Good Hair, Kinky Hair

Love Your Curls ShirtAnyone who knows me knows that I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I look like. I certainly make sure I’m neat and clean when I walk out of the door, but you will never find me amongst the ranks of women who spend hours on hair, makeup, and other cosmetic diversions. This is partly due to my feminist ideals and partly due to practicality and partly due to just plain laziness. I shouldn’t have to spend more than 15 minutes to look good. I shouldn’t have to spend *any* time conforming to society’s (read: white men’s) notions about how I should look or worrying about first wrinkles or young-looking teeth or any other damn thing cosmetic companies want to make up to make you feel inadequate. I shouldn’t be concerned about how other people think I look, only how I think I look.

For the most part, I’m not. The most part.

Right now I’m very much stuck on hair. For the past few months I’ve been noticing other people’s hair and wanting desperately to comment on it, give advice, and other such things one doesn’t do to perfect strangers. The reason is that I’ve become more aware of my own hair lately due to my job.

I write and do web-work for an online fashion magazine. My friends find this incredibly funny due to my aforementioned not caring about fashion and cosmetics and other such things. To me, it’s just a job. I make the web pages and don’t have to know my Manolo from my Prada. But when my boss gave me some shampoo and conditioner for curly hair and told me to write about their effectiveness, I started to really consider my hair for the first time in years.

Obviously, I’m a black woman. And, like most black women, my mother started relaxing my hair at an early age. Five years old, I believe. This is something black people do. As soon as that hair gets long enough or too hard to comb, off to the hair dresser you go to get those kinks stamped out like the evil bastards they are. If you’re not a guy and you’re not sporting a ‘fro, you need to have your hair straightened. Then, of course, it’s up to you to spend hours blow-drying it and using every different kind of curling iron on the planet to curl the ends under or something more complicated. The point is that one’s hair is straight or regimentally curled – like a white person’s.

This is how I related to my hair in childhood. I spent long hours trying to get my hair perfectly straight only to have genetics and humidity foil me over and over. Then I tried to get my hair curly, which required mad curing iron skills or painful nights in rollers. And then there was my father. Dear God, there was my father.

My father is one of those black people who, due to his skin color and ‘good hair’, can pass quite easily for a white man. His genes + my mother’s genes gave me my own brand of ‘good hair’. But my father was obsessed with giving me, at 7, complicated hairstyles and cuts I could not possibly maintain. I, stupidly, allowed a hairdresser to cut my hair like my stepmother’s when I was 11 because my father insisted. I should have known better, but I adored my father and listened to him against my better judgment. I would live with that mistake until I was 17 and finally grew that evil cut/mullet business out over a summer.

All through this trauma, of course, was the relaxing and recurling and other frying of my hair. I did all of these things even though they a) hurt and b) never came out the way hair dressers promised/I envisioned, because this is what most black people do. This is The Way. Thou shalt not deviate from The Way.

The summer before my senior year in high school I read a book called Every Good Bye Ain’t Gone for a special class. In it there was an entire chapter about the (black, female) author’s struggles with her hair and trying to find good people to do it. One of my classmates, a black female with very close-cropped curly hair, wondered why the author wasted her time with a whole chapter on this small topic. I was completely surprised to hear this coming from that particular student. I was only 17 at the time, but if I’d written about my life up until that point, there would definitely be a whole chapter on hair. Now? Maybe two.

After all, talking about black people’s hair isn’t just a matter of finding a good style or a good dresser or a good product. It’s also about how we as black people feel about how our hair looks in its natural state and what we do based on those feelings. It’s also about how American society and culture (read: white folks) feels about what black people do with their hair. If you don’t think that black people’s hair isn’t a battleground for issues of race and culture and assimilation and bigotry, you haven’t been paying attention to the news.

When a U.S. Congresswoman can be called names because of her hairstyle (or lack thereof) and people can be denied/fired from jobs for not wearing a hairstyle that makes white people feel comfortable, there is a serious, serious problem. Even in the black community, straight hair is considered more acceptable because it emulates white people’s hair. It doesn’t emulate white hair well, but it’s closer to assimilation than braids or dredlocs. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard black people praise a woman’s straightened/fried hair or go on and on about the merits of ‘good hair’ while remarking on how much of a shame it is to waste long hair on dredlocs. Braids are more acceptable to blacks than dreds, perhaps because they are considered ‘cleaner’ and can be undone easily if one wants to go back to relaxer. Dreds must be cut completely.

And Lord help the poor woman who wants to go without braids, locs, or relaxer and have a natural hairstyle. Everyone and their mama will talk about her like a damn dog. That is, unless she’s got hair like mine.

When I went off to college in New York City I knew maintaining my hair was going to be a challenge. Everything in NYC was more expensive, including the salon. I couldn’t afford $80-$300 relaxers, even if it was only every 3 months. I had to eat. I embraced baseball caps and scarves until I could go home for holidays.

One day during my sophomore year I stepped out of the shower, looked in the mirror, and noticed something extraordinary. Half of my hair was wavy. Really wavy. Trying to be curly. This was the top half, the bottom half was straight – leftover from my last relaxer, so many months before. I never knew that my hair was wavy/curly, I always thought it was just bushy, kinky, and untamable.

What else was I supposed to think? I had black people’s hair.

Good hair, certainly, because it was thick and styleable. But certainly not that good.

I decided to let my natural hair grow out to see what it really looked like. The result: I have fabulous hair, y’all. I have, naturally, the hair I always dreamed of having. It curls in coils/ringlets and will either curl in big locks or small sections, giving me a modicum of control over the amount of body it has. I have white girl hair.

Now wait a damn minute, you’re saying. Didn’t we just go over black people’s hair esteem issues and didn’t you basically express an opinion that wanting hair like white people’s is bad? I did, yeah. But that’s an intellectual view of the situation. Emotionally, I was so happy to have white girl hair I flaunted it all over the place. I found the perfect product to keep it from going over into frizzyness and proceeded to flip, play with, and highlight the merits of my hair every chance I got. I went a little crazy for a while.

I’ve come to understand that my hair is actually more typical of black people than many realize. After all, most blacks in this country have some white blood in them, and that affects the relative kinkiness of the hair. There are still many of people with a nice, tight kink, but there are plenty of us with this medium kink as well. (They don’t know it, though, because they’ve never gone without a relaxer.) White people also possess this medium kink, though they tend to call it ‘ringlets’. This is the kind of curl most women are trying to get when they get perms. Jewish people, as far as I can tell, have it in abundance.

The understanding came when, under the auspices of the magazine, I visited a salon in Brooklyn dedicated to natural, curly hair. They can work with people of any ethnic background, but most of their clientele are black women. Going to Miss Jessie’s Salon opened my eyes to just how many black women out there are dealing with hair similar to mine and fighting against the same kind of indoctrination I did. The women who own the salon are doing something – Dare I say it? Dare! Dare! – radical. They’re telling women with kinks and curls that their hair can be beautiful and natural and easy to maintain.

The end result is that I am lucky in that I know I possess such hair and that my natural hair style is acceptable to mainstream white society. I am even luckier in that I now know how to keep my hair looking wonderful and curly with a minimum of fuss (thanks to my testing products for the fashion magazine). My long hair odyssey is over. I have wash & wear hair.

