Are We Teaching Children to Hate Their Natural Hair?

By: Kéy Smith

At an early age many young black women are exposed to adverse perspectives of black hair. Often, this type of dialogue (be it verbal or nonverbal) can run deep into a young woman’s outlook of what she defines as beautiful. In their youth, many black girls are given several options on what they can do to their hair to make it look better; such threatening options that as an adult I would equate them to a particular sort of a death sentences.

As a youngster I was well aware that I was a pretty girl with very nice hair. My mother styled my hair in braids and barrettes and I would swing my ponytails every chance I could. In grade school I remember my classmates admiring how my hair was styled. My classmates consisted of mostly White and Afro-Latino children who would often tug and pull at my hair. One girl went as far as to undo one of my braids. Others weren’t as bold but there was never a day where somebody wasn’t tugging on my ponytails. Seriously? Did they believe it was going to come out?

As I was taught, I took pride in my natural hair. It wasn’t until my mother administered my first relaxer at around age nine, that I felt like there was something wrong with my hair. In retrospect, I never needed a relaxer and I fault my parents for not educating themselves on the do’s and don’ts of black hair, especially the sensitivity in dealing with a young girl’s outlook on beauty and style.

Negative views are embedded into the hearts and minds of our youth, most of which are aimed at their hair as well ask their skin complexion. From the time they are in grade school they feel a noticeably awkward air of unacceptance. From there it will take years of undoing for little black girls and boys to realize their own beauty.

Black girls need to love their natural hair, and black parents need to teach their offspring how to do this readily on a daily basis. Regardless of how diverse a culture can be, nothing beats the natural shine that comes from black and brown people. With that being said, if you are a parent of an African American child, girl or boy, I feel as though you are obligated to educate your child on specific topics that will do nothing but uplift them in a world that does nothing but downgrade them day in and day out.

Nowadays I notice a lot of relatively young mothers (ages ranging in-between 25-35 y/o) styling their daughters’ hair in weaves! I can’t believe it. And Girls as young as two years old sporting box braids? Is this a new trend? Have I missed the memo?

With social media being such a huge platform these days, parents have become personal paparazzi for their children. There is never a dull moment in the home of a parent and an overly photogenic child. Nonetheless, I noticed that this trend of weaving children’s hair has moved on to sew-ins weaves.

Imagine the disturbance I felt when I scrolled down my timeline and saw a young girl, no older than eight years old sporting a full sew-in weave with minimal leave out, draped down her back, possibly 14-16 inches! Who does this and more importantly, why?

So I asked myself, what does a young girl possibly know about wearing a weave? How does she know how it works, or, that it is OK to be worn in place of her own hair? Who has imposed this mind numbing idea into the hearts and minds of young black girls? In the words of the late great Malcolm X, “who taught you to hate yourself?”

Introducing weaves and relaxers to young girls in the black community is detrimental. What it does is non-verbally communicates a number of complex issues, which include, insecurities and, a false sense of beauty. If you consistently wear a weave you only know how to maintain a weave and nothing else and with that being the case your own hair will fall out leading you to be solely reliant on weaving your hair. Lastly, the lack of appreciation for your own hair will later result in resentment.

YouTube and Instagram are readily accessible to every grade school student worldwide. Which means the children are learning without the influence of their parents. They’re learning a lot of good thing, but as we all know, the good comes with the bad.

If you are a parent I feel as though you have a responsibility to teach your child every day. It should be an honorable achievement to enlighten your child on the wonders and diversity of their hair, their skin, their culture and heritage. There should never be a time where young women of color should feel the need to disguise their own natural growing hair. The thickest issue a black woman has with her hair is that she believes her thick hair is an issue. Let’s teach little black girls and boys to love their hair before they begin to loathe it and ultimately themselves.

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