Monday, September 26, 2011

My Hair is Not a Political Statement-But I Wish It Was

I didn't decide to stop chemically straightening my hair because I wanted to physically represent my politics.

I mean, I loved this look--the smoothness, the shine. . . .

Image is my own

This look was not one I could maintain though.  The relaxing process made my hair so weak that it constantly broke off.  That picture is the longest my hair had ever grown with a relaxer.  It looks pretty good, but what you can't see is the carpet of tiny broken hairs on the bathroom floor, or all the broken hair that would be on my shoulders at the end of the day.

I decided to stop chemically straightening my hair because my hair was being destroyed.  I couldn't comb it, couldn't brush it, the wind couldn't ripple through my silky locks without taking my freaking hair with it!

Total vanity decision.  I didn't want to be a bald old lady in a crooked wig.*  Wes and I didn't have any extra money anyway and doing relaxers myself would probably only make things worse.

So I decided to go natural.  My hair now is about the same length that it was in the picture above although probably a little longer in the back and on the sides--not that you could tell.

Photography by Love Joleen Photography

Yeah-this was my wedding hair by the end of the morning.  Why, yes.  I rocked a Frederick Douglass at my wedding.  About an hour and a half before that it looked more like this.

Photography by Love Joleen Photography
Way more stretched out.  Gotta love that humidity.  Why did I even attempt a side part?

So I didn't decide to rock a natural because I am a radical black activist.

I didn't even have any illusions about rocking a natural.  I still feel awkward with my hair.  We are still learning how to peacefully coexist.

I wish sometimes, especially now, that I had other motivations.  If you have been reading my blog, you probably know that I am one of those people who was really blindsided by Troy Davis' execution.  I was pretty explicit in connecting it to racism and I won't apologize for that.

I believe that.

It made me think about a lot of things, my status as a citizen of the United States, how I feel about Democracy, what my priorities should be as a teacher, what I choose to read about, and what I choose to write about.

I feel like I have been sleepwalking and that I have just been slapped back to reality.

My hair is not a political statement, but I wish that it was.  My hair is not a political statement but it should be.

I am not someone who can say with confidence that straight hair was just a style choice.  I never considered any other option.  I had no idea what my unprocessed hair even looked like until I decided to stop relaxing it.

For my mother, who had a pretty badass afro in the seventies, straightened hair was a style choice, but also a political and economic one.  After she gave birth to my brother it was almost like, "okay-time to be an adult-I have to straighten my hair and get a good job."

Her unprocessed hair, all afro'd out, suggested things like Black Power, Black panthers, and Black liberation.  How was she supposed to find a job in square-ass Arkansas with hair like that?  How could she slip into the role of easygoing, sassy black sidekick with hair like that?

The choices might not be as dire for me, but I think the situation is the same.

Choosing to have different hair, even though it is the hair I was born to have, feels like it should mean more.  It should be a rejection of beauty standards that I have been trying to apply to myself that never should have been applied to me to begin with.  It should mean a rejection of self-inflicted pain and fear.  It should be a visible symbol of resistance to the constant negativity associated with blackness that I have internalized.

It should mean fighting back.

*The crookedness of the wig in question might be inevitable.  I have yet to see an old lady wearing one straight.

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