But I can’t help feeling as if this is a bit of a cheat. I’ve resolved my hair problems without resolving my hair problem. I haven’t addressed that part of myself that wants to have long, flowing, shiny hair because that’s the standard of beauty American culture has shoved down my throat since I first started watching TV. Every now and then I still get the urge to straighten my hair (which I did once, about 18 months ago, with a flat iron and a very patient hair dresser) because I know it will look good that way. I have two reactions whenever this desire crops up: 1. If you relax your hair it will take you hours to do every day, make our hair unhealthy, and it will take years to get it back to curly. 2. If you go straight you will be denying your heritage, your racial background, your individuality, and your right to be a proud black woman with proud black hair.

I feel my priorities may be out of order on this one.

The issues surrounding black folk’s hair will continue on and on for the foreseeable future. Especially if black people keep giving each other shit about their choices. Even with hair like mine I still get crap from my family. The same women who raised me to be proud of my skin, my ancestors, and my heritage will take one look at my curls and say, “Why don’t you let me take you to Ms J’s and get your hair straightened? It would look so pretty…”

When you’ve got militant traditionalists handing you pamphlets about the evils of relaxer and assimilation on one side and black colleges like Hampton University banning ‘unusual’ hairstyles like braids on the other, it’s hard to know what to feel or think.

I’ll get militant for a moment and say that any hairstyle requirements outside of being neat, manageable, and not an unnatural color are damn stupid, possibly racist, and fueled by ignorance. It’s true that people will make assumptions about you based on how you look and how you choose to wear your hair, but we as black people are completely falling down on forcing American society to accept that our hair, in any state – natural, relaxed, braided, loced – is just as legit as any of the crazy shit white people do to their hair. And we should force them to recognize this.

Black folks allowed the media to obsess about Cynthia McKinney’s hair and probably won’t protest Judge Mablean’s absence from Divorce Court because, deep down, we feel that hair styles that reflect assimilation attitudes are better, more desirable, and culturally correct. Personally, I’m more for individual preference and expression. If you like the way your hair looks when it’s relaxed, even if outside forces are at the heart of that feeling, then wear your hair that way. If you prefer a natural style, from locs to curls like mine, even if it means the loss of employment or respect, then wear it. There are advantages and drawbacks to either choice.

I have no conclusion to offer. However, I do have further reading. Check out these books:

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts

And these articles:

The politics of hair – Neal Boortz edition
Still Trying to Kick the Kink (the comments are very interesting)
On The Road: American Writers and Their Hair

Here we are standing at the intersection of politics, race relations, and hair care. Who knew that all three could be so intertwined? And yet, they are.


Crass Commercialism

Unpaid Pimping: I love the Love Your Curls t-shirt from NaturallyCurly.com. I’m honestly in danger of wearing it out.

Pimping: I made a Zazzle store so I could make a shirt telling people not to touch my hair. I figured other folks might want one. Also has the Guide to Hair Etiquette on the back.


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89 Responses

  1. 1) You don’t have good hair but great hair. It looks healthy, is soft, has body, and seems very you. Honestly, I would very much dislike to see you with straight hair because you are like a Texan (stay with me it is not a comment about Bush) in that your “big hair” matches your personality.

    2) I have no clue how hard it is to mantain a different hair type than my own and in many ways I am very lucky because almost all my life I’ve had wash and wear hair (other than when it was past my waist and when I swam a lot — then it was green).

    3) I don’t understand why people want corn silk hair — yes, it may seems easy but in my case my hair can’t hold a curl, a wave, bun, a braid, or even a pony tail because it will just fall out of the holder (unless if it is soo tight I have to pat my head every so often so that my scalp doesn’t hurt as much). But then it isn’t that far off the “cultural norm.”

    4) I think everyone should embrass their gentics because it can’t be changed. And also before all the pain is taken for a hair style we should remember it is dead cells.

    And now I am off to find a foundation/concealer light enough for my skin (and actually that is much harder than most think).

  2. I’d been following this for a while with some interest because i have sort-of parallel hair issues. never got that kind of pressure–and yeah i’ve been realizing lately just how prevalent the “good hair” business is among black women–but i always wanted the Jan Brady “cornsilk” hair, and was subject to having my own coarse, curly, “frizzy” hair cut short and permed (?!) at one point during my childhood, I guess to make it more “manageable.” I remember being told about the straightening process; even at ten, it sounded more horrific than i wanted to go through.

    yeah, i have often wondered: what on earth is so bad about “natural” hair for heaven’s sake? what exactly is supposed to happen if you don’t tamp it and tame it and chemical-ize it down all the time? it might leap off the head, grab some weapons and conquer the world? if only…

  3. I’ve noticed in the SF Bay Area a lot more black women have natural hair compared to places I lived in the South. Purely from a shallow, aesthetic point of view I think it looks great. Practically speaking, I am in favor of more women of any hair type aiming for wash-and-wear. That’s part of why my hair is so long.

    What I can’t figure out is why people give me crap for having hair past my waist, or why the words used in a photo-posting community I’m in to describe a model with beautiful hair past her waist involved “dirty,” “gross,” “creepy,” “nasty,” etc. I can only guess it’s a socioeconomic thing–my mom is among the chief crap-givers on this topic and I know that when she was a kid in the 50s, the only girls with long hair were immigrants. Or maybe it’s a conservative backlash against the hippie look. I have no idea.

  4. what exactly is supposed to happen if you don’t tamp it and tame it and chemical-ize it down all the time? it might leap off the head, grab some weapons and conquer the world?

    No that would be awesome, indeed! Maybe this is what whie people are afraid of.

  5. I saw your post in the Slanttruth Hair Carnival. It is great.

  6. I just recently cut my hair after 20 years of relaxing it. Ugh, it was such a relief. My mother and my only sister have always had relaxers and I honestly thought that it’s just what I would always do….that is until I moved to NYC and realized that I could do whatever I want.

    Love the post, thanks for your thoughts…I love reading about other black women’s beautiful hair!

  7. [...] I’ve noticed that my hair post a few weeks ago gets the most clicks from Google hits. I’ll throw my keyword analysis up here sometime to show you the kind of messed up queries that lead people here. Many seem to be people looking for hair care options or just looking to understand certain things about black people and hair. I hope this post will be equally informative. [...]

  8. Wonderful article. I have always had natural hair and although I am not mixed, people told me the only reason I could afford to go out like that was I had ‘good hair’ for a black person. I am talking about black people. I just cannot believe that! Funny thing is I grew up in Europe and was always the only black girl and all the other white students would fawn over my hair and wonder how my mother managed to get it into whatever wild style she did. My mother was very creative with my hair. She is an artist and she is African, so you can imagine. What baffled me was when I swam and my hair did it’s wild thing and all the other students wished their hair would do that. I would feel horrified and they’d just be like cool! How did you get your hair to do that? Shrink and curl? (Ask the creator.) The boys in particular liked my hair and I got tired of saying no to people who wanted to touch it. i realized that black hair was an amazing phenomenon that just blew people’s minds.

    Then I moved to North America. I just do not understand this whole ‘you need to perm your nappy locks movement.’ Why? What’s wrong with the look God gave me?

