I've struggled with my hair my entire life. Growing up in a Caribbean household, the concepts of "good hair" versus "bad hair" was never something that was openly spoken about, but rather a reoccurring experience that played out in our everyday lives. It was the reason why I'd spend countless hours at salons or at the foot of my mother's bed every night with a box of bubbles in my lap as she struggled to tame my thick and often "unruly" hair.
"You have so much hair but it's too thick" she'd laugh as she'd finish the last braid. Looking back I'm sure that those were words of endearment and light fun, but paired with the images of women that were on the TV and taunts from my classmates, it felt like a blow. You see, little black girls are taught about the politics of beauty and desirability from a very young age. I remember growing up and seeing most of the women in beauty pageants being lighter complected with loose and wavy hair, I remember seeing an entire wall of bleaching creams at the beauty supply and on my aunt's nightstand, I remember my sister basing my ears with vaseline for my first relaxer at 6 six-years-old, I remember burns from leaving it in too long, and I remember how different my classmates treated me with straight hair.
These memories are not singular to just my life, but rather an experience that is central to most communities of color. From colonial times, fairness and looser hair texture were set as a standard of beauty and worth. Although the physical shackles are long gone, this mentality holds a tight grip on how we as people navigate throughout the diaspora. For many of us, "good" hair and skin color weren't just about being beautiful, but rather a means of survival (see white-passing, Tingon Laws).
I never understood these things until I started college. Something about finding myself in the middle of nowhere upstate New York and brushing shoulders with kids whose parents were the CEOs of fortune 500 companies and major media conglomerates put the privileges in our society in perspective. I immersed myself in the works of Marcus Garvey and Nikki Giovanni. I found purpose in student activism and traveled throughout the Black diaspora to see the world from a different lens. I found solidarity with black women on my campus and learned the true meaning of sisterhood. And in the midst of all of those things-I chopped my hair off.
As amusing as it sounds, I really thought that the "big chop" was the final step to achieving "wokeness." I thought that I would be embarking on a journey within the natural hair community that would lead to better knowledge about my hair texture and how to take care of it. Instead, it seemed that the natural hair community had a face that certainly did not look like me. The most popular YouTubers had nothing close to 4c hair and a lot of natural hair care brands didn't post content of darker completed women with 4c hair unless it was exceptionally long. I struggled for 5 years to manage my hair, I did every mask, every type of twist out, and it still felt like my hair wasn't good enough, loose enough, long enough. Doing my hair felt like a chore. So what did I do? I relaxed it AGAIN.
Yes, you read that right, I relaxed my hair again. In a last-minute and desperate moment, I decided to give in to the creamy crack. Disillusioned by the criticisms from peers in a new working environment, the struggle to manage my hair type, and the lack of representation for 4c hair- everything became too much. Now, this is an important point when discussing transitioning: not everyone that relaxes their hair is doing it solely because of self-hatred or the desire of not being black. There are so many underlying factors that have made black hair so political. One of the sentiments that some die-hard naturalistas have is that those who chose to relax or go back and forth with transitioning are not proud of our black heritage and journey for natural hair to be accepted.
The reality is that the politics surrounding black hair are restricting and it can often feel as if it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. Black women should be allowed to see their hair with a sense of fluidity. Although our hair has a rich sense of beauty when it is in it's natural form, women should have the autonomy to style, chop, color, twist, relax, as they please. We should be allowed the chance to be as versatile as other races despite the pressures that society has put specifically on us. It is okay to be confused and indecisive about your hair and it is 100% okay to craft your hair care journey as you see fit.
With that being said, I am now on my 2nd journey of transitioning and I've fallen in love with my kinks and curls all over again! Let this blog be a lesson for all my indecisive girls out there: the choice is always yours.