Every week a new article crosses my feed about how black children are asked to leave school because their hair is a â€œdistraction.â€ Itâ€™s not just school. Black women in predominantly white workplaces get some pretty idiotic stuff said to them about what populates their scalp as well. Of coure, the hair isnâ€™t actually a distractionâ€“ itâ€™s not making noise, shouting obscenities are doing anything that impinges on the ability of the other children to learn. Nope, it just sits thereâ€¦ being black. Parents have a choice: either dump pounds of questionable-for-the-health chemistry on the kidâ€™s head so it relaxes until it behaves like â€œnormalâ€ (read: white) hair, or just let it go natural beyond the occasional very thorough rubber banding.
I remember wanting the corn rows on my head when I was about 9 and asking a woman in Zayre (remember that store?) how she did it on her little boy. She was patient with me. â€œOh, your hair wonâ€™t do that sweetie,â€ she said. â€œHis does a lot of this naturally.â€
Shortly after I found out I would never be able to sing in a baritone or bass, being female and all. The combined disappointment was crushing. But my curiosity about corn rows was satisfied.
I wasnâ€™t asked my opinion on this and I know it. But still, I have a theory to propose on why white people â€“ especially women – are so idiotic about black hair.
White women donâ€™t do natural hair.
Oh we say itâ€™s natural. But we spend thousands annually on hair products to smooth, curl, boost, crimp, primp, color and texture. There are women Iâ€™ve met who honestly can not recall their natural hair color or texture. Some have never even seen it. The very idea that your hair can do some of that â€“ by itself â€“ itâ€™s a shock.
It may well be that for a lot of us, all the chemicals weâ€™ve been dumping on our hair have finally gone to our brains.
This is the only explanation I can think of for why so many men and women have taken to criticizing black hair…or trying to touch it. The one time a woman “helpfully” plucked a gray hair off my head (I had no gray hair yet) I wanted to punch her smirking face. I actually think less of myself for not doing that. I can only imagine the violence people walking up and touching your hair can invoke. How most people stifle their rage is beyond me.
While knowing where it comes from won’t solve the problem, it might be some information that helps. Perhaps when someone asks something stupid about your hair, ask bluntly, “Is that your natural hair? What would you do if I asked you what the hell was going on with it?”
Then again, that’s not useful in professional situations. FWIW, the way I get people off me about no longer dying my hair my once trademark bright read? I tell them I’m allergic to the chemicals. I don’t actually know if that’s true – but it gets them off me, fast.
If someone goes for grand ol’ stupid, tell them that those chemicals in hair relaxers cause cancer. Some of them actually do – that should get them to knock it off. If not, OSHA.