It was the price that black girls had to pay in a Eurocentric world, where good grooming was synonymous with smooth, straight hair — “good hair” in our black vernacular of the day.
But black folks’ hair tends to grow out, like a halo, instead of down, like a mane. And all the work that goes into taming our kinks can be undone by the mere whisper of rain.
By the time my daughters were old enough to understand the challenge, hot combs had been replaced by relaxers, extensions and braids. And I had become my mother, spending hours weaving their hair into dozens of long sleek plaits.
It wasn’t the “slippery hair” of their white suburban classmates, and the style was sometimes mocked or misunderstood by nonblack friends. But it gave my girls the freedom to play soccer, run track and swim.
Now, almost two decades later, I have a baby granddaughter whose hair is a tall mound of fluffy spirals. They sprout like flowers from a field of stubborn ringlets that I hope one day she will love.
Natural styles — dreadlocks, twists, braids, Afros, Bantu knots — seem to be trending, from the red carpet to Capitol Hill. Even Michelle Obama, always carefully coiffured, is allowing her long thick hair to be its free-flowing self.
Black hair salons have felt the evolution; fewer customers today are asking for the traditional press-and-curl.
It’s about practicality, People want simplicity, something they can manage all week. … And not just black people. Whites come in for braids, twists and extensions — styles that blacks have worn for years.”
But for black women the choice can have broader dimensions. It’s a return to styles that our ancestors wore, a visible connection to the African diaspora, a way to untangle the complicated relationship many of us have with our hair.
Its texture, its fragility, its temperamental curls and kinks can be a burden one day, and the next a glorious mane. It can limit where we work and how we play. Its grooming rituals can take an entire day.
The issue drew national attention last year, when a black high school wrestler in New Jersey was humiliated by a white referee, who forced him to either forfeit his match or have his dreadlocks publicly lopped off. The young man lost his locks and won the match, but his tear-stained face fueled social media outrage.
Yet employers have for years, with the assent of the courts, been demoting, firing or refusing to hire black women who deign not to straighten their hair and choose natural styles instead.[NewsNaira]
Black Dreadlocks Twists Braids
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