PSA: Do you know, every 17 seconds a black woman declares, “I am going natural!” Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration and there really isn’t an actual statistic on the rate of women transitioning to natural but the point is clear-going Au Naturale has been a major movement for black women in recent months. And as more and more black women jump on the “natural bandwagon,” a part of a movement or trend, the more “well-informed” they become.
First, it is vital to explain what going natural means. It simply refers to anyone transitioning from chemically straightened hair to their natural texture. The process is done by permanently stopping the application of relaxers/perms. By doing so, this allows the hair to grow out the perm and be completely free of its chemicals.
Black women who have finally become completely natural are suddenly overcome with feelings of liberation, newness, and wisdom. All of a sudden, they are more “black” and more “informed” because they no longer put chemicals on their hair to alter their curl pattern and are more “enlightened” than women whose hair are relaxed.
A few weeks ago at a program hosted by a local African organization, the theme was about African stereotypes, although you can imagine that things tend to digress. Somehow the focus became about Black hair after a personal comment was made by one young lady. She started first with a disclaimer; stating that the main reason she gets a relaxer is not to favor the looks of a European as many blacks conclude, but because her hair texture in its natural state is unmanageable. Poor word choice? An au naturale woman from the audience who wore her hair in a short fro did not like that the young lady used the word “unmanageable” to describe the natural texture of her hair. The truth is, nappy would have been a better word but if she dared say that, she would have been verbally assaulted. Since when did unmanageable become the new word for nappy? Perhaps her political correctness was strategic not to agitate the “Sistah Soulja’s” in the room. Another natural haired female took offense and accused the girl of lacking “self-love” because she chose to perm her hair. The audacity of her to make such a statement because of someone else’s harmless choice. And to that I say, “shut up!” Are you more black then the relaxed sister because you grew your perm out. Do all black woman need to be natural, dread locked with a fist up to prove that they are any more black than the next female? No! Keep in mind, before “seeing the light,” this newly natural student was relaxed, though now she feels enlightened and wise above all. Unfortunately, the accuser continued to speak and explained that the reason why black women have to continue to reapply relaxers to their perm-addicted roots is to maintain a texture that naturally, they do not have. She pointed out that black hair is not meant to be straight like a white persons and that is why, even when you straighten it chemically, it still grows back to its natural state. Who knew that one lacks self-love if they consider their hair texture to be unmanageable and decides that relaxing it would make it more easy to work with and style.
Obviously, not all black women’s hair is the same. While one person may have a looser curl pattern another may have a tighter one. The problem is, too often people compare their hair to the next black woman though she may struggle with very tightly coiled hair. Instead of making comparisons which make it difficult to understand that hair textures vary, people need to know that because there are various hair textures, people’s experiences are different.
Three weeks ago, an anonymous natural “recruiter” pitched some non- persuasive lines to try to get me to transition. She said, “Oh my! Your hair would look so beautiful natural, you should consider it.” Uninterested, yet respectable, I tried to change topics as it normally tends to escalate into heated debate. She then listed reasons why I should join the natural movement. Her first reason was, I should embrace my natural hair texture. 2, It’s the best thing for my hair and 3, I will love the way it looks. However, I am perfectly content in my decision to be relaxed.
Natural women need to quit thinking that the reason why black women are relaxed is because they are influenced by western ideas of beauty as portrayed on TV and magazines. While for some that may be the case-they want straighter hair to look less ethnic, but it does not apply to all. The choice to be natural or relaxed should be a personal decision respected by all.
By: Ashley I. Okonkwo