For decades, black Americans have struggled with getting approval for their natural hair. In the workplace, it is seen as unprofessional, and for schools it is seen as unpleasant and inappropriate. From creative head wraps to the use of chemicals, black women never got approval to embrace their natural beauty.
Becoming too busy pleasing the white people, they have allowed them to hold the power of other cultures. Nothing is good enough if it doesn’t fit well with the white people. “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy,” social critic Paul Mooney said.
This has been going on for decades. My grandmother once told me that she had beautiful long hair, but when she was younger she started to put all these chemicals in her hair to be more “presentable.” A lot of her hair has fallen out and she tells me all the time to not bleach my hair.
However, because of my grandmother’s upbringing and the way black Americans were treated back then because of their natural hair, she hates the natural hair styles. My younger sister has worn her hair natural since the day she was born — never using a chemical — and she always wears it in a beautiful afro. My grandma begs my mother to relax my sister’s hair because she feels as though it isn’t pleasant looking. This same woman snuck and relaxed my hair when I was younger because my natural hair was not acceptable in her eyes.
I do not blame my grandmother because just like it is hard finding acceptance for natural beauty in the 21st century, I’m positive that it was 10 times harder back in her day.
I’m here to say that if I cannot feel comfortable in my natural beauty because of lack of acceptance, then I do not want to be accepted. Since middle school, I’ve worn my hair bone straight. However, since I’ve gotten to college, I have embraced my natural curls and it has made me feel more free and confident. I’m sure women and men who rock their natural hair feel the same.
It saddens me that strong and powerful black women, men and children are being tossed to the side and taken away from great opportunities because they choose to live in their essence. Jobs are refusing to hire men with dreads and women with afros or braids. Some schools won’t allow students to attend if they have braids or dreads. Those are children and society has forsaken them because they are staying true to their innocence.
In New Jersey, a high school wrestler was forced to cut off his dreads of he would have to forfeit. A 6-year-old boy was turned away from a Christian academy because his hair came below his ears. And a New Orleans girl was sent home at the start of school for wearing braids. All of these children were black, and these are not the only children who have fallen victim to hair discrimination.
This is where it starts. It starts with the children being turned away from society, then they become a version of my grandmother, who shuns natural hair. We have to uplift children because they learn right from wrong by what they see. If they see that something isn’t right or accepted, they will grow to hate it. We don’t want our children hating their truth.
Nothing is wrong with relaxing, perming or straightening your hair. However, when you lose yourself behind the chemicals, heat and head wraps, it becomes a problem because you have lost yourself and have become defeated by the white power.
It is 2019, and it’s time for a change. It’s black people’s year to take over. No more worrying if we will be accepted — that doesn’t matter anymore. We will make everyone else accept us or we will just beat them at their own game. Our children shouldn’t feel as though they cannot be themselves. “Baby take care, there is power in your hair,” Janice Robinson, publisher of "Successful Black Parenting", wrote.
We should be thankful to New York, whose Commission on Human Rights banned hair discrimination. “[The] human rights law protects New Yorkers’ right to ‘maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities.’” Every state in America should follow in New York’s steps. There is no reason why hair is the No. 1 reason that someone is turned away from a job or an education. Hair doesn’t define a person — the person defines the hair.
“Hair is a part of you. Race discrimination based on hair is illegal in NYC,” Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Carmelyn P. Malalis tweeted.
This is just the beginning. We are in control of taking the next steps in not being accepted by others but accepting your trueness. “In the past, the regulations existed, but African-Americans often conformed through haircuts, wigs and relaxers. Now, more of us are choosing not to conform, and so the conflicts are coming to light,” lawyer and diversity trainer Ama Karikari-Yawson stated.
No more changing who you are to get the job — let the job change for you.
Te’Kayla Pittman is a 19-year-old mass communication freshman from Atlanta, Georgia.