Friday, May 14, 2010

Black Men, Loving Black Women's Hair, Naturally!

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my son, who is in Law School.  He is home on break and had just watched "Good Hair" and was quite surprised about what he learned about the damaging effects of the chemicals in perms and the weave process.  Essentially, he said to me, "I think natural hair is best for Black women.  Actually I prefer it!"  A moment of pride for a mother happened right then and there.  I have had natural hair since he was a very little boy and his sister has had the same (for most of her life). So the notion of a perm and weave, in regard to Black women, has not been a part of his purview in terms of life at home.  He wrote his senior essay at Yale about the reality of "passing" and black people in the 20's and 30's and within that work, he talked about the history of Black hair.  I think that what we as Black women have to understand is that Black men also have to come to terms with our hair stories because in many instances, they truly don't understand the depth of this situation for Black women.  However, many do appreciate who we are, naturally. Nevertheless, I'm proud of my young man.  The statement above, from a Black Man, my son Brandon (pictured below), truly made my Day. Surely, N.I.C.E.

To that end, please find an open letter  from Leonard Pitts, Jr. (lpitts@miamiherald.com
Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. He is the author of Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood. His column runs every Sunday and Wednesday).

Sisters, your natural hair is beautiful to me


An open letter to African-American women:
It's about the need to be beautiful, I know.
As goals go, that one is neither extraordinary nor gender-specific. But it's different for women, isn't it? A man's sense of self worth is seldom endangered by crow's feet. On him people will say they convey ``character.'' On a woman, they convey wear.
And if it's different for women, it's different and then some for women like you, saddled not just with the need to be beautiful, but also with 400 years of racial baggage, 400 years of ginormous Jemimahs, shrill Sapphires, ugly Aunt Esthers and angry Angelas seared into the public mind, 400 years which say you cannot be beautiful if your lips are too proud, or your skin too dark or you don't take that nappy hair God gave you and make it look like the hair he gave somebody else.
As you may have guessed, our subject is Good Hair, Chris Rock's new documentary on the industry of African-American hair care. The comedian has called it the ``blackest'' movie he's ever made. Truth is, it may well be the blackest movie anybody's ever made.
That's not to say other people would not get the jokes or the thesis: that in the search for ``good hair'' -- i.e., hair that is straight and fine like white people's -- black women burn their scalps with corrosive chemicals, buy thousand-dollar weaves on teachers' salaries, and support, according to Rock, a $9 billion industry of which black folks own virtually nothing.
But being black, having been inculcated with that sense of lowered worth they feed you right along with your strained peas, will enable you to nod knowingly when Rock recounts the moment one of his young daughters asked him why she doesn't have ``good hair.'' It will allow you to laugh in recognition when women describe the elaborate rituals of protecting their hair once it has been straightened or weaved. It will require you to wince in pain when Rock tries to sell black hair at a weave shop (weaves are often human hair from India) and is refused because nobody wants that kinky African stuff.
The very notion of ``good hair'' springs from that same wellspring of self-denigration that offers the N-word as a fraternal greeting and once filled our newspapers with ads for skin-lightening creams. It suggests the difficulty of loving oneself when one uses as a yardstick of worth another culture's physical standards. As in an old episode of MASH where a Korean boy wanted the doctors to fix his eyes and make them look ``American.''
But of course, there was nothing at all wrong with his eyes. And ``good hair'' -- I preached this to my curly-haired son who grew up mystified that his hair fascinated so many people -- is any hair that covers your head.
Unfortunately, saying this is like shouting in a hurricane. A million media images tell us beauty looks like Paris Hilton -- and only that.
So go on, sister, do what you do. I ain't mad at'cha. But neither am I fooled by your chemicals and weaves.
I am your brother, your father, your husband and your son. I've seen you in church with big hats on, giving children the evil eye. And at the jail on visiting day, shoring up that wayward man. And at the bus stop in the rain on your way to work. And at the dining table with pen and paper, working miracles of money. When I was a baby, you nursed me, when we were children, I chased you through the house; when we were dating, I missed half the movie, stealing sugar from you. I saw you born; I took you to your prom; I glowed with pride when you went off to school. I have married you and buried you. I love your smile. A million times, you took my breath away.
You are the rock and salvation of our people, the faith that remains when all hope is gone. So if it's about the need to be beautiful, maybe it's time somebody told you:
You already are. You always were.


Midian A. said...

It’s always a pleasure to see guys who appreciate black women and their natural hair. I know that for many black men the issue of natural hair is a topic that rarely or never crosses their minds and most of them could care less whether or not your hair is natural or relaxed. There are those who are aware of the history behind black women and their hair. For them, that awareness serves to intensify their love and admiration of the strength and beauty of the black woman. Then there are those who are blinded by stereotypes, and therefore, places black women with natural hair in one of two categories: they either are strong ultra afrocentric Sister Souljah chics or free spirited, back to the motherland, back to the basics, all natural chics. These do not necessarily have to be negative, but they are sometimes seen that way. I once spoke to a guy who, after a few conversations, came up with the conclusion that I was a ‘one with nature, back to the motherland, afrocentric’ kinda chic because of my choice to wear my natural hair, my choice of music, and a few other things. Even though his conclusion was somewhat accurate, he upset me because of the negative connotation he associated with his comment. It’s just really nice to know that there are guys who appreciate black women for all that they are, including their natural hair.

Dr. Patti Rose said...

All I have to say is Amen! Definitely on point and well said...Thank you for sharing.