Good Hair v Nappy Hair

nappy

clockwise: my mom Glenda, daughter Deva, step-daughter Nea, Deva with dreads, me, and aunt Rose styling my daughter’s natural hair

The N Word We Rarely Discuss: NAPPY

Like most blacks in America, I was raised in an environment where hair like mine, kinky hair, was frequently referred to as “bad hair.”  Conversely, straight hair or kink-less hair was characterized as “good hair“.  I grew up receiving a steady stream of messages that directly or indirectly informed me that kinky hair, broad facial features, and dark skin were marks of inferiority.

During my childhood, in the 60′s, the term “Black” was a label that was avoided when characterizing a Black person. Back then, the word “Black” was often used as a prejorative by Black people  as well as white in the U.S.

It was common to hear disparaging words spoken of people who were “black with nappy hair” as if those were insults. The truth is, back then they were. Before James Brown gave us license to “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, those were fighting words.

In the 60′s infrequent black images shown on television, usually in the news, were invariably negative. Even today, subtle and not so subtle messages sent through the airwaves, in advertising, in movies, and in pop culture in general tell us whiteness is the preferred mode of being in America and globally.

The LA Progressive published an article by K. Danielle Edwards (“Get the Colonization Off Your Crown, Michelle“), chiding the much admired First Lady for the message her straightened hair sends to young black girls. Not surprisingly, the article rankled some of our readers, reminding me how much pain and ignorance there is around black women and their hair.

Our hair — nappy hair — and the way we treat it could be indicative of how accepted we feel as a people by the larger society. It could, perhaps, be viewed as an indicator for the acceptance of blackness globally. These ideas bring to mind a story my mother told me.

“I’m Black and I’m Proud”
Back in the sixties, when my mother was a young woman, afros were popular and James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” was the mantra of urban America — we lived in the Bronx.  But my mother preferred Diana Ross and the Supremes; she  emulated their look by wearing socially accepted coifs that almost looked like helmuts but most often they were wigs.

In our home, wearing your hair in its natural state was frowned upon — it wasn’t even allowed. When I asked why, I was told, “It’s just not done”. Weekly, my mother would straighten my hair with a straightening comb that was heated directly on the stove. The hotter the comb, the straighter the hair. Occasionally the comb was left on the fire too long, resulting in burnt hair and sometimes a burnt scalp. This was an unpleasant and frequently painful experience but it was drilled into me that it was necessary. And my experience was typical among black girls and women at that time. Back then, I didn’t know a single black girl with nappy hair who wore it in its natural condition. All of the black women I had ever encountered in my life, with the exception of the minority who were born with straight-to-wavy hair, got their hair straightened regularly.

When I was finally old enough to care for my own hair, I decided against straightening it. This was not an easy decision. I was bucking against hundreds of years of conditioning – pun intended.  But I wanted to rid myself of the burden that comes with straightening.  Whether using a thermal method or a chemical one, the cost was more than I was willing to bear.  I was just tired of the weekly ordeal and more specifically — tired of feeling like my head was on fire for two days out of every week. So I challenged the conventional wisdom and started wearing a “Fro”.

Initially, my mother was unhappy with my decision.  She tried to get me to change my mind but I wouldn’t. At one point, she had her mother — my Granny — fly coast to coast from Long Beach, California to our home in New York to discuss my hair and how wearing it nappy was a bad reflection on the family. But even Granny couldn’t get me to straighten it. In time, my mom accepted my decision. Back then we rarely saw eye to eye on issues of racial and gender identity. Now  its something we hardly discuss.

African Nappy Hair
Not too long ago, my mother visited Africa. It was her first trip to our Mother Land. Even though almost 50 years have passed since Black Pride was birthed in the sixties, my mother’s standard for beauty have not shifted with the times. She continues to define “good hair” as straight hair.  And she still straightens her hair almost every day. When she went to Kenya, she took along her trusted friend, the straightening comb though now she has an electric one.  Unfortunately for Mom, the transformer she brought along for the trip didn’t fit into the sockets in Kenya. So she couldn’t use the comb. More importantly, she couldn’t straighten her hair!!!

