by Ama Yawson
Marcus Garvey once challenged black people to get the kinks out of our minds and not out of our hair. Never has this statement been more true than with the natural hair movement. Don’t get me wrong. The modern natural hair movement is an amazing cross-cultural coalition of women with kinks and curls giving emotional support and hair advice to one another.
It is great in many respects! But, the movement often fails to challenge the very paradigm that encouraged women to chemically process their hair and thereby prevented them from remaining natural, in the first place. In my view, the following five natural hair mistakes are the biggest mistakes that most naturals don’t even realize that they are making.
1. Complaining About “Shrinkage”
Magical afro-textured hair has a helix or ziggly formation that allows it to defy gravity by growing toward the sun. By definition, a helix or ziggly formation is not straight and therefore appears shorter than if those same hair strands were straight. It’s the amazing reality of our hair! But instead of accepting and embracing this, many naturalistas are complaining about it. I have seen comments on facebook pages such as “I hate shrinkage” and “shrinkage is evil.”
What the cuss? Where did this word even come from? Do straight haired people complain about their hair being “stretched”? Not that I know of! Your hair is amazing no matter how long or high it appears due to the weather or your styling methods.
2. Believing That Length Is The Only Goal
If you have a ziggly, spirally and or coily hair pattern and your goal is for your hair to “appear” long, you are at an inherent disadvantage because the length is less visible due to the twists and turns of the hair strands. But all over the natural hair community there are discussions about how to grow hair longer and faster. Is short hair ugly? Is short hair a sin? After big chopping many months ago, I was so mentally obsessed with growth that I failed to enjoy the benefits of the shortest length. The super short shaved head highlighted my big eyes and was super-easy to manage. I felt bolder with it. Now I sometimes miss it despite enjoying the styling options of longer hair. I hope that more of us can enjoy the journey, while realizing that hair can be beautiful at any length.
I purchased a curl custard and the nice folks at curlmart sent me a bunch of free products that all claimed to de-frizz hair. I have kinky afro-textured hair – it is all frizz! Telling me to de-frizz my hair is like telling me to cut off all of my hair. The anti-frizz movement is an anti-kink movement, by default. Frizz is beautiful. Just ask Aevin Dugas who has a beautiful large frizzy afro. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Couresy of Michael July’s AFROS: A Celebration of Natural Hair. Featuring Aevin Dugas.
4. Subscribing to Hair Typing
In Ali Mazrui’s book, The Africans, he discusses the subtle and not so subtle ways that eurocentric education can make people of African descent feel inferior. The night is dark in Africa and all parts of the world, but African languages do not have nearly the number of negative references to night and darkness as the English language. Most phrases that use the terms “dark” or “black” are associated with evil and criminality such as “black cat”, “black market”, “dark and gloomy,” “dark heart” etc. Moreover, European cartographers chose to put Europe above Africa on maps, despite the fact that from a different angle in the cosmos Africa is actually on top of Europe and South America is on top of North America.
The association of top with better is obvious. Have you ever noticed that make-up foundations are always ordered from light to dark, with the lightest shades first and the darkest shades last? It could easily be positioned so that darker shades are first and lighter shades are last. This same colonizing of the African mind is present with hair typing. Why is straight hair 1A and kinky hair is the last type of hair on the list at 4C? It reveals a eurocentric standard, even if black people created it and or promote it. I will have none of it! I am going to refer to my hair as pretty grade A hair all day and everyday and I suggest that you do the same. Why are we using letters and numbers anyway, why not just use positive words?
5. Complaining That Your Hair is “Hard” To Manage
Yes, kinky hair is hard to manage if you want it to look straight or look like loose curls. I agree 100%. But it is not hard to manage when you are engaging in styles that were created by people with kinky hair for kinky hair such as twists, braids, thread wrap orlocs. If your hair is hard to comb then only comb it when wet with water and conditioner. Trust me, it will be easier. Also, put it in styles that won’t require you to comb it for long periods (braids, coils, etc.) or forever (locs). I will never forget the first time that I got rat tail coils. The male loctician was fawning over my hair because he said it was the “perfect” hair for locing. I thought to myself ‘I’m glad my hair is good for something”. It’s actually good for many things. When people with looser curl patterns complain about braids and twists unraveling consistently, I can’t relate. All hair textures have advantages – embrace the advantages of your texture.
Courtesy of Milestales.