By: Dominique Peden
I did the big chop in 2013 and have been very proud of the results. Last year I, as I would be out and about, I began to notice the glances of approval from others naturals proud to wear their tresses long, short, kinky and some even colorful. The glances are slim to none as I have suffered from hair loss this year, but the natural hair community is still strong and encouraging. It’s not hard to depend on other natural sisters for advice and encouragement in reality and on social media.
Although I have never had a perm, my hair has been a struggle since I was diagnosed with alopecia (a disease that leads to hair loss), at ten years old. Despite that my hair has been growing and maturing on this roller coaster nonetheless. My decision to big chop was not one of cultural awakening or identifying with black kinks more so than ever before, but more so an angry duel with thin unmanageable hair. However I noticed while wearing two strand twists or my personal fave (thee puff) most women who have natural hair assumed I was conscious or woke for a more modern term.
Woke is a term meaning awareness. I am a very conscious person but changing my hair did not solidify my consciousness regarding black society and issues, reading and partnerships with many nonprofit organizations did. The correlation to being natural and woke is not absurd, but they are not directly correlated which is why I am troubled by natural women who berate women who wear weave.
When did we decide because we are natural we are somehow good and women who wear weave are evil, that we are somehow smart and women who wear weave are ignorant, that somehow those with flat twists we are more connected with being black than a women who wears a 16 inch deep wave. I have seen many statements and even memes via social media bashing women who still wear weave. These women are categorized as trying to appear more Europeanized, thus somehow denouncing their blackness.
The myth that women who want to wear weave identify with white Europeans more so than black people is not true. Some African American women have difficulty managing their hair and understand the sacrifice and patience it takes to style natural hair. They’re not white washing their hairstyles, but they are looking for long lasting and convenient ways to style their hair.
Some are even choosing to use weaves as protective styles while in transition. Any natural knows about the time and effort put into the maintenance of their hair especially if you have 4b 4c textures. Furthermore many prominent and proud African American women wear weaves such as Michelle Obama and Oprah. In addition weave biases among African American women may cause us to stifle an economic boost for the black community overall.
The sale of weaves has benefited many people who are not even black, particularly Asians. Most of us purchase weave and natural hair products at local hair stores, supporting Asian American owned hair stores who make a living off black dollars. The natural hair care business is actually a billion dollar business and as supporting black owned businesses has been suggested to combat many of the social problems faced today it seems fitting to only support other African Americans. However natural products are sold by many corporations that are not black owned.
I can often catch a buy one get one 50% sale on Shea Moisture at the local Walgreens or the “Ethnic Hair” section in Rite Aid. Although many of the workers and customers in these stores are African American, Walgreens nor Rite Aid is black owned. Finally there are many black hairstylists attempting to tap into the sale and distribution of weave via social media as well. However the weave market is one we have not tapped entirely into yet and could it be because of our hair biases towards one another?
If we could stop looking down on weave we can see there is money to be earned in the black hair care industry which can lead us to finally dominate a portion of consumerism in our own communities. Consequently African American women could be able to lead the hair care industry economically. As black women we have to stop putting each other in boxes and creating trivial reasons to separate ourselves from one another. Black pride is not just embedded in the curliness of our coils, love of our locks, in the power of our puffs or in the audacity of our afros but also so in the diversity of our blackness.
Black women should take pride in the fact that we can undergo transformation with our hairstyles and look good with any style. We should also support the hair choices of other black women. Women who wear weave should not be ostracized from the natural hair community and vice versa. This is right up there with the separation and categorization of black women based on skin complexion. These nuances are all physical; we should be complimenting each other for our internal characteristics anyway.
Lets learn to embrace our differences and respect each other’s choices, regardless of our hair dos we all are black women and we all have the same challenges. Still we continue to tear each other down for something as trivial as a hairstyle. We have to learn to lift one another up and find a new way to inspire awakening among us. Our hair is not a determinant of our consciousness, our knowledge, beliefs and lifestyles are. There are other ways to wake each other up and inspire each other. Be more so concerned about what’s in your sisters’ head then what’s on it and that’s how we can come together to truly make a difference for the black community.