I cannot emphasize enough how big a deal this was to my mother. And to make matters worse, it was extremely hot and humid — weather conditions that are the bane of a nappy headed woman’s existence — especially when she’s ashamed of her naps. My mother told me that she even considered staying in her room for the entire 10-day excursion because she didn’t want anyone to see her. Then she thought, “hey, I’m in Africa. My natural hair will probably be accepted here. I should be able to just fit in.” So, she ventured out wearing her hair in its natural state.  Later that afternoon after she had taken a brief tour of the city and visited an open market, she telephoned me. “Sharon”, she said, “you’re not going to believe this. I have the nappiest hair in Africa!!”

Turns out, every woman she saw,– and she saw hundreds — wore synthetic hair (wigs, extensions, weaves or fake braids). She talked about one young girl, who she’d met at the market.  The girl was very poor but had won a scholarship to attend a college in the United States. In addition to the scholarship, all of the other expenses were paid for the girl including air fare.  The only thing not covered was the cost of ground transportation, the bus from her home to the airport. The girl didn’t have the fare and was trying to sell a few things so that she’d be able to scrap up enough money to get to the airport. My mom was touched but couldn’t help but notice that even though the young girl didn’t have enough money to get to the airport, she seemed to have enough to get her hair done. She was wearing bright red synthetic hair extensions!

I had a good laugh when my mom told me she had the nappiest hair in Africa but I also felt some sadness. American women, especially those of us who are black, brown, or Asian, are in a position to redefine and broaden the boundaries of beauty to be more inclusive of the many variations of humanity. Black Americans often set trends that go global. Just look at how hip-hop culture has been embraced around the world.  We could celebrate nappy hair instead of disparage it.  Some women are doing that and it’s a good thing because the impact can be global.

Distinguished Black WomanA couple of years ago, when I heard that Don Imus had called the Rutgers’ basketball team a bunch of “nappy headed ho’s”, I told my husband there would be trouble not so much because he called them “ho’s” (although that was a serious insult that shouldn’t be minimized) but because he used the  N word — nappy. Even today, the word “nappy” can evoke painful emotions and bad memories for many blacks, something that most non-blacks are oblivious to.  Sure enough, Imus was fired.  He has since been rehired and is, no doubt, more careful with his language.

Black Hair at Work, in School
When my daughter graduated from Georgetown Law School and began her legal career in Washington D.C., she called to ask me for career advice about, of all things, her hair. Black women who are reading this article will undoubtedly understand.

My daughter went to a prestigious college and a prestigious law school.  She graduated with honors from both.  She was the publisher and founder of her college magazine. She went on to become editor and then editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Journal on Gender and the Law.  Her list of accomplishments at the tender age of 25 were long enough to fill a couple of pages yet she knew that, with many in the power structure, her hair made more of a statement about her than her educational pedigree or hefty resume. Knowing she was in a position that could take her places, she didn’t want to risk the damage that could be caused by a hair misstep.  We weighed her options.

She could either spend $400-$800 and dozens of hours per month to keep her hair straightened similar to Michelle Obama’s or she could spend considerably less money and a fraction of the time wearing her hair in a more natural state like dread locks.  As a young attorney, time was something she was always short of so the dread locks option was the most attractive but we had to consider how that decision might affect her career.

While it can be argued that all people must make decisions about what is an “appropriate” look for the office, no group is as challenged as black women when it comes to finding a way to care for and present their hair that is both accepted by the dominant group yet isn’t overly burdensome on their time or pockets. This challenge is rarely understood by non-blacks. Black women have been fired or not hired because they’ve chosen not to straighten their hair and wear it in it’s natural state. The Atlanta Black Star posted an article entitled “11 Examples Highlighting the War Against Natural Black Hair” in their Dec 2013 issue. The piece discusses this issue and provides pictures of women and girls who have experienced negative consequences at the work place or at school for refusing to straighten their hair.

When my step-daughter, Nea, was in middle school, she quickly was tagged with the name “Afro-dite”.  She attended a school where she was a racial minority.  The kids went crazy when they saw her hair, free from her everyday ponytail, for the first time.  My husband, who is white, didn’t understand why that experience led Nea to hide her afro for several years.  The need to “fit in” and look appropriate extends to every area of life, not just in the office. Nea was barraged with people trying to touch her hair. She couldn’t handle that at age 12. (Though once she got to high school, poof!, back came the ‘Fro — perhaps because she got more self-confidence or cared a bit less what people thought, or perhaps because her now more mature classmates began to accept her as she is.)