  9. What’s wrong with the look God gave me?

    Nothing at all :)

  10. I live in Virginia and am biracial (black and white). My hair is naturally curly, and is extremely curly when it is long. I really enjoyed my long, curly hair…at least until I stopped washing it on a constant basis and it started dreadlocking and looking awful. Even though I like my curls, they are a hassle. They are frail, i cant really run my hand through them without having them go into a strange, half-afro look. I want to grow my hair out again, and am thinking of straightining it with an iron, but after reading this article I have decided to look for options to stregthen my curls and deduce their frailty without shoving permanent chems in it. People should be proud of their natural hair. But people who wear their hair natural should’nt bash others because they want to dye it, or straighten it. Everyone has their own preference, just because someone wears it unnaturally , doesn’t mean they are looking to ”fit-in.” Do your own thing, individuality rocks.

  11. well, I have curly hair and I think that whole “good hair ” thing is bullshit! good hair is hair you know how to manage! Even straight hair is hard to manage. if is was so good, then why do people with straight hair get CURLY PERMS and re-straighten? yes, I said perm. People need to get that “colonial mentality” out of their heads. Modern people don’t think like that. I do straighten my hair sometimes but it’s not cause I’m “imposed” with white standards of beauty but by change. I want change, wearing the same hairstyle gets BORING! It’s not permed either! it’s temporary straightening.

  12. Interesting post. I understand the ambivalence about your response to your new hairstyle, but think you’re right in trying not to focus on it. Just go with a style that you find attractive and easy to maintain. Life is hard enough.

    I personally can’t stand the look of over-processed straight hair, but I also think that braids and dreads are a severe style that look good only on someone with an exceptional face and figure. My hair’s like yours. I have to get it lightly relaxed a couple of times a year because my hair’s too thick and bushy to be controlled just with products.

    I like DevaCurl products and found a book they publish, “Curly Girl,” helpful. I also picked up a few ideas from a book called “Strictly Curls,” which I read about on the web.

    DevaCurl has just come out with a defuser hair dryer designed for curly hair. It’s extremely expensive, so I’m going to watch the web to see what people report.

    I tried to make an appointment with the place you mentioned, but it took over a month to get an appointment, and the salon had some burdensome procedures that I’ve never encountered before, such as requiring that you give them your credit card number so they can charge you a $75 deposit (it is applicable to services, however). It also was very expensive in my view.

    Although DevaCurl products aren’t cheap, I couldn’t get over the $60 price tag for a jar of hair cream from the other place (there were a few different varieties at the store). The jar was large, but $60? I also was afraid that the products might cause my skin to break out. If they ever offer sizes in the $20 range, I might reconsider.

    http://www.devachansalon.com/devachan/devacurl/onlinestore.html

  13. This is a great article, I am a black woman who, just yesterday, gave up the fight with my natural hair and applied a “kiddie” relaxer to straighten the situation out, so to speak. Honestly I almost cried when I just HAD to make the choice! I live in the Bay and the weather is humid. While everyone talks about “training” the hair by washing, conditioning, moisturizing and pressing, I just don’t have the time for what the hair looks like while it is being trained to stay straight. So the weaves come in, the braids… but the weaves look fake and noticeably so… every black woman on television looks like a clown with those things on, I mean here you have someone as dark as say, Tashena Arnold (mother, “Everybody Hates Chris”) with fine, bone-straight Asian hair stuck on her head– who told her this looked believable?… and the braids, even in the most sophisticated style, look like a young person’s choice of style (young like elementary to say 19) and always looks foolish on older women (I mean it can down right look like a costume because of the noticable fakeness… so either an afro that won’t grow down but out, or the latter… I had grown my hair out of the very childhood relaxers you speak of after reading a book about the dangers of relaxers and used braids and (gasp) weaves throughout college (weaves came in to play when I got my first job… although whites and blacks alike made comments on how long it took for them to “put in” the hair– noticeably fake) And now that my hair is pulled and damaged and thinning and still nappy and kinky and splitting, I have conceded that while relaxers are terrible, EVERYTHING black people do to their hair in this country is terrible… accept the say .5% of women (not mixed, 100% negro) that choose to wear their hair natural. You just can’t win and it is frustrating… but at this point, even if society made an announcement that “nappy heads were in, straight out!” The dye has been cast. I hate my natural hair, have fought against it all my life, and nothing can make me think that the natural view of me, staring back in the mirror looks good. That’s the problem. We are damned by our own insecurities. White people exit stage left… its no longer them to blame. Its us.

  14. interesting post. i came across it while searching for info on professional hairstyling for black women. after years of natural hair, i permed then texturized my hair and it stated falling out by the handful. my black dematologist recommended that i return to natural and she sent me to a caribbean herbalist to maintain moisture in my hair. the result is that i have been able to keep my length as the new hair grows in. periodic trims eliminate the processed parts, breakage and splitting. i am now about 75% natural. unlike some of the posters here, my mom did not allow me to get a perm until i was 14 (i think perming was more common later — i was a kid in the early 70s) so i experimented with lots of braids, twists, french braids, etc. growing up. i don’t like straight hair on me since it doesn’t hold a curl well it drys out easily and i have to worry too much about it when i workout, in rain or humid weather. a typical style for me nowadays is 4 – 6 semi-thick braids or french twists around my head, decorated with beautiful barrettes. i love it and i don’t plan to ever put chemicals in my hair again. it seems ridiculous that we are judged by our hairstyles. i get compliments all the time. i fear sometimes that my hair will prejudice a potential employer against me and that does anger me. it’s no different than a woman of a different race choosing to highlight her hair blonde.

  15. As Black woman, we definitely have serious hair issues. With relaxers, many don’t know their own
    natural kinkiness…our uniqueness…

    Check out the Politics of Black Hair at
    KarenHalliburton.com — Nappy: the other “N”
    word.

  16. [...] But to post those kinds of images, then backpedal with I know its not funny! Srsly I have a black friend, two even! Makes my fucking blood boil. Some more fuel for the fire… from theangryblackwoman blog is an article about hair, and specifically the fascination with black women’s hair. [...]

  17. I have curly hair as well that I dont straighten. I feel lucky in that I truly do not want it to be straighter. My kids have hair that ranges from stick straight to loosely curly- none of them have “black” hair despite having 2 parents of african ancestry. And I do feel good that Im fine with my hair. I have friends with hair similar to mine who dont relax it, but they still want to wear it loose and long and flowing. They want it to be straight but dont do so for health reasons or political reasons.
    Me? I LOVE my hair. Dont want it straight, dont think its prettier straighter and am just HAPPY that I have managed to be happy with it, because IT AINT EASY!! I get the ‘wow, it would be so pretty straigtened” stuff all the time.

  18. as a black male i don’t understand what the big deal is about women and their hair. i love the natural and it lets me know that u appreciate what God gave u and u know how to work with it….not saying that those who use chemicals, tracks/weaves/latch-hooks(gross) don’t appreciate what they have. i just don’t see what the big deal is.

    i do, however, thinks its ATROCIOUS when someone trys to express themselves and the end result makes them look like a troll doll or something resembling the game “twister” or “my little pony”. i’ve seen some women who look gorgeous with no hair at all. i know that everything isn’t for everyone and that should be made a law cause “DAMN”……i was about to go there but i won’t.

    meanwhile back at the ranch………
    i think that if you are comfortable and confident in your own skin it’ll show from the soul outward. u shouldn’t have to confide in what society thinks is the norm. society’s pretty the reason why we’re going to hell in a hand basket……”but i ain’t the one to gossip so u ain’t heard that from me.”

