Coming out of my hiatus to post on my neglected blog.
This is a subject that’s deeply personal for many African American women. For others, not so much.
Note: This post isn’t an attack on black women who choose to straighten their hair or wear extensions. This is about my journey and why I made my choice.
So what does it mean to go natural? I’m specifically speaking about the decision to no longer chemically process my hair. Going natural is kind of an umbrella term, for some it simply means no longer getting relaxers, for others it can mean no longer straightening it with a flat iron, etc. For me, it’s simply no relaxers and I very rarely flat iron it. I went natural back in the fall of 2008. My reasons for doing so were economical. I was still in college and I just couldn’t afford to do it anymore. But at this point I have no intention of putting chemicals in my hair anymore.
When I was little, I used to hate getting my relaxed. My mother would use those kits, I remember my first time. I didn’t like it, for some reason the whole process is like a right of passage for many black girls. But my mother and other relatives used to lament on how thick and “wild” my hair was. Even then, I knew that my was hair was viewed as something that needed to be “fixed.” I also recall my second grade pictures where I could the sores on the edges of my forehead.
When I made my decision, I wondered why I subjected myself (and I’m sure many natrualistsas can understand this) to such pain. Even if you leave it on your head for a few minutes, it doesn’t change the fact that your hair is burning. But throughout, I continued to get my hair chemically processed because I didn’t know how to care for natural hair. Though, when I was getting to the point where I no longer wanted relaxers, visiting salons was somewhat of a hassle. Many that specialize in blacks women’s hair, mostly focus on hair extensions straightening or treating it chemically. Focusing on hair in it’s natural state was and still is alien.
But in November of 2008, officially decided I had enough and stopped putting chemicals in my hair. Choosing to flat iron instead. Back then, I didn’t realize my decision also carried political implications. One reason (whether we want to admit it or not) why many African American women straighten their hair (be it chemically, hair extensions or flat ironing) is because we live in a culture that constantly bombards us with images that our natural hair is ugly. It’s not difficult to hear stories about how our natural hair is bothersome to people in the workplace, or how even our family members are turned off by it.
Even though my decision was economically, my decision to remain natural is political. My hair says “no I don’t think my natural is ugly.” In sum, my decision to remain natural is political.