Googling Black Hair
To prepare for this writing, I did a Google search using the key words:  “black women and their hair”. This resulted in over 42 million returns.  I did the same search but replaced the word “black” with the word “white” this resulted in 5 million fewer returns.  When I did this same search two more times but used the words “Latina” and then “Asian” I got 41 million fewer returns than I had gotten using the word “black” where many of the articles addressed the hair issues black women face.

Today, nappy is an N word that continues to conjure up negative images but we can change that.  I stopped straightening my hair years ago but every once in a while I’ll change my look.  When I do, I get immediate feedback especially at my place of employment.  White male senior managers, in particular, who are from a different generation feel the need to tell me how attractive my hair looks — but only when it’s straightened does this happen.

Michelle Obama has been criticized by some for always straightening her hair.  She has, however, allowed the Obama girls to wear their natural hair most of the time — except on special occasions which also sends a powerful message and not necessarily a good one.  But I think Mrs. Obama knows exactly what she is doing and I trust that we will, in time, see her set trends that will make life easier for a lot of black women.

I know too many black women who dedicate an entire day of the week to the care of their hair.  I’m not quite sure how to close this article but I have a feeling it won’t end here.  Let’s see how many comments this one gets.  I’m sure there will be many because as the Google search demonstrated, black women’s hair is a hot topic. Take a look at this video and then please drop me a comment.  And, by the way, this issue doesn’t only impact women.  Check out this shot with the President and a little boy who when meeting the President only wanted to know if the president’s hair felt like his (the little boy).  I think this image is better than a thousand words.  A reader of this article sent it to me so it was not in the original posting.  Too bad.

Lets keep this discussion going and check out the video below. . .

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LAProgressive

Comments

  1. Sally says

    I am a white woman with straight, thin hair. I used to perm it to get curls and more body but, like the author, finally decided to stop with the chemicals and go natural, but would prefer the full bodied look of “nappy” hair any day. I doubt Sharon would be as beautiful if she straightened her hair. Nappy hair is good hair. :)

  2. Native American and Proud says

    Wow! Did not know all that. What a lesson! Look, its still just a style, There is nothing that sets you apart from all the women of the world. We still like style, as a Native American I am suppose to have Long Black straight hair. Humm…. and no I am not trying to be white because I like it short and curly.

  3. nativeNYer says

    I know it’s 3 years old, but I just found your article, and it’s great.
    Some people say these issues have been “put to bed,” or that instead of discussing black hair we need to “get a life.” As a black woman with tons of experience and who is fluent in Japanese, I searched for a job for almost a year in NYC. After countless interviews, I finally listened to my mother and straightened my Afro — landed a corporate job in less than 2 months. It’s definitely an issue when employers decide — consciously or unconsciously — your natural hair is “not presentable” or “not serious.”

  4. beautiful mind says

    I think the time and money spent on straightening, on wigs, extensions, etc. are just wasteful. The only women who need to wear wigs and weird hair colors, and crazy extensions is entertainers. A natural-looking hairstyle is always appropriate, as long as it doesn’t go to extremes. A lawyer with crazy-looking dreads or long afro just doesn’t look serious about her job. Black women put too much emphasis on competing against each other in looks. Neat and conservative doesn’t have to mean boring. Save the over-the-top styles for parties and nights out.

  5. says

    Ha ha! I just realized this piece was written three years ago! How did I come across it? I don’t know. Guess I still need help navigating. . .

