Full Disclosure: I’ve been natural for nearly 12 years. Many years ago, when I was working on a big real estate project as an entry level project manager, a fellow black woman admonished me for wearing a colorful headscarf. At the time, I wore my hair in double strand twists that I would do myself, a tedious,painstaking project that would warrant me wearing a headscarf for a day or two because until I completed it. She told me that she ‘didin’t want people to get the wrong idea about the project.’ Her hair, by contrast, was chemically straightened, permed in the natural parlance of black hair styles. She occassionaly wore hair pieces as well.
Context here is king: we were black women in a predominantly white male environment represented a contrasting view of black female identity. And hair, is a trait of that identity. I naively assumed that at the dawn of the 21st century, my hair was not relevant fact in convincing loan officers to invest in a real estate transaction.
And just this week, O Magazine released the cover of its forthcoming September issue with Oprah donning a natural mane.
After 12 years of being natural, I’m kinda stoked about all this mainstream excitement (thank you CurlyNikki.com and Naturallycurly.com). But haters still lurk in the ether. 16 year old Gabby Douglas is a member of the 2012 US Olympic Gold Medal Gymnastics Team. Why are people tweeting about her hair?
Monisha of Sporty Afros echoes what I’m really thinking here:
2) Many of us, Black women, have acquired the horrible habit of criticizing each other from head to toe with no regards of its repercussions. It’s almost like a sport to see how many laughs or likes one’s criticisms can get on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. Once again criticism has trumped compliments. And as a Black woman, this saddens me.
3) Putting more focus on Gabby’s hair and not her athleticism proves many of us are still missing the point on where true beauty, strength, and health lies. Some of us are sitting up right now with our hair done but suffering from high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, obesity, and/or a lack of energy. Oh, but the hair is on point. As mentioned earlier, I don’t know Gabby Douglas personally and I would never try to speak on her behalf. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she considers her health and fitness level to be a little more important than her hair staying in place.