  19. As a black male, no, you wouldn’t understand what the big deal about hair is. Most of the poltical issues around hair may be dealt with by black males, but the majority of their time they don’t have to worry about hair at all. Women have to worry about their hair, to some extent, all the time. It’s part of American culture. While men may be praised for having a particularly nice cut, a woman’s hair MUST look good all of the time or she’ll be talked about. And, for most black woman, it takes time to get it looking good. Most guys can roll out of bed, run a pick or a comb through their hair, if they have any at all, and go forth in life.

  20. (SIGH)

    can i just get a t-shirt and be on my way, please?

  21. i agree with what one of the commenters above said with regard to judgment coming from the inside. i feel like white people with whom i come in contact–friends, co-workers, classmates–seem to think that whatever i do to my hair is cool. i tend to function in extremes…i’ve had my hair short, long, in braids, a zillion colors, relaxed, natural, half&half (you know, that “i’m gonna try to go natural” transition step that we end up backing out on sometimes). on friday, i had all my hair buzzed off. i had just taken out my braids, gotten a bad haircut, and decided enough was enough…and now my hair looks awesome and i am excited about seeing the natural curls come back.

    most of the judgment i have witness of hair-related issues is within the black community. my mother is the perfect example. she always says that she wishes she had hair like me. she hates her nappy hair, whereas i wish my hair were nappy just so it would be at one texture! i think nappy hair is beautiful and see nothing wrong with that word, but my mother was conditioned to hate her hair because almost everyone else in her family had “good hair” or manageable hair (manageable for white, dominant culture hairstyling purposes, of course). it makes me sad that we as black women can’t just be ourselves. everything we do becomes a political statement or a point of surveillance. i think we add to that in a lot of ways, because to be quite honest, most white people still haven’t the foggiest idea about black hair, and i don’t think their judgment, at least in the present, matters as much as our own and how we have digested the images of beauty in a white world over time and use them as weaponry against each other :-(

  22. I do agree that black women have internalized a lot of badness about our hair. And a lot of the hair angst that goes on is not specifically due to being black, but due to being female in America. A lot rides on a woman’s hairstyle because she has to look beautiful/fashionable/whatever while men merely need to look neat. That’s true for any race.

    However, the more “radical” a hairstyle is (radical being defined by your environment) the more hair DOES become a political issue. Whether you feel that or not just depends on where you are and what you do. Here in NYC, most people would not need to worry about having braids. That style is no longer radical. You still might not see dreds in a very conservative business setting, and probably not braids on black men, but I bet a black, female stock broker or lawyer could wear braids and not turn heads.

    But in other places int he country, in other businesses or fields or whatnot, braids might still be frowned upon. Dreds haven’t really become widely acceptable yet. And you know there are white people out there who expect a black woman to have her hair coiffed ala Condi Rice, which means relaxing and curl ironing and other such things that aren’t natural.

    If you have no one to answer to, hair doesn’t have to be a statement beyond “look how nice it is”. But most people do have someone to answer to. And as long as that someone has a say in how you look everyday, hair will always be an issue. If you’re a woman.

  23. :) what kind of t-shirt would you like, angry child?

  24. Yeah you’re definitely right about regional and general environmental differences. i grew up in the south (memphis, tn) and there was considerable emphasis on “good” vs. “bad” hair and styles associated with each, but at the same time, i feel like people there have come a long way, especially areas where there happen to be a higher concentration of blacks (like memphis or atlanta). every time i return, i see more people wearing natural styles, which is encouraging because it shows that diversity when it comes to hair is being more readily embraced.

  25. either “Does This Look Like the Face of Someone Who Cares?” or “c/o 96″(i can’t find mine) or something u made or thought up.

  26. LOL I should make a shirt that says “Can we go to Media Play now?”

  27. LOL!!!!!! that’s a good one.
    but we should get shirts made like that FOR REAL!!!!

  28. [...] “Good Hair, Kinky Hair” – The Angry Black Woman After all, talking about black people’s hair isn’t just a matter of finding a good style or a good dresser or a good product. It’s also about how we as black people feel about how our hair looks in its natural state and what we do based on those feelings. It’s also about how American society and culture (read: white folks) feels about what black people do with their hair. If you don’t think that black people’s hair isn’t a battleground for issues of race and culture and assimilation and bigotry, you haven’t been paying attention to the news. [...]

  29. [...] “Good Hair, Kinky Hair” – The Angry Black Woman After all, talking about black people’s hair isn’t just a matter of finding a good style or a good dresser or a good product. It’s also about how we as black people feel about how our hair looks in its natural state and what we do based on those feelings. It’s also about how American society and culture (read: white folks) feels about what black people do with their hair. If you don’t think that black people’s hair isn’t a battleground for issues of race and culture and assimilation and bigotry, you haven’t been paying attention to the news. [...]

  30. [...] make sure she understands the choices before her. They will affect her for life. Related Posts: Good Hair, Kinky Hair | Black Hair Etiquette Guide [...]

  31. when its all said and done.. i tried and i hate braids, cornrolls, weaves, etc.. my hair is nappy and im plagued with alopecia in the top of my hair?? i have spent too much money on wasteful products and the perm is looking better by the day. i hate my hair and i could care less about proving a point on being black. i just want to look nice.

  32. I’m more for individual preference and expression. If you like the way your hair looks when it’s relaxed, even if outside forces are at the heart of that feeling, then wear your hair that way. If you prefer a natural style, from locs to curls like mine, even if it means the loss of employment or respect, then wear it. There are advantages and drawbacks to either choice.

  33. Maybe I’m missing something, but how is the hair you’ve described “white girl hair?”

  34. How you feel about yourself and that includes your hair is your business and no one else’s. High self-esteem is an inside job. I wear my hair tailored to the cultural job environment. I’ve worked in advertising where my clients were midwestern males. I wore my hair relaxed but natural looking. It wasn’t bone straight, just relaxed enough to wear a wash and wear style. I’ve worked in African-American environments and I was able to wear it any way that I chose. If the work environment looks a certain way, I adapt. Everyone does. I think we dwell on white people too much. I’ve lived around white folks most of my adult life by choice and believe me they have their own problems with hair, skin, self-esteem, you name it. So, I think we need to get a life and just adapt to what the situation calls for. All race do it. Stop kvetching and get on with it. That’s life. We’re very self-absorbed. The world does not revolve around us. In the ’60s I remember envious white girls trying to wear afro’s. Jews wore “jewfros”. Lighten up. Fact is, you’re as pretty as you THINK you are….it’s all a mind game. Believe me, when you’re smart, intelligent, well read and speak the language of those around you, meaning you’ve got the jargon just right and you “get it” you’ll find yourself acceptable. Black folks love being different. Hanging on to our “roots.” I’m not having it, what roots? We’re “rooted” in slavery and I’m shaking off that mantle forever. Iike cosmopolitanism. Know a little bit about everything and meet no strangers. Smile, accept yourself and others and the same will be extended to you. It’s the truth as I live it, anyway.

  35. man im 18 and stopped getting perms in the ninth or tenth grade, i found out my hair was curly like my sister’s who is half puertorican, me and her have the same hair, and i’m black, why do you have to be mixed in order to have good hair, people, think im mixed because of my hair, they say what r u mixed with, i say that im mixed with my mother and father who r black. they’re like no your not, how you gone tell me what i am, my thesis, is you dont have to be mixed in order to have good, hair, i’ve seen mixed people who i’ve had better hair than, and it makes me feel good, so love your hair you, guys, i love mine.