  6. says

    Oh, Sharon, this piece is priceless! I have to say, I can’t relate but I can enjoy. But I wanted to tell you about my own experience with what you’re calling “nappy” hair.
    When I entered the sixth grade at Longfellow School in Highland Park, MI (1948) it was the first time I had ever gone to school with black children. I was seated next to a couple of girls in the auditorium and we were watching an old movie when I happened to look at one of the girl’s hair. I was fascinated. I had never seen anything like it. I HAD to touch it. And I did. And all hell broke loose.
    She went nuts (and until now I’ve never understood why) and told me she was going to get me after school, and sure enough, she was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. I started down what I remember as a long flight of steps but it was probably no more than 6 or 8. When I got to the bottom she came at me with fists clenched, but before she could do anything another black girl appeared from out of nowhere (I’ve always remembered her as Wilma Rudolph–tall and wonderful) and shooed them away. The other girls disappeared and I don’t remember them again, but my friend “Wilma” watched over me for the rest of the school year. (She probably realized I was a babe in the woods who had no business being in the big city–I don’t know.)
    So now you’ve cleared up a real mystery and I thank you for it.
    Ramona

  7. David Locke says

    The sixties. I read somewhere that Jimi Hendrix wanted Noel Redding in the Experience because he had a “Natural” not because of his musical talent. As a white male weighing in on your article I better get a couple of things out of the way first. Male or female an afro hair-do was where it was at for me, and I tried. Not with a Don Sutton perm but just letting my hair go as natural and curly as possible. It looked pretty good in front and around the sides but at the crown, where it is bald now, my hair laid flat like a splat of mouse brown paint. I looked like a guy who wasn’t going to get a date for a long time and dropped the Wafro after a couple of exploratory nights on the town.

    Written by Carol King or performed by Aretha Franklin, a “Natural Woman” was an ideal for some time. The Wow women of power and beauty I remember as Jean Pace, Nina Simone and anyone in the Family Stone or Funkadelic.

    I think the ‘fro was definitely a part of culture but is now viewed as part of an era. One symbol of Black Power and black pride and once arrived has as good a chance as any of becoming Madison Avenue inspired, Vargas wired, “good hair” aspired and easier to vote for if you’re not used to it…. and while you are at it put that flag pin on your lapel, go ahead put your wife in heels and we’ll be OK.

    I agree with you and guess or hope Michelle Obama knows exactly what she is doing; her straightened hair might be her flag pin to wear for awhile.

    Btw, how is it that following your article is an ad for straight smooth hair without chemicals? Is it just the way blogs work? Please feel free to delete this question if you wish…..I love LA progressive. Thanks to all of you for putting it together.

    • says

      @David Locke,

      Thanks for the great comment. In answer to your question about the ad for straight smooth hair — the LA Progressive participates in an affiliate advertisement relationship with Google. The way it works is that Google’s Adsense group scans our articles and places ads that are relevant to the content on our site. They determine what is relevant based on key words that are in the content of the articles. They don’t actually read the article (that’s pretty obvious). I’ve often thought of getting rid of these ads because we really don’t make much money and sometimes the ads are offensive.

  8. Louis Armmand says

    Hello Sharon:

    Enjoyed your article on Black women and their hair! In the 1960s when I started dating, my first love was a beautiful California African American woman with a “natural”. At 18 years old her father made her move out because she became “black and proud”.
    After all of these years, we remain the best of friends. After several years, her father even grew to appreciate the significance of her decision to wear her hair naturally. And Rosalind continues to do so.
    At one time I only dated women who wore their hair naturally. I even make it a point to compliment Black women I see in public wearing their hair naturally. Vive la difference!

  9. says

    Therese,

    Thank you for commenting. I am a second generation American with roots primarily in the Carribbean. I also have Chinese ancestry. Some of my relatives of an older generation would “brag” about being part Chinese. This sent a subtle but no less damaging message that the Chinese part of our DNA was somehow superior. I love your ending — “I’m not a holstein”!! I’m in agreement. I wish more felt the same.

  10. Therese Hernandez-Cano says

    This was the saddest article I have read in a long time. I am Chicana, & there has been some talk my father’s father was Puerto Rican. My father had curly to kinky hair, and mine is decidedly wavy to curly. My mother’s perspective of being lighter and looking white was so important to her. In her words, “to better the race” and I remember shooting back at her, “Why should I marry a white man for that reason? I’m not a holstein!”

  11. Mary Ann says

    I really am interested in reading the other comments on this article. There are 19 comments, but I can’t seem to access them. Can you please help? Thank you.

