Friday, March 4, 2016

Asian Travel, Natural Hair and Sarees: Diversity Bliss For a Naturalista!

I traveled extensively during the summer of 2015, namely to Vietnam, Japan, China, and India. The weather was hot in all of these lovely places and my hair took a beating but stayed strong. For some reason, within the context of so much heat, humidity, and variations in environment, some of my locks completely unraveled. So, the remedy was henna that I secured in India for healthy conditioning. Just wonderful! I also acquired pure coconut oil in Vietnam, at a spot along the Mekong Delta, to lavish my locks, so moisture was achieved. They make candy and other treats from the coconut there too, which was delicious!
So, with locks in tow, I traveled and traveled, along with my husband (and my adult children for portions of this 7-week journey) loving every moment of the experience. There was very little concern about my locks in any of these places. There were no odd stares or feelings of being "other" in the largely homogeneous nations that I visited. I find, when I travel internationally, especially in Africa and Asia, whatever that feeling is that I have at home--that feeling of being other, as a Black woman, doesn't exist. Sometimes, people stare but do not glare like I often experience at home. There is curiousness but not consternation. I walk comfortably in my difference, knowing that I am adding diversity, vibrantly, to the place where I am visiting.
The Saree
In India, the defining attire of Hindu women is the Saree. It can be made of all types of fabric including satin, chiffon, silk and beyond. It may be heavily embossed and intricately detailed but it's most important characteristic is that it is unique. You will not see two women wearing the same saree (unless it is intentional). The colors, the beauty and grace of sarees represent diversity in terms of attire, geographic location, socioeconomic status and Indian, Hindu culture. Yet, in the differences, sarees represent an undeniable commonality in that no matter the color, design or ornamentation, they are all sarees--representing, as is said in some Asian cultures, "Same Same--But Different." In this case, this indicates the fact that sarees are more the same than different in that they are all made of fabric and are about 6 meters long.
Through my travels, I have learned that Human beings are similar. At our core, like the saree, we are "same, same, but different." At the molecular level, we are the same. We are all comprised of cells, with variations in genetic makeup that leads to varying genotypes and phenotypes, but no one arrangement that leads to our physical appearance is better than another. Having white skin with straight hair vs. brown skin with curly hair, as examples, is not better, just different. We are not all the same without diversity, however. For example, for Black women, with natural, curly kinky hair, we are different from women of other races who may have straight hair. One is not better than the other, just different. Hence, my belief is that for Black women, and all people, Natural IS Cool Enough in any scenario, from social to professional.

To see the rest of the story visit the Huffington Post.  You don't want to miss the ending...


Anonymous said...

Love your writings. Appreciate your perspective. I've always been a natural woman. I can't quite grasp the concept of make up, or adding anything to my body that I wasn't born with. I lived in India for a couple of years and as a white women I was stared at and even had photos taken with strangers. My husbands family are Indians and we all lived close by. It was a wonderful couple of years, the one thing I always found strange was looking at photographs of myself with his family. I was always so shocked at how differently I looked from them, even though I never felt one bit different. I forgot, or never even noticed our physical differences, only in photographs or if some new person pointed them out. It doesn't matter to me, our differences only bonded us closer I thought. My husband on the other hand is more comfortable around people of a darker skin tone, and I completely respect that. I wish more people in this world could appreciate one another for their differences I'm certain this world would be a much nicer place.
I want to end this by saying that all women should love themselves for whatever shape, color they are. You're gorgeous no matter what kind of texture your hair is, no matter what size waist you have, or color of your skin. IT'S BEAUTIFUL!!!!

Patti Rose said...

Thank you! I agree with you 100%. There is so much beauty in diversity. If we would just take the time to realize this, deeply, the world would be a betterl place. For Black women, it is important to get in touch with and love our natural beauty, as our society has taught us otherwise, particularly in terms of our hair, and beyond. It's a first start to the fullness of loving ourselves, naturally, while simultaneously embracing others with the expectation of the same in return from others, namely White people. Your openness to difference and valuing and appreciating such is beautiful. Hold on to it and spread the word. I truly believe that the goal of valuing and appreciating difference is achievable with the outcome of diversity bliss! That would be truly wonderful! I'm glad you are enjoying my writing. Respect, peace and love.