  36. Eloise-

    I’m confused by your message. Are you saying we should assimilate into what mainstream wants us to be or are you saying to love yourself for who you are naturally, because it sounded like both.

  37. I received your message and I’d like to say that I highly respect your opinion on hair, but I don’t completely agree with the reason behind your sentiments. I’m not an angry black woman, quite the opposite, I’m a proud woman who sports a natural style and cut purely for personal reasons and nothing to do with not wanting to comform to societies standards. I just happen to not quite understand your message to the extent that you are preaching it, whether you are relating your own experiences or not you are characterizing “all black women” who relax their hair and their reasons for doing so. Last I checked you weren’t God. If you truly feel that to want to relax ones hair into a style that a woman may feel is suitable to their own personal style, no matter the risks, she is in essence “wanting to be white”? Perhaps some women feel that way, but you are no better than a white person saying just because they know one black person who is a criminal they all must have criminal tendencies. I mean, come on now where does that even come from? Self hate. It seems that just because you hated your self or your hair for a time that everyone else does as well? As if white people don’t have nappy hair; news flash, they do. Their hair isn’t all that easily maintained and some white women even get perms to perp a curly/kinky look. There is nothing wrong with nappy, kinky, black, beautiful hair.. Your message does come across as you being one afflicted by “angry black woman” syndrome, one which I’ve thankfully never cared or felt the notion to display at any point in my life unless it is in defense of my brothers or sisters or my family. I keep my hair natural and short because of my self identity as a soft butch lesbian, not because I don’t want to “conform” to society and their standard. Even when I wore braids, cornrolls, and got relaxers in my hair I didn’t feel as if in doing so I was conforming and in fact was not. I never thought of hair in color and whenever I’d hear a woman say she wanted to sleep with this guy or that guy in order for her children to have “good hair” I’d always snicker at the misconceptions it brought on. Mixed girls have the MOST unruly hair and it is definitely not easily managed. Personally, I was taking a vested interest in how I presented myself, hair included, to the world and not giving two hoots what anyone felt about it except for… guess; MYSELF. I guess I just have a hard time understanding why women who may want to “self-mutilitate”, hear you tell it, because of the dangers involved in relaxing, are automatically trying to “assimilate” or “have white girl hair” because that’s the norm? Wake up and smell the coffee. To each their own is my motto. I love my hair and have always been one to wear it with my mood… and right now, it’s a short, natural style that works for me and wears me well. Just because someone wants to straighten their hair doesn’t mean they want to be “white”. Black people will never be white no matter how hard I try, but like the friend who sent me this link I guess I’m just coming off as one who is racked with self hatred. In the words of your average white girl………. As if.

    Keep up the writing. You inspire discourse and that my dear is a wonderful thing. God bless.

  38. Personally, I’m more for individual preference and expression. If you like the way your hair looks when it’s relaxed, even if outside forces are at the heart of that feeling, then wear your hair that way. If you prefer a natural style, from locs to curls like mine, even if it means the loss of employment or respect, then wear it. There are advantages and drawbacks to either choice.

  39. guess what? i went natural & turns out i have black girl hair! what luck! the curls are thick, coarse & tight like nuclei. it’s probably because of all the african blood in me. i’m the envy of white girls and the japanese alike (who actually try to imitate my hair texture). it’s so weird that so many other black women who have this hair texture too would rather put plastic, animal, or strangers’ hair on their heads. but, i guess to each her own…

  40. I wonder what a being from another planet would conclude about our obsession with our hair…
    Most likely:

    “Mmmm… these Earthlings have a major problem with Global Warming, War, Famine, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. They possess incurable diseases and their planet hosts a multitude of other real and present dangers. Still, they spend an inordinate amount of their time reflecting on the merits of each others’ dead cells. Duly noted. We shall summarily transmit to the Mothership that this backward civilization is ripe for colonization.”

  41. ^^ I think people are capable of caring about different things without having one take over the rest of the world’s issues.

  42. Well, Gentri, it would fit well with the rest of this country’s obsession with all things superficial. Don’t act like any focus on hair texture just came out of thin air with no support from our skin deep american culture.

    If there is a problem focusing on this, than it’s coming from a deeper source, not just with this problem specifically. Or we can pretend that having a look that’s outside the box won’t have societal repercussions, much more so than spraying an aerosol can.

  43. here’s what I don’t understand about some people: the fact that they don’t get that I can worry/think about more than one thing at a time. It’s the most insulting and stupid thing to think that, because I am concerned with my personal grooming, I don’t have the ability to care about global warming or politics or whether I should feed my cat. Dude, I can think about all of those things and more. it’s one of the requirements of a function adult that you can think and care about more than one thing over the course of your day/month/year/lifetime. So pardon me if I take a FEW minutes every day to be concerned with my hair.

    goddamn.

  44. As a black male, no, you wouldn’t understand what the big deal about hair is.

    Pleeez.

    Maybe they would if they ever came out of denial about all the sighing and longing they do over “good” and “white girl” hair.

    I don’t have problems with all-white (I’m not all-anything) people trying to touch my hair. (I guess I have my *meanmug* face on more than I think. It’s NYC, it’s a survival skill.)

    It’s “brothas” whose hands I have to keep out of my d*** hair.

  45. im a black male from new york and i have kinky hair and i think it preety cool im mean come on black people we al have kinky hair like the jackson 5 all had alfros us black people have that kind of hair but WHITE PEOLPE have straight hair

  46. “WHITE PEOLPE have straight hair”

    We do?

  47. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap. Obviously, the conception of straight hair as something white people have (and black people therefore need) is a problematic and embedded cultural binary.

    But the phrasing of jamal’s comment is odd to me, not just because a lot of white people — particularly those of us from ethnic groups that were considered nonwhite in the recent past — don’t have straight hair.

  48. this article is racist and should be banned. The person “angry black woman” has never obviously met people of other races hispanic, asian, and white. Many of those other races have kinky hair. This black woman needs to get out of her apt meet some new people and get a real job. Stop wasting your time being angry at other people for who you are. Just be glad that you are what you are.

  49. Thanks for pointing me toward Miss Jessie’s. I’ve hated my hair all of my life. I’m also lazy and cheap. So I don’t get my hair relaxed but every once in a while, because I don’t want to go to the salon. I am no good with hair or makeup or any of that stuff (NOT a girly girl), so I can’t relax my own hair (tried it once, it was funny). I have very thick, very tight curls. I look a mess. My hair doesn’t grow down, it grows out, so I will never have long hair and that’s okay. I just want manageable hair.

    Black hair doesn’t have to be unmanageable. It’s not unmanageable by nature. It’s hard to manage because we’re not taught how and the products/techniques we need aren’t readily available. It’s techniques we need more than anything, and we’re not being taught.

    As a child, I wasn’t taught how to do my hair without the use of heat, which scared me. So I didn’t. I didn’t want to touch a hot comb or a curling iron, and to this day I have great difficulty applying heat to my hear, fearing getting burnt, and smelling my burnt hair. I can’t crimp or curl or straighten with a comb. I’m also clumsy with my hands, and don’t braid very well. My hair doesn’t grow “right” for a ponytail. It’s thick as all get out and difficult to comb through on a good day (and even then, it looks like nothing in particular). So what am I to do? Get it relaxed, that’s what. But oh yeah, when I get it relaxed, it falls out. Have somebody else cornrow it? I don’t like the look, although I did that for years. Get braids or a weave? Not my hair, and I want my hair. I just want to know what to do with my own hair and exactly how to do it so I can love it myself.