  12. YVONNE COLLINS says

    I am so happy to have the type of hair that can be braided, straightened, curly, waved or whatever style I choose to wear.
    That is one of the many options open to women today. This is 2009,
    we are all progressing in every way that gives us a better under- standing about life, the future, and technology. we can experiment and find hair styles, clothes, foods and other things to enliven our daily pleasures. Michelle Obama is in a position
    where she will be ridculed for everything she does or does not.
    She is not obligated to represent all nappy haired people. She has to be responsible for her family. What’s wrong with her continuing to

    keep the same methods for her children as before? Accept the gift of nappy hair if you recieved it, and forget about “good hair” versus “bad hair”. We are all different sizes, shapes and
    colors. Aren’t we all blessed with life? LOVE YOU.

  13. Mary Ann says

    Sharon: Thank you. This was an eye opener! I’ve been aware that “the hair thing” was a huge issue for my Afro-American female friends. The guys never talk about this stuff (I think that’s because they are guys and not because of race). I’ve done some pretty crazy stuff in the name of fashion and now I really wish the fashion-necessity for chemical treatments would just evaporate (I am astounded by the expense of it all!).

    On January 20, I did say that there be a new freedom in this country when Michelle and those two beautiful girls come out on the front lawn of the White House with their hair au naturale.

    When? If? Why not? Come on Michelle. ALL women need the freedom to feel beautiful in their own skins and their own hair.

    thanks again, Sharon.

  14. paula solomon says

    Great (N) hair article!
    I not sure how far back in history the “beauty” industry goes, but I do know that at least as far back as my great grandma women, especially, have been taught to hate who we are in our natural state. Coupled with RACISM it is a KILLER combination.

    I am of east European Jewish heritage. My hair is straight and probably would have been considered “good hair” if I hadn’t been born at a time when all the movie stars were getting perms. My Mom’s hair was kinky, only slighty more relaxed than yours.
    I think she probably used a hot comb when she was a kid,
    but I have a picture of her at 26 (when she first met my father)
    with shoulder length kinks in a “close as possible” 40′s style a la Joan Crawford.

    Soon after I was born she just kept it ear length close-to-the- scalp short (a style I hated). I use to beg her to grow her hair out, but in the contriditionary way that keeps the “beauty industry” wealthy she just continued to give me perms that never really took.

    Yesterday I was in Garden Grove to support a walk-a-thon to support the end to Israeli attacks against Palestinians. We passed through a neighborhood populated predominantly by first and second generation Vietnamese-Americans. The frequency and competition
    of “make-over” advertisements was apparent everywhere. Most common and, to me terrifying were the one for eye re-shaping and breast enhancement.

    Women have to support each other in rejecting the manipulation by the “beauty industry” and we all MUST recognize and reject racism especially if it has taken root inside ourselves.

    Thank you so much for everything you do. Paula

  15. says

    Virginia,

    I was born and raised in New York. I made the same observation you made when I came to live in Southern California. I, too, have wondered if there is a connection and think there may well be.

    Thank you for the kudos. It’s great when we get comments.
    .-= Sharon Kyle´s last blog ..Rioting “Fans” Taint Lakers Win =-.

  16. Virginia says

    Fantastic article, good work, Sharon!

    When I lived in Brooklyn for 18 years, there were many more women in New York with natural hair. Here in Pasadena, however, almost every African American woman I see, has straightened hair.

    Simultaneously, I have found much greater open racism here in Pasadena, and far, far less tolerance.

    Is there a connection??
    .-= Virginia´s last blog ..Marcus Aurelius quote =-.

  17. says

    As a white woman, I never have understood why black women suffer the agony and/or expense of straightening their hair. Personally, I think black women’s hair looks better au naturel, whether it’s cropped short or worn in an afro.

  18. Suasoria says

    Perhaps this comment is better suited to the original article, but I’m uncomfortable focusing so much attention on MObama’s appearance – whether it’s the right tsk-tsking her biceps or the left tsk-tsking her hairstyle. All I hear is the tsk-tsk-tsk. Who is going to appoint themselves the arbiter of which camp has the right to criticize and which one doesn’t?

    And @Brown Bear: of COURSE Hillary Clinton was also demonized for her fashion choices (or lack thereof – remember the headbands?), nor did it stop when she left the White House and ran for president herself.

