Our belief is formed gradually by what is presented to us from childhood. The more often we hear about a particular story the truer it becomes to us. For instance, the more we are told that white colour represents purity, then we eventually start to see white as a colour with positive associations, of course this is true if we are born say in South America. However for someone born in Japan or China, the ‘story’ of the colour white would be a different one, one that represents death and mourning.
Both individuals from the different cultures I mentioned will look at the same colour, white, but would see different things. Both individuals will see a woman dressed in white in 2 different ways, their way of seeing will be informed by their belief.
As the renowned motivational speaker Les Brown says, “we are all born into a story”.
I know you know where I am going with this. Yep you are right, what then is the story of the Afro hair that we were born into? To help you answer that, let’s examine the story of what makes a beautiful woman in the Western world, and I choose Western, because the narrative of the West greatly influences African (black) stories.
To do this I have to go to American model Cameron Russell and her Ted Talk titled, “Looks Aren’t Everything, Believe Me I am a Model.”
In her fascinating and honest Talk, Russell says, “I am a model because I am a pretty white girl. Beauty is defined as…. White skin”. And what comes with white skin? Well done if you said straight hair. She said she is able to become a model because she inherited a legacy. Bear with me - another question, and what is that legacy? Another point to you if you said straight hair and white skin.
The story of beauty that we have been born into is pale skin and straight hair.
Is it any wonder that the way of seeing beauty is pale skin and straight hair?
Is it any wonder that those not born with this legacy, try to transform their looks with skin bleaching, hair straightening and straight hair extensions?
Unfortunately we don’t realise these stories because we are born into them. We are told right from the word go that beautiful hair has to be long and straight, so immediately you are able to, you make your hair beautiful by straightening it, and if you can’t your mother does it for you.
We are literally stunned and mesmerized by what we see in the media and that idea of beauty becomes imbedded in our sub-conscious. According to research, 9 out of 10 of our decisions are from our subconscious mind.
This is well demonstrated by a line in the movie Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, that goes, “….we might be through with the past but the past ain’t through with us”
The past stigma (story) of Afro hair is not through with us, and a cursory look at black women the world over shows us this. Why is it that over 90% of black women will prefer or should I say choose to wear Caucasian or Caucasian looking hair? Why would returning natural be an event? Why would we have to ‘return’ natural anyway?
This poem written in 1773 by the first published African-American woman, Phillis Wheatley, on being brought from Africa to America, gives an insight to resulting sentiments of the Western story.
Taught my benighted soul to understand that there's a God,
That there's a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
I think it is time to stop trying to join the ‘angelic’ race and bring out the angels in us, don’t you?
Instead of trying to change who we are, it is best striving to be the best of what we are, being the authentic you.
How do we relate that to hair? Instead of trying to make your hair be what it is not, try to work on helping it be what it is. Instead of trying to change its look and texture, work with your hair’s texture, enhance the texture, the best you can look is your authentic self.
The first step in getting beautiful hair is embracing your hair. Learn to love it, learn to appreciate its characteristics, learn to love its feel – touch your hair and love it... And if you are having challenges with that contact your hair mentor.