Thursday, October 8, 2009

Talkin' 'Bout Good And Bad Hair...See If I Care

If you think hair relaxers and weaves will ultimately result in the demise of Black America, you're wrong - and overly dramatic. I would not deny that the majority of African-Americans who permed their hair with lye in the '60s did so out of desire to assimilate. But honey, this is 2009, not 1964.

Today, Black women partake in a buffet of hair options and are celebrated for exercising variety in coifing. A quick assessment of today’s high schools demonstrates relaxers do no more damage to a Black girl's identity than Nickelodeon. Our teenage girls (who frequently have authority over their hair choices) manifest a spectrum of styles. They revel in everything from 2 inch twists to waist-length weaves, and zealously delight in planning their future uncanny hair ventures.

I don’t look at a 16 year-old girl who's had her hair permed, but now chooses plaits, kinky twists, or cornrows, and conclude that a relaxer taught her self-hate, or to hate her own ethnicity.

Nonetheless, the mother who chemically modifies her child's hair at age 4 teaches a potentially more damaging lesson, one that we fail to evaluate in favor of inconsequential discussions concerning aesthetics.

Certainly, this mother realizes the damage she may cause. Still, she's willing to chemically modify her child's hair before it's sufficiently developed, without informed consent, simply to make it "more manageable". As she is willing to risk permanent destruction to her child’s crown for the benefit of not having to “deal with it", this mother inadvertently confirms, "it's ok to be lazy". Surely, there is a subconscious lesson being learned by the child here, but is that lesson primarily about aesthetics, worth, or work ethic? Arguably, the lesson includes elements of each, but which is most substantial?

This begs a greater question: what are the priorities of the Black community in this great hair debate?

Let’s face it, eventually, natural hair will be universally accepted. The reason locs and twists are not readily tolerated in corporate America today is simple - there aren't enough Blacks there to make it acceptable. Ignorance will be abrogated the moment African-Americans possess a proportionate quantity of America's power. The ultimate focus of the Black community should be arriving at that point most expeditiously.

But alas, we preferentially debate who's the “blackest”.

Truthfully, natural hair makes you no more conscious than relaxed hair indicates self-hate. Both populations are contributing to a billion-dollar a year black hair care industry that profits Asian-Americans almost exclusively.

Yet, this we don't discuss. Priorities, people!

How do we build wealth in our communities? How do we impinge upon white America’s stronghold? Is assimilation a necessary component of Black America’s transition to acceptance? These are the questions that need debating – and answering.

Honestly, hair is just hair. Individuals choose to style it in a variety of patterns, for a battery of reasons. Each time we pit naturals against relaxers, we lend credence to the notion that hair is the quintessential component of the Black woman's identity. What lesson are we teaching ourselves with this behavior? What are we proving to those who are watching us? That black people are as superficial and materialistic as they’re deemed? How ‘bout we take the steam off of that argument, and refocus our priorities on what really matters - progress.

So when it comes to good and bad hair, this blogger just doesn't care.

And now, for your viewing pleasure: Spike Lee's Good And Bad Hair. Enjoy!