  19. Karen Tomine says

    Cannot locate the video but would like to respond to your article. For the record, I am of half-Japanese ancestry, my adult children are three-fourths JA, and one granddaughter is half African-American.

    I have metastatic breast cancer and have been undergoing treatment for five years. Right now I am thrilled to have any hair – even the extra short, unruly, sparse, salt-and-pepper kind. On the days I don’t feel like dealing with what’s staring at me in the mirror, I pop on a wig or a hat. I double-dare anyone to judge me by what’s on top of my head.

    I just read an article that efforts to recruit nurses in the Czech Republic include offering free liposuction, face lifts and silicone implants. And the Miss California pageant, I believe, was offering free breast implants to contestants in need. WTF.

    Regarding Michelle Obama, I say live and let live. Females are already under too much pressure in the looks department without us getting on our sisters’ cases.

    Let’s get a life. Sharon, you are beautiful for what’s UNDER your scalp. That’s what matters.

  20. says

    Great Comment LeftMind — We are in agreement on the DOMA issue. But we have to keep in mind that the President needs us to continue to hold his feet to the fire.

    The following was written by someone who calls himself digby:

    I was reading through the comment section of a few posts this morning (something I rarely can bring myself to do anymore) and I realized that I need to remind people of something that’s very important for successful governance:

    FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

    He understood that a President does not rule by fiat and unilateral commands to a nation. He must build the political support that makes his decisions acceptable to our countrymen. He read the public opinion polls not to define who he was but to determine where the country was – and then to strategize how he could move the country to the objectives he thought had to be carried out.

    If Obama wants to govern as liberally as the political circumstances allow, then we need to work to make sure that the political circumstances include a strong liberal base. Mindlessly cheerleading out of a misplaced sense of loyalty will not help him. As Roosevelt understood, politics are interlocking interests and constituencies that have to be brought to bear to achieve certain goals.

    The rest of his article can be read here:

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/making-him-do-it-by-digby-i-was-reading.html

  21. MyLeftMind says

    Nice doo Sharon. I always enjoy your pics on this site, especially those of you as a child.

    I think women do all sorts of things to make themselves look like what they or others perceive a beautiful. Unfortunately, in the process they hurt other women because they’re validating the misperception that whatever they originally looked like wasn’t good enough. Straightening nappy hair is a classic example. Makeup and high heels go a step further in that they can actually hurt the woman using them. The extreme of this desperate need to look a certain way is eating disorders, plastic surgery, and breast implants.

    Michele Obama likely has thought about these issues, but now that she’s a public figure perhaps she should rethink the effects her actions have on other people.

    From my perspective, I’m less concerned about what Michele looks like and much more concerned about her ability to affect policies her husband’s administration creates. The Dept of Justice brief the Obama Administration just submitted in support of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) justifies an unconstitutional law that is so similar in theme and motive to what has been done to African Americans it’s startling. Barack Obama has broken a campaign promise to repeal that law, and now he has submitted a brief that says it’s reasonable to restrict LGBT citizens from marriage in the same way that states refuse to marry adults in incestuous relationships and child rapists. This brief goes far beyond just supporting DOMA – it validates right wing talking points that equate healthy, loving, legal adult relationships with perverts. No matter what one thinks about homosexuality, the government’s continued oppression of gay and lesbian citizens creates hardship for LGBT families all across the nation.

    My hope is that Michele Obama realizes that gays and lesbians have children too, and those children don’t have the same rights as her own kids. Like generations of families before her, she should understand that oppression in any form is unjust, regardless of whether religious institutions support it. Churches used the Bible to justify our country’s treatment of blacks. They now use the very same book to justify denying gay and lesbian families equality. If Michele can acknowledge the effect on children of a law like DOMA, perhaps she can persuade her husband the Prez to do something about it.

    Hair? Not too important. The impact on other women when Michele straightens her hair? Much more relevant. The ability of someone like Michele to make a statement in support of children of lesbians and gays? Now that would be Straight Up Great, especially coming from our very popular First Lady.

