By: Cemberli Grant
When I said these words, I could not yet fathom the reality that drove me to say them.
“God must not like black girls”, I said as I stood with two friends, one black and one Mexican.I said these words and felt utterly defeated, I felt like nothing. We were talking about things that 11 year olds find important and when my Mexican friend, who had long, thick wavy hair down to her waist, began speaking about hair, I felt nothing but envy. Envy and hate. I hated myself because I couldn’t grow my hair like that and I hated God because he made me that way.
Looking back on that moment, I pity the 11 year old me. Not because of my ignorance that caused me to say that but because of the societal standards that I had no idea had been placed. Seeing images of beautiful white women with long, straight hair was the norm.
Subconsciously, I began to associate my hair as something negative, something to hate.While I looked at other races and envied what they had. Popular culture told me that if I didn’t look a certain way, I was not good enough. I was a little black girl in a sea of white at my school, I couldn’t find other little black girls to relate to.
I looked different and I felt isolated because of it. Because I didn’t look like everyone else, I assumed I was lesser, that they had something that was more valuable than I did.
My puffy plaits, my barrettes, my braids all were things that you rarely saw at my school. I began to become self-conscious when people would ask about my hair. This led to me disliking it and myself before I was even in 5th grade. Society pushed me into feeling like I was nothing and I was still a child.
Once middle school began, my mom started letting me straighten my hair, when before I could only do so on special occasions. With my bone-straight hair, I finally felt like I could relate to the other kids at my school. I once went swimming with a friend and when she got her hair wet, her hair fell into beautiful loose curls.
I had no idea why a black girl had curly hair, at the age of 13 I didn’t know what ‘natural hair’ was since mine had been permed for as long as I could remember. Again, I felt envious. I didn’t understand why I didn’t look that. I didn’t understand why my hair stopped growing at my shoulders while my mother’s flourished down her back. I was jealous of any other girl who had better hair than me. My self-esteem plummeted and I was only in middle school.
Eventually, I learned. I grew, I became more knowledgeable and more independent. I chopped all of my hair off during my junior year of high school so I could start over. I have to admit, at times I didn’t feel feminine, I missed my hair and regretted cutting it off, but with everyday my hair grew healthier, longer, thicker and curlier. I began to love my natural hair so much that my confidence soared.
As college approaches, I am becoming more aware of the rest of the world. I see other little girls and women who struggle with accepting themselves and I want to help them find themselves just like I did. I realize that while my confidence has increased drastically, it should not have been so low in the first place. The world should have accepted me and told me I was beautiful. However, I know I can’t wait for the world. I have to do that for myself. We all have to.
When I see a woman or girl with their natural hair, braids, locs, or what have you, I always compliment them. I know it takes courage to come out and show the world our hair and still feel confident and beautiful while doing so, so I feel as if it is my duty to let them know how amazing they are.
I want every little black girl to have confidence in herself, to love herself. I never want another girl to feel like God doesn’t like her because of her hair. This hair is a gift, a non-refundable gift and I’m grateful. I want every girl to be grateful for her hair.
We live in a world that tells us we are not equal, that we aren’t worthy of praise. I laugh at the world because the love I have for myself outweighs the negative it wants to throw on me. I want every black woman and girl to laugh at the world, to bask in their beauty and to love themselves.