Natural Hair: Let Black People Just Be Themselves

Natural Hair: Let Black People Just Be Themselves June 20, 2014

On our most recent “hair day,” after washing, before braiding.

You’ve probably heard what people have said about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter.  Now, the “hair police” are turning against Beyonce and Jay Z.


Followers of this blog know that our family has gone through a great deal as it relates to hair and our daughter Naomi, who was adopted four years ago this month.

To be honest, we’ve been guilty of not “fixing her hair” correctly, causing black women to approach me in public — sometimes kindly, sometimes not-so-kindly.  I’ve had a cashier at Target tell her that “You would be cute if your mom would take better care of you.”  My family appeared on CSPAN one day during a Republican conference, which resulted in tons of comments on our daughter’s hair.

So I learned.

I’ve had training sessions on braiding, cornrowing, and hair-washing.  I’ve learned through websites, especially this one.  I’ve changed.  I’ve learned awesome styles that have caused black moms to stop me and ask, “Who did that for you?”  (I defy you to find a cuter hair style than these bantu knots.)

I’ve decided to keep Naomi’s hair “natural,” which is a controversial stance amongst the African American community.  Many women believe that black people — including children, perhaps especially children should have “neat” and “tamed” hair through the use of harmful chemicals and relaxers.  Of course, that implies that the way God made black women’s hair is somehow wrong or in need of tampering down.  People — especially black people — operate under the assumption that black hair is the only type of hair that isn’t right.

In Elle magazine, the stylist who takes care of Oprah Winfrey’s and Halle Berry’s hair said:

Fifteen years ago, Halle had shoulder-length hair that was hard to control because of its curly texture. I could straighten it and make it look great for her in the salon, but she couldn’t do anything with it at home. She wanted something easy that she could handle, so we came up with the short cut that’s now her signature look. I always recommend embracing your natural texture. Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type that I suggest altering with professional relaxing.

Rory over at Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care disagrees.  She doesn’t believe we should tell black children that their hair is the only type that God didn’t quite make right.  In other words, the “natural hair” team celebrates the cool diversity that exists on people’s heads.  (Check out the amazing things that can be done to “kinky hair.”)

Celebrities aren’t immune to criticism regarding hair.  When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adopted a child from Ethiopia, so many people complained about the way they fixed her hair that it ended up being the subject of a Newsweek article:

In recent pictures it’s clear Angelina Jolie hasn’t taken the time to learn or understand the long and painful history of African-American women and hair. If she had I can’t imagine she would continue to allow Zahara to look like she has in the past few months. Photos of  Zahara show the 4-year-old girl sporting hair that is wild and unstyled, uncombed and dry. Basically: a “hot mess.’’

Recently, the child of Beyonce and Jay Z has gotten scrutinized so much for her natural hair that a woman started a petition to make Beyonce “fix” her kid’s hair. According to Reniqua Allen over at The Atlantic:

A woman was so frustrated with the hairstyling of Blue Ivy Carter, the child of superstars Sean Carter (Jay Z) and Beyoncé Knowles, that she created a petition on to urge her parents to “properly care” for their child’s hair—or more explicitly—comb her hair.

Even worse, five thousand people signed the petition!  I love how Allen finishes her article, summing up the “controversy” in probably the best way possible:

All too often, America has denied blacks the simple practice of just being. We’ve been told our language is slang; our skin is too dark, our booties too high, and our lips too thick. To become true Americans, we must conform and adapt. Any attempt, particularly by such high-profile figures, to change that narrative, is a step in the right direction.

Real progress and freedom is the ability to choose. Too few black children have it. Blue Ivy looks healthy, well cared for, and happy. Let baby Blue’s hair just be. That’s nothing to protest. That’s real black power there.


Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel and follow Nancy on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Browse Our Archives