    I know I am blessed to have thick hair that grows steadily. I know there are beautiful curls but right now they can only be seen when I get right out the shower. Many times I get out of the shower and I feel like crying because I wish I could keep it looking like that, with all those soft, tight little black curls.

  50. I’m really glad you wrote this post, because it’s something that happens completely out of my view – it’s an aspect of white privilege that I’ve got the luxury of being unaware of. And it’s creepifying to know how much pressure you’ve been under to conform to a white ideal. I’m reminded of the things Asian friends have told me about the pressure to look pale-skinned, though that does, in its original form at least, predate Westernisation.

    It’s like hair/beauty ritual norms are not discussed as discriminatory or problematic because they’re generally carried out in private, and what happens in private has long been held, by individualists, to be simply about personal choice and not worth addressing – like the way feminists used to be told not to talk about housework inequalities.

    One little effect of not sharing hair norms I have encountered is that PoCs occasionally ask me if my hair is natural – I’ve never been asked this by a white person, in spite of living most of my life in white-majority areas – presumably because they’re familiar with the white-girl beauty rituals and can tell by eye that what I’ve got isn’t quite like what comes out of a bottle.

  51. Whatever happened to the natural “afro” style? Is that hard to maintain? I always thought if I was a black woman I would sport a medium to big afro and tie it back off of my face with one of those colorful wraps and wear big earrings, kind of early 70′s black-hippie-chic style, which looks so cool, and that 70s look has again returned and is all the rage right now.

    But what about having just natural short hair? Wouldn’t that be easier to maintain than growing it out and dealing with it? And short hair DOES look good on most women, heck, on ALL women.

    Really, as long as you are neat and clean, who cares what people think about the details of the way you look?

    Most of the time I don’t shave my legs and I couldn’t care less what other men or women think about it. If I like it, that’s all that matters.

  52. [...] Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered critique of European Cultural Thought & Behavior (pages 219-222), on blogs, in song, and even in documentaries like this insightful work by 17-year-old Kira Davis.  When I [...]

  53. hmm…i have a few problems with this article dare I say. First of all, I am black and I have a permanent relaxer in my hair. But I would not go natural if somebody paid me too. I also would not use a skin bleacher if somebody paid me to. Would I like to be white? No. Would I like to have stringy hair that will not keep a curl? Absolutely not. Did black folks begin straightening their hair to fit into mainstream society? Yes, without a doubt. But honestly, I am tired of people accusing those of us who like the look of having straightened hair of abadoning who we are. What is wrong with wanting to have straightened hair? Even some white girls straighten their hair. So what does that mean? That means some people like their hair curly and some like their hair straight. The advantage I have when I straighten my hair is it will be straight but will still be course and keep wonderful curls. I also do not take more than 15 minutes on my hair in the morning either. I have no desire to have a head full of kinky curls ….it would drive me crazy. So what…that doesn’t make me an evil person that is dying to be white. It makes me a person that doesn’t want my hair kinky/curly….because I do not think it looks good on me and I enjoy being able to do different things to my straightened hair that I would never be able to do with my hair in its natural state. So shoot me that I don’t want to rock an afro. It’s not as though when I see another sister rocking her kinky curls I don’t think she is absolutely beautiful (if she’s rocking it right). I find Jill Scott looks wonderful without straightened hair….I find Halle Berry to look amazing with her hair really short instead of flowing down her back. So why can I not have a preference about how to wear my hair as well? I think in 2007 I can honestly say that that is what my decision is about. Black people who are rocking their natural styles and loving it…thats great…but stop bashing those of us who aren’t trying to jump on the bandwagon because we like our wash and wrap hair styles. It’s unfair and judgemental on your parts. On a side note I do think those sisters who get relaxers should learn how to keep their hair healthy looking and styled just as sisters going natural should do as well.
    So anyhow in a nut shell stop the bashing. Angry Black Woman, no disrespect but you may not have went natural yourself had your hair in its natural state been a cluster of knotted peas instead of as you stated, “white girl hair”. So you might want to come off that soapbox.

    Real talk!

  54. Well, I have some issues with your comment, i dare say. Mainly your assertion that I accused you or any woman with straightened hair as wanting to be white. In fact, in the conclusion of my post I said:

    If you like the way your hair looks when it’s relaxed, even if outside forces are at the heart of that feeling, then wear your hair that way. If you prefer a natural style, from locs to curls like mine, even if it means the loss of employment or respect, then wear it. There are advantages and drawbacks to either choice.

    So explain to me how I’m the one on the soapbox? Explain to me how I ever said that your choice was the wrong one. I’ve said, many times in the post and in subsequent comments, that I think people should make choices based on knowledge and preference. My hair looks best natural, yours looks best straight. I don’t see why we have to have a problem.

    I’m not the one bashing here, sister girl.

  55. i know some may want to villify me for saying. But as a Black man, i say it’s just hair. i don’t straighten mine, but it’s nobody’s business but mine if i do. who cares what people think? do what u want. free urself b4 u go out & free the world.

  56. I love my afro! I style my hair the way I feel comfortable with and also what is healthy for my hair. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder let the beholder be you. People have different ideas of what beauty is.

    Every women has something they can work with. Personally I dont see anything wrong with my afro thats me.

  57. I have a strong belief that us blacks and mixed race people should be proud of our hair and prevent damaging it as much as possible like relaxing unless it is a must. i have found a product for mixed race people that everybody has been going crazy about and i think its amazing iv seen it work and really restores the stregnth ancurls back in their hair. i have put it as a link if any one is interested. and remember that relaxing your hair damages it. stay beautiful and natural sisters.

  58. Hello!

    I feel like I should admit to being a white girl. *sheepish* However, ever since I was little I thought that black girls’, and black ladies’ braids were very, very cool. It might have something to do with the fact that I always wanted thick, lovely hair that I could do that with, rather than the thin limp stuff that I got. I’m still jealous. Especially of pretty curls.

    So I’m really glad you’re enjoying your curls. Keep doing it, you lucky lady!

  59. Is jealousy even healthy these days? Can someone also tell me why people stare at me for a long time when I wear my afro? I went natural when I was 17 in high school. I didn’t care about what people thought of me. I even cut my hair off very short, and I sported that style like it was the greatest thing in the world. Now that I am older and my hair has grown a bit longer I get stared at no matter where I go. I love my hair but I hate being stared at like I am a case study.

  60. i am a black man and i have been accused of having good hair by the women in my family , i watched with
    total disgust as they fried there hair with straightening comes and chemical relaxers destroying the natural texture of there hair ,while me being a man i only washed my hair and occasionally used hair grease to keep it from being brittle and dry , years later some of the woman in my family decided to do the same and accepted the hair that they were born with and was amazed when they finally relized that there hair was at its best in its natural form without the abusive treatments
    i think it is a mental condition that causes a person to feel negatively about who they are . i feel that black woman have a beauty that goes beyond hair and i have seen some of the most beautifill black women with barely any hair at all because they have been blessed with some of the most beautiful facial features kinky hair on a woman is so exciting. so to all the black women who stress over hair, know that when you eccept your natural beauty you become beautiful inside and out.

