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In Celebration of Black Hair (Or Lack Thereof)
This is a long overdue appreciation post for Black hair. I was going to write this years ago, when a federal court made it legal to discriminate against a person for having their natural hair. Then I was going to write this when Matthew A. Cherry raised enough funds to finish and publish his book Hair Love . Then I was going to write it a month ago, when Ayanna Pressley publicly announced that she had alopecia. Well that aforementioned book has become an Oscar winning short film, Ayanna Pressley is out and proud of her lack of locs, and the federal government has yet to change its mind about the dog whistle of hair discrimination, so there is no time like the present.
We use our hair to express ourselves. It can be an art, but like museums, NO ONE should touch it, but everyone does. The time of the Hottentot Venus has yet to subside. When we are not intimidating thugs and criminals, we are specimens to be touched. I remember as a child having an afro and people running their hands through my hair. It didn’t stop during my high top fade era. I got so tired of it I shaved my head…it didn’t stop. But if I were to get angry at someone invading my autonomy, suddenly I are the Angry Black Mann™. How dare I not want to be touched by a stranger with dirty hands?
“Hair of wool” has been documented in text since the invention of text, yet modern depictions of those authors and the characters they described have always looked more porcelain and silken. People hate and are threatened by our hair. If we leave it natural and curly, it’s “nappy” and unruly. My hair struggles are nothing compared to what Black women deal with. At first, the norm was to burn it with a comb, then with chemicals, all to straighten it, some products developed by Black inventors to help us “fit in”. Then there was a move to braid it or lock it for a more natural look without the chemicals. Here in America, we have burned, dyed, bleached, and doused our hair in lye. We have contributed to our own hair loss in some cases. We have put our own health at risk in order to make our hair conform to the “norm”. Our hair is not seen as “professional”, but the second we straighten it and lighten its color, we are trying to be “white”. We can’t win. At no time has anyone explained how hair is the determiner of a person’s skill at doing a job. Hair is the new brown paper bag test.
This is a love letter to the afros, the perms, the fades, and the shaven. This is a shout out to the braids, the cornrows, the dreadlocks, and the weaves. This is a dedication to the natural auburns and ebonies, the electric reds, the blue tips, and the bleach blondes. There should be no issue with what any Black person does with their hair. Perm it and highlight it. Loc it up. Braid beads and kauri shells into it. Shave it all off. Whatever stage your head is in, wherever it will go, it is your journey, and it is no one else’s business.
About Chris Thompson
(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com
About 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History
29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History is an annual blog campaign curated by 540WMain that has a mission to promote and share little known facts about Black Americans throughout history every day throughout the month of February. Now in it 3rd year the campaign highlights the life and work of past and present day Black American that are overlooked or underrepresented in our conversations about American history.
540WMain will celebrate its 4 year anniversary with a party and extravaganza on Saturday June 20, 2020. In just four years the organization has become a pillar in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and a convener and curator of important and vital community conversations, classes, and programs. Your financial support helps us scale up this work in 2020 and beyond with a year long fundraising goal of $40,000