Full-disclosure: I’m a proud member of the #naturalhair community. I’m the chick who schedules huge blocks of time to wash, condition, and style my hair, all the while claiming that #bighairdontcare. The summary of my hair journey has been a rollercoaster of tender-headed press and curls to perms to (cluelessly) natural to the return to perm and then to where I am today: a more knowledgeable natural. Shouts to YouTube tutorials. I did the “big chop” in 2011 and have been happily in the land of naps and curls sense.
Anyway, after Giuliana Rancic’s recent comments about Zendaya Coleman’s hair, a conversation erupted that always arises whenever any form of natural hair is insulted. The backlash over the outrage is usually in the vein of, “WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?! IT’S JUST HAIR!”
Ohhhhh girl, I wish. I sooooo wish. That ain’t the way the cookie crumbles, however.
It’s not just hair since we even have to have a “community” dedicated to natural hair in the first place; a community which serves as an alternative to the straight hair standard of beauty and the lack of hair-care information available since naturals were long seen as the “other.” It’s not just hair when my hair grows out and the default response of members of my family and social circle is that of, “So, what are you going to do with your hair?” as if the way it grows out of my head is somehow not acceptable. It’s not just hair when Dove has entire campaigns for little girls letting them know they don’t have to “tame” their curls. It’s not just hair when I’m given backhanded compliments of “Oh, you should keep it like that!” whenever I decide to use a flat iron on my hair. It’s not even just hair when, in my own damn natural hair community, the kinkier the curls, the less praise you receive since looser curls are the standard of beauty within that very subculture. It’s certainly not just hair when kids are being sent home from school because their locs are seen as breaking dress code and then being taken to task in the corporate world for the very same reason when you become an adult.
And it’s definitely not just hair when a high-profile celebrity correspondent has to publicly apologize on-air because she reinforced a trite stereotype about locs, offending the specific subject and an entire group of people who are tired of having to hear that shit just because of the way they choose to wear their hair.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to judge someone how they wear their hair or look down on those who don’t choose to go natural (an issue within our community in and of itself). In fact, one of the main things I love about my hair is the versatility of it. I can wear it straight or curly depending on my mood and neither is better or worse than the other.
I liken the “it’s just hair!” sentiment to race in that I’d love race to not be an issue since it doesn’t make sense as an issue in an ideal world. But, I’m also not of the “color-blind” group that feels we should ignore race so it just goes away. Not even. I’d rather a world where we’re able to acknowledge our differences and celebrate them. Same goes with hair. There are so many different textures and grades of hair and each has their own form of beauty. Hell, the very fact there is such a huge variety is beautiful in and of itself.
So, here’s hoping that we can one day live in a world where it’s truly “just hair.” But, in order for that to happen, we have some real work to do. And I predict it’ll take longer than a wash day.