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Curly Kinky Loose Tight Coiled.
Black Hair. Mixed Hair.
There is a story in hair, which is told differently depending on the continent, country, state, city, or street.
But Hair holds a different kind of story for women.
And the story of black women's hair is not the same as others.
It is uniquely different, and one that each woman that shares with you is their own.
You see, no black woman grows up feeling like her hair is beautiful! From a very young age and from all around you, you are told to change it. You are taught about "Good Hair." Feel very lucky if you have never heard that term before and had that burned into your brain. From a very young age, we were taught that 'good hair' was hair that could be tamed, teased, and beaten into submission. Hair that looked more acceptable, hair that looked more white.
This was me. I hated my hair. I grew up in a white house. My Mom was white, my Dad was black.
I grew up in a white neighborhood after my parent's divorce.
I went to a white school. No one looked like me. I hated everything about myself.
All I wanted was to be skinny, have straight blonde hair, white, and blue-eyed. Pretty.
And all I was, was thick, dark-skinned, big curly hair, brown-eyed. Ugly.
I begged my Mom to straighten my hair. She tried to convince me not to that my hair was beautiful just the way it was. But in my mind, she couldn't possibly understand!
She was white, she had straight blonde hair. She finally relented and let me do it. It fried my hair. It looked horrible. But for those few short weeks, while it lasted, I was so happy.
It took me nearly 25 years to become an adult, have my children, and lose my hair through illness to finally love and appreciate my hair.
You see, I have alopecia. My hair falls out, and it is sometimes sudden, in small, or large amounts. It was traumatic at first. Your hair, like most things, is precious. You don't expect it to go, and when it does, it is hard to decide how you accept its loss. Are you still a woman? Am I still pretty? All of these thoughts and more. It took me years to finally come to terms with the loss. I love my hair, the curls. The thickness. Even the silvery greys that are now coming in, they are beautiful, every strand.
I came to terms with my hair loss over several years, but can you imagine someone simply cutting all of your hair off? What about your child's hair?
That is exactly what happened when a little girl went to school one day. Jurnee Hoffmeyer. Jurnee is a 7-year-old with beautiful curls that sat just below her shoulder. Unfortunately, she had her hair cut by another student earlier one week earlier this year on the school bus. As awful as that is, it happens. Children are children. Her father took her to a salon to fix it as best as he could, with an asymmetrical haircut, meaning she still had a good amount of her hair left. Less than two days later, Jurnee's school librarian took the initiative to give her what she deemed a better haircut and cut her remaining hair off to her head. Her librarian, with no black hair care experience, was white.
Jurnee's family rightfully removed her from the school following both incidents. The school, which was slow to respond or react to both the school bus incident with the child who cut Jurnee's hair initially or the teacher who cut all of Jurnee's hair, finally placed the librarian on paid leave while it performed an investigation. This angered, rightfully, not only the family but also the black community.
Would this have happened if it had been a little white girl with blonde hair?
Eventually, after a 2-month long internal investigation, the librarian was given a "last chance" employment agreement, as well as the two other staffers involved in the earlier incident on the school bus. Is that enough? Jimmy Hoffmeyer, Jurnee's father, didn't think so and filed a 1 million dollars in lawsuit against Mount Pleasant Public School for racial discrimination. I can't speak for Jurnee's experience, as I wasn't there and I don't know what happened. But this experience would follow me. These types of experiences have followed me.
Thankfully the need for black women to conform, to change, to concede to white beauty standards and mindsets is changing, and we are growing into a world of more assertive, more confident women who love themselves and love their hair. A world where books like Don't Touch My Hair, Hair Love, and Hair Like Mine.
A world where natural hair is EVERYWHERE. Our girls, our young men, see themselves now in everyday life.
Our hair holds memories. Our hair has a legacy. Our hair, like most things about ourselves, is a way to tell a story about ourselves. It says, "This is ME, this is who I am."
About the Author
I am a Veteran first! Now a full-time psych student, working to eventually be a therapist. In my spare time, I am a writer, working on becoming a published author. I also coordinate a homeless women's giving initiative called the Dignity Drive. Oh and sometimes, I am an okayish wife & mom.
You can follow Diana here: https://www.facebook.com/lifebythespoonful/ and here https://www.instagram.com/aspeciallifebythespoonful/