The History Of Black Hair In America
For many years, black women have struggled with how to properly style and showcase their hair. In the past, many African American women have felt the best way to conform to societal norms and move closer to American standards of beauty was to either chemically or heat straighten their hair. Only after getting rid of our natural curls and coils could we then style our hair in whatever styles were fashionable at the time. However, there has been a shift, and more black women are embracing the beauty of their natural hair. It has been empowering, yet there has been some institutional push back.
In Recent Times…
Wearing our hair the way it naturally grows out of our heads can cause an issue. In 2017 Jenesis Johnson was told by her teacher that she needed to style her hair because it wasn’t neat. Her Vice-Principal called her hair “extreme and faddish”. Former WJTV news anchor Brittany Noble was told, among other things, her natural hair was unprofessional. Brittany made several complaints that were ignored by the parent company of the station about the ongoing harassment. In 2018, just one month after finally making a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company seized the opportunity to fire Brittany while on leave.
In 2015 the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that basically states that since hair can be changed, no matter what the cultural significance, it is not unconstitutional to deny a person a job based on their choice of hairstyle. What this means for black women is that it’s perfectly fine for your job to require you to wear more Eurocentric hairstyles. Since the way your hair naturally grows can form an “afro” just by combing it, an employer can consider it a “style” and refuse to hire you or require you to actually style your hair to get a job.
Times Are Changing
It’s understandable why many black women opt to chemically process their hair. It’s likewise understandable why so many opt for extensions, weaves, and wigs with hair textures so drastically different from their own. Sometimes it’s for the ease because taking care of these beautiful coils takes some work. Other times it’s to achieve particular styles that they can’t with their natural hair texture. However, in too many cases, it’s because they have been taught that the natural texture of their hair isn’t good enough or beautiful enough. Black women in America have been beaten down over the years, at times by their peers and counterparts, for simply wearing their hair in its natural state. For quite a while it was seen as unkempt, unprofessional, too ethnic, unfashionable, “nappy” and outside the societal norm. However, more and more we are seeing black women embrace and love their natural hair. We now have more product lines geared toward the care of black hair. We see more black women on our tv screens wearing their natural hair. We have entire websites devoted to the natural beauty of black women’s hair. The rest of America, including our institutionalized peers and counterparts, needs to simply accept that this is us and we are proud of it. We will no longer feel beat down, degraded, or made to feel ashamed of the way we were naturally created. With that being said, we are on the hunt for more beautiful ways to display our hair.
Now The Good Part
As more and more black women make the decision to embrace their natural hair, some of us have been at a loss for how to not only keep it healthy but also how to style it. Thank the heavens for the internet. The Soundtrack Of My Life Pinterest board titled “Natural Black Hair Care And Hairstyles” has tons of pins to both help you care for and style your hair. You’ll fall in love with many of the styles there and more are added daily. I have also collected some great styling ideas from the generous natural ladies of Facebook which you will want to try out for yourself.
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Black women have spent so many years trying to conform to societal norms and being told that our natural hair isn’t palatable. If you choose to chemically process your hair or wear weaves and wigs you should be free to do so. If you choose to wear the natural hair you were born with in its natural state, you should be just as free to do so. Your natural hair is not unkempt, it’s not unprofessional, or any other negative thing that anyone chooses to attribute to it. The more we embrace, love, and accept our natural hair the more others will have to accept that this is the way we were made. While we’ll be forever searching for new styles to try ( and our next cute shoe, next nail design, etc. because we ARE women.) We are not our hair.