me how long my hair is, or that it’s “soft,” and I even had one Black woman tell me that I have “good hair.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had Black women say to me “you can go natural because you have good hair, I can’t go natural.” First of all let me tell you the type of hair texture that I have. I have 4b type of hair, thick, coily, kinky, the curliest hair that there is. My hair is similar to the texture of the woman in the picture.
My hair texture is very common amongst Black women, so why do I have some Black women telling me that my hair is different than their hair is, when really it’s not? Not once growing up was I told that I have “good hair.” First of all when someone says “good hair,” I hope that they mean my hair is “good,” because it’s healthy and natural and not because they think that my hair texture is somehow different or superior. As I said, my hair texture is very common amongst Black women and I have kinky or “nappy,” hair if you want to put it bluntly. I think the reason that people tell me that my hair is different than their hair, when it’s actually not, is because we’ve all been so brainwashed to believe that our hair is ugly and inferior that we can’t imagine that a Black woman with African hair texture can wear her hair in it’s natural state and look beautiful.
We can’t accept or fathom that our hair is actually MORE beautiful in it’s natural state ,so we rationalize away the beauty by telling ourselves that the Black woman must have “good hair,” meaning loosely coiled or “softer,” hair that is why she is able to wear her natural hair and look beautiful. It’s similar to the racist mentality where some people believe only mixed Black women can be beautiful. We know that’s not true, so why do some of us believe that only Black women with a certain quality of hair can be natural and be beautiful? I want to tell the Black Women who believe that their hair isn’t worthy of being natural that my hair isn’t any different than your hair is. Your hair would look like my hair and would grow thick and long too if you gave your natural hair a chance.” Natural African hair is soft and beautiful, it is.”
Any Black woman who goes natural will realize that she has been brainwashed and lied to because we all have beautiful hair. I want more Black women to wake up and accept our beauty. Since I have gone natural, people’s opinions of natural hair around me have changed. My mother now loves my natural and cannot believe how much it has grown. She keeps telling me that she wants to see how long it is when blown out, but I rarely ever put heat on my hair and like I said, I have no desire to have straight hair, even though when stretched my hair is down my back. I had a picture of Brigid Turner on my computer and my brother looked at it, asked who it was and thought that she was beautiful.
That same brother later stated that he didn’t like relaxed hair anymore. When my mother asked what he liked, he said “natural.” My other brother brought home a Black woman with natural hair that she wears in an Afro puff. So, men do find our hair attractive, I simply think it’s a matter of them seeing it on us more and loving it. Black men have been brainwashed not to appreciate natural hair, just as Black women have. But, when more Black women start giving our natural, God-given hair a chance, I believe more Black men will develop an attraction and even a preference for natural hair just as my brother’s did.
I want Black women to wake up and stop falling for the okie doke. Don’t believe that it’s not possible for your hair to be beautiful in it’s natural state. Don’t convince yourself that a Black woman who is rockin her natural hair must have a better quality of hair than you do and that’s why she can go natural. No, you can go natural and look just as beautiful with your Afro-textured hair. Give your hair a chance.
Now, if you just want to change your hair up and have a straight style, that’s your decision. I do not believe in bullying people into going natural, but if you truly are brainwashed and believe that relaxing your hair is your only option because your hair is too “nappy,” or “bad,” to be natural, then you’re misinformed because our African, coily, kinky, thick, tight, nappy hair is gorgeous and we don’t need relaxers to have beautiful hair. If anything, relaxers dull the beauty of our hair. So wake up Black women and know that you DO have options when it comes to your hair and you CAN go natural.
Not to mention, one of the beautiful things about being natural is you have options. There is nothing wrong with changing your hair styles. Sometimes I want to rock an Afro, sometimes a twist out, sometimes cornrows, and I can do anything with my hair. If you want to straighten your hair every so often, there’s nothing wrong with that. Cathy Howse is a Black women with natural hair who teaches Black women how to care for and safely straighten natural hair with a low temperature flat iron. I don’t think there is anything wrong with changing your hairstyle, but it is a problem when you think that your natural hair texture is unacceptable and inferior.
Check out these videos below of Black women with natural hair. Both of these women Rusticbeauty and mwedzi have Youtube channels where they give hair tips. These women rarely straighten their hair, but when they do straighten it BOTH of them have long hair. So, Black women if you’re looking to grow your hair out, going natural is the best route in my opinion. In time though, I think you’ll realize that you’re going to love your hair in it’s curled state even more than when it’s straight…just trust me on that. But if you’re truly stuck on having long hair, gong natural is the best route. The third video is Cathy Howse and she talks about relaxers.