"Fine threadlike strands growing from the skin of humans, mammals and some other animals."
This is one of the many definitions given for hair in the Webster dictionary. Totally detached from the societal judgement it is given. I previously wrote on article called, "Living in Society's Crayon box" that introduced the topic of colorism. It explored the definition and how it has seeped into cultural normalcy throughout the years. From there, I want to continue the conversation by talking about hair. How does something so simple connect to mentalities rooted in colorism? Let's find out.
In the African American community, hair is categorized into a plethora of sections, but the most known ones are 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b and 4c. Generally speaking, if someone leans more towards the side of 3 anything, they're hair is extremely curly and or wavy, and therefore known as "good" hair. For hair that is categorized as 4 anything, their hair may have tighter/smaller curls and therefore known as "bad" or "crazy" hair. Other times this is often defined as "nappy" or "kinky" curls, and I would say that the utilization of these words when describing 4a, 4b and 4c hair is a misrepresentation. I say this because they have negative connotations for being tough and harder to manage then whatever "normal" hair is supposed to be. The reason why I mentioned this dynamic is because for far too long, many people through media, art, or even cultural/familial beliefs have perpetuated the false notion that looser and fuller curls are better than tighter curls. Why does it matter? Because this is a divisive mentality that establishes superiority and horrid self-esteem. And this is just barely touching the surface on the complex perspectives surrounding curly hair.
On July 3, 2019 the Los Angeles times reported that California became the first state to ban discrimination based on one's natural hair; period. In the picture taken, there's a variety of black women surrounding Governor Gavin Newson as he signs the bill and it's not hard to guess why. If someone's hair is naturally straight and they wear it down at work, there's no issue and the work can still get done. However, if someone's hair is naturally curly and they wear it in the same style and complete the same work, suddenly it's deemed a distraction for others. Because of said distraction, the person with the curly hair must: A) Straighten their hair, B) Pull it back to draw less attention C) Wear protective styles (i.e. braids, wigs, weaves, etc.) and most likely deal with having to explain each one. However what if there was another option like: D) Wears their hair the same as before. Only telling a specific group of people to conform because others are enamored by it is not a good enough reason anymore. That's why bills like this need to get passed because people shouldn't have to edit their story just because someone else hasn't read it yet.
Unfortunately, everything I've stated above is not a groundbreaking thought to be had. This has been a conversation for years. We've seen it in things like the 1988 film "School Daze" directed by Stan Lee, which included a number titled "Good and Bad Hair". It commented on the competition that's created amongst African American woman because of their plethora of follicle types. We've seen it in songs like the 2006 hit "I am not my Hair" by India Irie, who showed that all hair truly is beautiful. We've seen it in talk shows like the "Tyra Banks Show" in which she had an entire segment asking real women what's deemed good and bad hair. We've seen it in movies like the 2009 film "Good Hair" which explored the depths of the black hair industry and social hierarchy attached to it. The list can really go on!
So, with all of that said I ask, how can the cultural lens be shifted? Clearly the conversation has started and people are starting to listen, but is everyone? There's nothing wrong with identifying differences because we can learn to appreciate and maybe even admire them. However, when do we stop judging because of those differences? When can we all just let our hair down?
What Is Good Hair? - Tyra (Part 1) www.youtube.com
Good Hair ft. Chris Rock- HD Official Trailer www.youtube.com
Straight And Nappy (From The "School Daze" Soundtrack) www.youtube.com
India.Arie - I Am Not My Hair ft. Akon www.youtube.com