  22. marie vogel says

    And how many white women go to get a perm instead of accepting the straight hair of their race?
    I am Caucasian and not that pleased with my pinkish “marbled” skin tone and limp straight hair.
    All people, especially women try to change and “improve their appearance; be it blacks or whites with nappy or limpy hair.
    Those who criticize Michele Obama for straightening her hair better look inward why it is bothering them personally so much. Do they themselves have a problem to overcome?
    Our attractiveness is not that much in our physical features, but in the way we carry ourselves.
    Years ago an emigration officer interviewing me… His skin-tone was as smooth black as charcoal. It fascinated me so, that beyond my control I slightly touched him. He smiled and looked like a prince, so beautiful.

  23. says

    Brown Bear — your comments are right on the mark!

    After I wrote and posted the article, I noticed the types of ads that Google placed in the ad space. I was tempted to go back into the text of the article to explain what you so astutely noted in your comment.

    Most of the ads that are placed on this website are done so automatically through a software application called “Google Adsense”. The text of the articles is scanned by Google — then ads are placed based on the meta data in the text.

    As the owner of the website, I can place a hold on certain kinds of ads but its time consuming and not always affective.

    I decided to wait and see if someone would notice and comment on the ads. You did -

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain.
    .-= Sharon Kyle´s last blog ..LA Progressive: June 7 to 13, 2009 =-.

  24. dc matthews says

    I’m not sure this is correct anymore.

    A black professional woman can go dreds to straight, near bald to long.
    A european, middle eastern, asian or latina woman could almost never get hired with dreds or an afro and too short hair with out a ton of makeup to counter, as assumptions about sexuality are made, on the job and off.

    We all have differences. I sure wish I could wear some of the colors women with year round good color can. I look like dawn of the dead in red. Women of color have an advantage of generally looking healthier, au natural, than most white women, even in winter.

    Most white and latina women also want the hair they don’t have. Many asian women have “as is” male approved sexy hair as the real defining issue. Still color weaves, perms, straightening, bleaching, and other hair coloring and manipulations all are big business for all women.

    ALL of us women give the media idols of the day and the beauty industry and men too much power to tell us how we should look and feel.

    When some Brit friends of mine were in Saudi, Margie, with her naturally near white hair and bright blue eyes, had to completely hide her hair or risk it being pulled again in some small villages where she’d be allowed to shop only if accompanied by a man. She was a minority and so the different one.

    When i was for a time in a high school that was 90% black, my hair was the topic of conversation a bit too often. I was the minority and so the different one.

    I don’t think any of us have to look back or follow the rules that were in place for our parents anymore. We don’t all have to do proper little old lady perms after age 40 anymore either. We do often choose between what i’ll call professional, movie star, church lady, and artistic hair styles to express who we are.

    Our youth have, thankfully, helped to put most of the old rules to bed.

    Because some of the rules of psychology and built in human survival instincts tell us to do the “insta- judgement” based on hair, teeth, skin, dress, style and other body language cues, choosing a style and stance that looks healthy and that reflects who you are on the inside is what, in the end, can give us as women of all colors unspoken power.

    While this is just my theory, i think it’s a good one.

  25. says

    Of course the google ad that appeared below your article is for “straight, smooth hair without chemicals – click here”.

    Your article couldn’t be any clearer of an example of how the personal is political – and how oppression seeps into the corners of consciousness. The connection to Michelle Obama is pertinent since she has been embraced as a “style icon”. The issues you raise keep opening more issues – the way that Michelle Obama is so popular precisely because she is a “style icon” and does not venture into political territory like Hillary Clinton – who was demonized for tackling health care instead of fashion choices and tea parties in the rose garden.

    America loves Michelle – yet she has remained in a traditional, female, mothering role, quit her job to support her husband, etc.. But would America love her if she wasn’t a “good wife”, or her hair was less white, or her role as First Lady extended into the political? How black is “too black” for America to remain comfortable with the Obamas?

  26. Linda Banks says

    Wonderful article, I am very happy you wrote it and feel that it is very supportive for those of us who have decided to go natural. I am a 61-year old African American Woman (Black, Colored, Negro, these were some of the names assigned to women like me when I grew up in New Orleans, La. in the 50′s, 60′s and early 70′s). I experienced some of the same issues that your mother experienced during those times in our history. However, I am very proud today that I am now free of hot combs, lye and the likes. I have been wearing dreads for 3 years; and the only regret I have is that I did not do it sooner.
    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

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