Wednesday, September 21, was an interesting day for me. This was a day that I was approached by someone who wanted to share with me their revelation and realizaton of what we, as women of color, have gone through over the years to uphold a standard of beauty in our lives that society has placed upon us. Let me explain.
I had just finished taking one of those corporate-sponsored classes at work (about communication styles, and by the way, I learned a lot) when I was in line to get an autographed copy of the instructor’s book. An ex-boss of mine told me she needed to talk to me when I was done. I was not sure what it could be about as I curiously waited in line. I went to her when I was done, and she began to tell me about this Sister who was going to be her new assistant, who had told her that she was “transitioning?” to natural hair. I’m not sure how their conversation started, but she’s had “no shame in her game” to ask when I worked for her. And I could see her asking that same Sister with the prominence of her new growth with that half-weave she was wearing.
When I was her assitant, in the past, I’d come in with various styles from relaxer to braids to weaves, and there were always questions of curiosiy, and I was glad to answer. I’m happy to say that although my ex-boss is Caucasion, she NEVER gave me any grief for any of the styles I wore. Many times, it was other Black women who gave critique as to the ‘appropriateness’ of some of my hairstyling. And if she had any issue, she would’ve said so as she is a straightforward individual. That is one thing I liked about her.
My ex-boss proceeded to tell me, in an apologetic tone, how she had no idea of the pressure me and other Black women were under to do such “dangerous” things (chemicals, etc.) to our hair to uphold this society’s standards of beauty, and that she, herself was sorry. She then commended me for being brave and bold enough to wear my hair natural, and that she really thinks, “it’s beautiful”. She said she told her soon-to-be assistant that she should go ahead and wear her hair in an afro because she thinks they are beautiful, but she said she shook her head no that she doesn’t think she can go that far with it:) She went on to tell me that she thinks Black women should wear their natural hair and that she doesn’t understand why more do not because of all that many of us go through to get it straight.
I was telling her how for many, many years in addition to how society has contributed to how we as Black people have been conditioned to straight hair as the standard for beautiful hair that it was just plain difficult to manage and that straightening it was also another way to do so. I was telling her how, in recent years, more products were developed to manage natural hair, and that it is now easier to take that direction. She went on to tell me that that just wanted to commend me for taking that step with my own hair and that, “your hair is beautiful” and that she apologized for how society has pressured us to wear our hair straight. It reminded me of the apology we as Black people have wanted past presidents to give for slavery. While I didn’t necessarily “feel pressure” to straighten my hair, I just really wanted it straight so that I could ‘get a comb through it’ without crying… I’ve known her for about 20 years, so I know that she was sincere, and I do appreciate that.
It was a quite surprising, to say the least, but interesting dialogue. It felt good to me to know that we actually can have such a conversation not just about hair but about each other in general. To understand one another as people, we should be able to talk to one another and be willing to learn and understand as my ex-boss is. If we as the races, we in the classes, could be open to such conversations, we really could have a better understanding which can lead to better realations with one another.
I heard someone say, ” it’s just hair”. It may be, but “just hair”, but in this society, it’s “just” too great to ignore. Have a blessed day, all.
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