  61. hey, just found you today. it’s so true…as an african woman, all i can say is- we have issues! only recently are dreadlocs being perceived as “clean” in kenya and lo and behold some hairdressers in nairobi are doing locs now in addition to the usual relaxing, flat ironing, etc! it still surprises me that i have to explain why i want to keep my hair natural after years of frying it (+ my scalp!) and the occassional braids. i intend to blog on african/black hair in the near future and will be sure to put a link to your piece.

  62. interesting discussion.. . the topic definitely needs to be discussed. though some progress has been made, black folks still have issues with nappy hair. the fact that people are still talking about “good hair” and that we are spending so much of our $$ in the pursuit of straight hair is evidence of that. generally, i do not buy the “i straighten my hair for convenience” argument, because a lot of women say that having never worn their hair natural. many of them also follow up that argument with the “natural hair only looks right on some black people” argument, to which i respond -”how is your hair gonna look wrong on you?” real talk – many black folks still do not like the way we look and are not willing to directly or indirectly challenge that fact or the society that encourages us to feel that way. i too get the stares, but it’s more disconcerting to get the compliments from black women who say they could never wear their hair the way i do. and make no mistake – my hair is nappy, and it would probably be classified as “bad hair” by some idiots.
    anyhow, i hope black folks continue learning to embrace their hair, especially those working in professional environments. let’s stop limiting ourselves.

  63. well said cloud 9 “real talk”

  64. Well I did it. Thanks to this website, I’ve been debating the merits of going natural for a couple of months. Yesterday I did the big chop and now I have a teeny weeny afro, but I’m very happy with the wonderful texture of my hair. I can see beauty where I only saw ugliness before. I’m also noticing so many black women I see that actually wear their hair naturally, but I just didn’t notice before. There are so many different ways to wear your hair, in fact, I feel like there is more variety than if it is chemically straightened (not to mention how many people get their hair burned straight only to immediately burn some curls into it).

    I’ve already had the opportunity to expand someone else’s perspective: my brother, a young black man who never realized what was really going on with black women’s hair. He’s now become enamored with the natural textures of our hair. And then there’s my mother, who will never really support kinky hair, but she is supportive of my decision. She’s learned that there are different types and textures of black hair. She’s always had thin wavy hair, and wanted my hair relaxed so that it would be like hers. I realize I can’t take advice from my mom because she has no idea how to care for hair like mine.

  65. I had an unfortunate incident this summer that caused a lot of hair to fall out; I rolled with the punches and cut my then below-shoulder length hair to bob length. I developed a palm sized bald patch that was covered thanks to extremely thick hair. Seven months later (and my first wearing of braids/extensions) I have a 3 inch afro where the bald spot was. During this entire ordeal, I have come to realize just how much of my self-image and notion of beauty was tied into my hair. The growing-out process has been hard; I have been wearing a lot of scarves and head wraps.

    I grew up in a household that disallowed the term “good hair” and I have a particular aversion to it. My hair was always healthy and strong and long because I didn’t torture it with chemicals, heat, and damaging products. Hopefully my hair will return healthier, springier, energized. I have a wonderful photo of myself in Tokyo, flanked by two beautiful women in Kimono. The contrast of their restrained hairstyles and my long curly, frizzy, wild hair, different aspects of beautiful women of color.

  66. Well said definitive.dot! Congrats on going natural! It takes a lot of courage because we get so many external messages that say that straight hair is better. I also decided recently to go “au natural”, and after 20 years of “fried, dyed and laid to the side” I am just now beginning to see the natural texture of my hair, and it is beautiful! If I may make a suggestion, check out motowngirl.com. Sistah girl knows a lot about natural hair care, and the things that I have learned from her website have been so helpful! My mom is the same way. In fact, she perms her hair before she gets it braided!!! LOL!!! I think most Black folks think that natural hair automatically means nappy, or ugly. But, the truth is that our hair can have many different textures. But, if you’re constantly frying it, you’ll never get to see how beautiful it can be! I finally accepted the fact that I’m never going to have naturally bone straight hair. And you know what? I like my curly hair better!!! God didn’t mean for everyone to have straight hair or blue eyes. We have to learn to love ourselves the way that God made us!

  67. Girl, thank you for this post…..I was on a blog earlier (monicamingo.com and err those people are delusional….truly…about hair that is…..thanks for keeping me sane

  68. wow, what you’ve said is very true. I’m one of those gurls who wants to go without out relaxers, braids and and dred locs. Because braids pulls my hair out, relaxers make my hair fall out and dred locs aren’t me. my family did talk about me, because i was trying to grow natural hair and they called me a run a way slave from the 1800′s and tha t i was crazy,so i learned to adjust to wigs or press and curls. thanks a lot for the post.

  69. When I was 13 I begged mother for a relaxer I was tired of getting burned from the hot comb or sitting still as my hair was combed after being washed. I loved my hair but I just wanted to be able to do it on my own, two months after getting it I regretted it, I wanted my own long, thick, curly kinky hair back, not this limp, thin, smelly (it always smelled burned to me) crap that was now on my head, but I was young and everyone was telling me how much better I looked and how so much prettier it was so I kept my mouth shut for 7 years.
    Finally in my freshmen year in college and I got sic of people asking me if I had a weave or HAVING COMPLETE STRANGERS WALK UP AND TUG ON MY HAIR!!!! This pissed me of to no end, I don’t like to fight so when my friend had to step between me and some women on the street that just tug my hair, it was time. I went back to natural it was a wonderful, it took forever to learn how to take care of it but now I’m back to my thick curly beautiful hair. I see the beauty of my natural hair and was never really happy with relaxed hair. Since going natural many of my friends see the beauty and the ease of natural black hair and many of them have made the switch to natural. Its not an easy process by this I mean learning how to take care of your natural hair and dealing with people who think your crazy when they see natural hair (this will include people in your family in my case my mother), and your own preconceived notions.

  70. I was reading this entry and wanted to advertise the FREE seminar on the Art of Curly Hair. I saw the ad on craigslist and went the the seminar last month. The seminar was very informational and the product and styling methods were very helpful. I had my free consultation with Tameeka, the natural kinky hair special and she was GREAT! or you can go on the website, http://www.curlisto.com it has an instructional video on how to style curly hair. I hope this knowledge helps someone like it helped me. O, to sign up for free seminar i emailed seminar@curlisto.com and its by grand central station

  71. yeah I agree with you. I dont have caucasion hair but I have a good brand of the “bad stuff”. If I’m patient I can wear it however I want.
    I’m surprised you didnt’ realize, if you have a light skinned near white parent with straight hair, you would inherit some of that. I have friends who want to intermarry with brown skinned straight haired men so thier children will never have to get a perm or get too dark. Its a strange world.

