Black women are serious about their hair. Our hair can affect our moods and it event has its own vocabulary. It bonds us together in the style successes and struggles.
Yet, something so essential to our identity is often misunderstood by people outside of our culture. But clearing up small misunderstandings, about hair can go a long way to clearing up the big misunderstandings about race! See the five things you need to know about Black hair.
1. NOT Washing Our Hair Daily
The key to really nice shiny, healthy hair is a balance of the natural oils we all produce. With straight or wavy hair, oil travels down the shaft fairly easily. But if your hair is very curly or kinky, it’s harder for oil to travel through those loop-the-loops. So while non-Blacks may wash their hair a lot to avoid excess oil, Black women worry more about maintaining what they have or adding more. If we washed our hair every day, it would be dry and unhealthy.
2. Touching Our Hair
Touching a Black woman’s hair without her permission can be deemed rude. But even if you ask nicely, the answer is probably no. Most feel like allowing strangers to touch their hair just so they can experience it is akin to being pet like an animal. At best it’s awkward, and at worst it can be dehumanizing.
3. Hot Comb History
A hot comb is a hair tool used to straighten hair. It is a piece of metal with heat-safe handle that is held over a fire or on a stove. It is used to “press” the curls out of your hair by combing through it. The hot comb has mostly fallen out of fashion but any Black woman over the age of 20 has memories of being burned by one.
4. Natural Hair
For much of the Black American experience, we have been encouraged to look as European as possible. So straightening our hair with chemicals or a hot comb was the only way a Black woman could look “presentable” for a long time. If you wanted be beautiful or have a good job, your hair better look as not Black as possible. Natural hair experienced a resurgence during the Civil Rights Era and has continued to grow in popularity. Natural hair is not necessarily a symbol of the wearer’s Black pride, but it is definitely a symbol of accepting our hair as it grows from our heads. Every time a black woman walk into a business meeting with their hair in its natural state, they are doing something that many generations of Black woman wouldn’t have dared to do.
5. Hairstyle Flexibility
Culturally, Black women have the most options with their hair. It can be permed or natural. Bought or grown. Straightened or fluffy. Completely disappeared with a big pair of earrings to accessorize our bald heads. One of the not-so-great things about this? Having to have that awkward conversation on the first day back at the office after getting our hair done about how it has “magically grown.” LOL
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