This is a Contributed Article by Minna Salami from
I like the perspective that India.Arie and Akon have in ‘I am not my hair’.It’s not a new song, most of you have heard it, danced to it, chanted it, maybe even as a spiritual practice of sort!
Jokes aside, a very powerful message often goes missed in that song, one that goes beyond the weave/natural/relaxer black hair debate, whilst simultaneously being precisely about this.
See often times, people don’t get why women of African descent frequently talk about hair. You know? That often unintentional but nevertheless condescending here-they-go-again attitude.
Well, there’s a reason we have the hair conversation.
First of all, its an ice breaker. Its a connector because it’s a cultural experience that we share.
Historically, during the slave era, if a black person could pass the ‘comb test’ then the more likely they were to advance from slavery into freedom. Skin colour was also very determining for black peoples progression but studies show that hair texture is perceived as even more important for societys approval than skin colour, which indicates that a dark skinned person with straight hair might have had an advantage over a light skinned person with tight curls.
This historical remnant still prevails, for example it is still considered ‘unprofessional’ in the corporate world to wear an Afro, and black women with straight hair are more likely to land a high-profile job. If you dont believe that picture this.
That’s Europe and America. In Africa, these perceptions didn’t quite come into fashion until recently, a sad development.
So, hair is a political issue and when black women discuss hair, we are in fact discussing politics.
Like in politics, where you have a spectrum of voters who debate, agree, disagree and share some values, the same applies to our hair. When Solange Knowles decides to wear an Afro wig, some got upset, called her unauthentic, whilst others watched in awe at black women getting upset over another black woman wearing an afro.
What they don’t understand is that by wearing that wig, Solange has in fact pulled the ultimate triumph. She has performed the unthinkable. She has punched the idea, that white hair is a status symbol, in the nose. She has made a political statement, and people are merely reacting to that.
I hope we keep the hair conversations going, it’s a way of healing and expressing to each other that I too have been through the journey where the world keeps trying to tell me that I am my hair, but I am not.
What do you think? Is the hair conversation still necessary or should we stop talking about hair once and for all? Sound off!
This is a Contributed Article by