  72. I just wish we, as individuals, could set our own standard of beauty. Most of us are raised to believe certain things are more beautiful, while others are ugly. From skin tone to hair texture to body weight and shape, we decide what is beautiful. In Senegal, West Africa, a woman with extra weight, especially due to bearing children is called “Drianke,” a celebrated term for inside out beauty. The extra weight is beautiful because of how she carries the weight and the sacrifice of her prenatal body to bring life into the world. I wear my hair natural and have ever since I graduated high school in 1994. My scalp appreciates it and so do I. I love afros, locks, 2 strand twists, and just naps everywhere. It shows when I wear it that I love it. That is why natural hair is beautiful on me. I have had other family members wear natural hair, but fuss over fuzzies when the style is not neat, with every nap tucked in its place. Natural hair does not look nearly as beautiful on them. What makes you really feel beautiful will show from the inside out. No need going natural if you’re only going to feel “ugly,” because you’ve been raised t(brainwashed) to believe that natural is ugly. You have to truly believe natural is beautiful in order to pull it off. For those who really embrace their hair in its natural, God-given state, feeling beautiful about hair is easy. Don’t complicate your life. If you one day become awakened and get tired of high maintenance, pain, and high cost to maintain a beautiful head of hair, try going natural for a while and see how you like it. If you are not at peace with being natural, then go back to synthetic, tracks, or perms, whatever makes you feel good. I just know I am thankful to be one who loves myself the way I am. . . black, nappy, and beautiful.

  73. Loved your post.

    Here in Jamaica for some people natural hair is a religion. I’m serious, some denominations are opposed to relaxers, church members are required to wear their hair natural.

    Then there is rastafarianism – you know the ones who invented dread locks.

    Some Jamiacans truly have no issue with their hair.

    Then there are the rest of us who resent being born with coya (named for a coarse material that the ancienst used to make mattresses) or coconut brush (you can figure that one) or picky-picky head, or bumpy head.

    I’m hoping I can come home to myself sooner than later.

  74. I think this is amazing. Even though I know about it, I never really trully thought that black people’s hair was assimilating to the world.
    The only thing that bothers me is when people with ‘good hair’ complain. My father has good hair, I don’t. He talks about relaxers like it’s a sin, they are damaging of course, but he DOES NOT understand what I have to go through when it’s natural.
    I don’t care about the look, but when it’s natural it grows very slowly, and it HURTS.
    But anyway, this article just reinstates my wanting for my natural kinks. Great job!

  75. i think this is something that needs to be discussed however i think women should wear their hair the way they want it, and yea some people don’t think they look good with their hair a certain way, and yes my hair is natural but i don’t think it’s a bad thing if black women or any race who has thick curly or kinky hair want to straighten it, it doesn’t mean they were taught to feel curly or kinky hair is bad as some people would say, they might honestly not like how they’re hair looks in a certain style, and i can’t blame them. i don’t really like when my hair is straight so if i want a more “polished” looked so to speak i put it in a bun and occasionally i wear a fake ponytail, so what it’s what some people like. also it’s similar to if you get a bad haircut and you don’t like the way it looks, then you’ll either deal with it or not, my bestfriend wears a relaxer and while her hair is straight it’s not bone straight or lifeless and her hair is down her back and it looks nice. me i like having my hair nice and curly and i guess it’s long cause it’s to my shoulders when it’s curly, even though i hate when people say i have GOOD HAIR, ugh so darn annoying so for people who DON’T buy the i straighten my hair for convenience argument or don’t like the way it looks argument, you don’t have to because it’s not your place to do so, i say however a women or person decides to do their hair just do what you can to keep it healthy!!! i’m a natural sister and proud, for those who want to choose the chemical route, go on and do what makes you happy.

  76. I have kinky hair that has softened some with age, and I wear locks now, but even that has it’s problems (they break off and everyone I know with locks complains about the same thing). I love my locks, but don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain them (pulls moisture away from scalp over time). I love black hair but it is so difficult to work with and that still frustrates me though I should be old enough to be over it by now. I’m presently in school but I’m also in the south and once I graduate I am wondering how to handle the hair thing. Though, I’ve been covering for religious reasons so it may not be as much of an issue as it seems.

    Great article, and I love reading the responses. It’s good to hear from others in the know.

  77. I have kinky hair that has softened some with age, and I wear locks now, but even that has it’s problems (they break off and everyone I know with locks complains about the same thing)

    I thought I was the only one! <8O

  78. Coming from outside (the US), I’ve always thought kinky black hair looked awesome.

    Since coming here, I’ve read about some of the sociocultural pressures and how they work against hair that (I think) is aesthetically lovely. I don’t understand them, but I do understand that people often glom onto superficial characteristics as an alternative to being aware of their deeper prejudices.

    *sigh*

  79. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, just wanted to comment as I am currently wearing my hair natural and this time trying to see it through, hard to accept what an emotional process this is. Always thought my hair was ‘nappy’ and ‘bad’ then discovered that even though it is very tightly curled not quite kinky, I love the natural curl!! I still sometimes wish I could wear my hair straight though, and sometimes I feel guilty about that, but I’d like to wear it that way occasionally. But I want to avoid the chemicals, and I want to learn to love my natural hair before I go changing it. Still, I figure that women should wear what they like and makes them feel beautiful. That’s what’s so great about it, that we have a choice. I just wish there wasn’t so much of a battle between those who straighten their hair and those who go natural. I wish we didn’t have to choose one or the other. And also just wanted to comment on how it was deep for me when I realized that even white girls with thick curls are encouraged to straighten their hair. I wish folks of all backgrounds could at least be happy with what they’ve got, then even if they change it at least it wouldn’t be because ‘my hair’s bad’ or they need to ‘fix’ it, but just because that’s the fashion they choose.

  80. [...] originally posted @ the angry black woman [...]

  81. I think that we have so much problems with this because softer silky hair is “the norm” and is hyped and publicized! but i think if not only black people, but other races and mixes with curly and kinky hair be proud of their own hair, and wear it acceptably then all of this good hair non-sense wud die down… Hair is such a beautiful part of us. If all of us decide to have long silky hair, who will have kinky hair?
    We can twist it, straighten it, afro it, dread it, braid it and so much more it!
    Because other races can shake their hair and spend minimal time doing it and it comes out well, and because men, MEN, whether black or white, think it atractive is why some of us even bother to brake out necks at the salon every week!

  82. Look, hair for women in general is a big deal.

    Long, lustrous, shiny, long, thick, voluminous, did I mention LONG hair = beauty.

    Europeans have it.

    Middle Easterners have it.

    Indians have it.

    Koreans have it.

    Latinas have it.

    Black women DON’T have it. Our hair grows differently, I don’t care what anyone says, no one has the tightly coiled ringlets like we do.

    When all of the above all have the same hair type and that type is considered the standard of beauty, where does that leave Black/African women? Hmmm?

    The only thing we can do is embrace it and hold a standard for our own selves and let the WORLD watch in awe. We have to look at ourselves like a mythological beauty, an unrelenting, unconforming, dominant, unconventional type of sexuality/beauty. Then we can feel proud.

    I read this article and I am impressed with the majority of it but not all of it. Are you saying that because Blacks in this country have been mixed with white or Indian for centuries that it has helped our hair situation? That African-oriented coils are not as good as the mixed type of hair? I don’t get your agenda, and its quite disturbing that you take pride in being able to get out of the entrapment of natural black hair, unmixed and untainted.

    Man, whatever.

  83. The only people that have a problem with my natural hair are other black women. I am sorry I love my kinks. Deal with it!

  84. [...] On a related note, the Angry Black Woman has a long and informative post about hair here. [...]

  85. This article was written about 2 or 3 years ago, but it’s steal a big debate! I still hear young people talking about “good” an “bad” hair and that’s a sad thing… On the other side, I see more and more people trying to raise their children with the conviction that they are beautiful as they are. For example, Chris Rock produced the movie “Good hair” for his little girl, go check out my article: http://kyaras.blogspot.com/2009/03/kyara-doesnt-care-about-good-hair.html
    K.

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