“I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am a soul that lives within.” In 2005 India Arie had us all singing I am not my hair while also learning to embrace its unique texture. As black women are cutting out their perms and taking out their weaves, natural hair is slowly becoming more acceptable. Celebrities like Solange, Janelle Monae and India Arie have also embraced the beauty of natural hair. We all know about the debate between natural hair vs. relaxed hair and weaves in the black community.
Currently I am studying African Literature in my World Lit class. As we were discussing self-hatred in the book, my professor asked would I ever wear my hair natural. I wanted to say hell no! but I held back. When I told him no he said “So you realize that not wearing your natural hair is self hatred right? If you believe that God made you perfectly and makes no mistakes, why change something he created?” While I do agree that God made me perfectly that’s not a just cause to wear my hair natural and it is definitely not a sign of self-hatred that I don’t. That would mean that when white girls perm their hair to make it curly, they hate being white right? Wrong! I am not downing natural hair in fact I love it! From the big Afro’s to the braids and twists. I think they are all beautiful, just not for me personally. My hair is very thick and I don’t have the time or patience to go natural. Relaxing my hair is simply for manageability. It is difficult growing up as a little black girl with thick or coarse hair. I used to cry every time my Mom combed my hair, and sometimes she would cry too. We couldn’t wait until I turned 12 and was able to get a perm. Natural hair requires a lot of maintenance. With a relaxer, I just wrap it at night with no worries about what I have to do to it in the morning.
It is the same for black women who wear weaves. It protects their hair from heat damage, and is easier to manage. We’d much rather get an auburn colored weave than damage our hair with dye. And let’s be real most black women’s hair doesn’t grow down their backs, so if they want to sew something in to add length what’s wrong with that? Weaves give you versatility to wear different styles. Hair can also be a way to express creativity. Sometimes when I go to the club I like to wear a long straight ponytail (who I named Kita lol). This allows me to have a different look without having to permanently change my hair. Some black women also suffer from hair growth issues so they wear weave to feel more confident and feminine.
They can’t help the hair they were given, so why should anyone be able to judge what they do with it? In no way, shape or form am I trying to hide my blackness by relaxing my hair. I couldn’t if I tried. If I were trying to change my skin, body parts and facial features while rejecting all things that make me black, that would be different. But we’re talking about hair. When I leave my house I’m still going to be seen as black, whether my hair is relaxed, braided or natural. Race is one thing that you can’t run from. I am a black woman and I embrace it to fullest extent, but my hair does not define me! Like India said, “It’s not what’s on your head it’s what’s underneath” Black hair is beautiful in all forms! You can rock the Janet braids, a 22 inch weave or shave it all off as long as you know who you are, and embrace it proudly. When all is said and done NO ONE can tell you what to do with your hair because it’s YOUR hair!
Check out India Arie’s live performance of “I am not my hair” below and don’t forget to drop a comment!