Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie articulated in a BBC interview that hair, particularly a black woman’s hair, is political. (PLEASE WATCH THIS BRILLIANT INTERVIEW).
“Is it?” the interviewer responded incredulously, waiting for her to explain her statement further. She pointed out that the way she chooses to style her hair inevitably gives off unintended statements. For example, she may wear her hair out in an afro because she’s tired of styling it and wants to wear it out freely. In turn, others will see her ‘fro and may coin her as a “sistah” or a “vegetarian” or “soulful” when it reality, she just wants to give her follicles a break. (As you can imagine, snap-assumptions of this sort can be detrimental for black women when seeking employment. But that is another post for the future). I want to go as far as saying that because black hair is so political in nature, the common response for outsiders is to demand for explanations!
I say this from experience. I walked into my friend’s birthday party a week ago with my new hairdo and upon sitting down, I was immediately DRILLED on questions about how my hair was done, if it was all my hair, and how long it took. In that atmosphere of loud music, dim lights, and alcoholic beverages, I didn’t fully comprehend the impudence of the situation. I didn’t realize how bad it was until a few hours later when a friend of mine came up to me and told me that she loved my new hair, but she wanted to tell me this privately because she understood how the unwelcome attention could lead to me publicly defending the authenticity of my hair right on the spot. Another friend overheard her comment and added that “I was so patient” with the girls that greeted me with prying queries within the minute of my arrival to the gathering.
Which by the way, for those of you that don’t know, if the first thing out ya mouth is “Is it yours???” to a black woman, STOP. Well-intentioned or not, that’s a micro-aggression and it is extremely degrading. Please, a simple compliment will surely suffice.
Since then, I’ve been hit with a few more unwanted (and a few wanted) opinions on my hair and it has bothered me simply because of the fact that there are so many! This is not to talk of the content of their opinions. Pero, Who. Asked. You?
Do wavy-haired brunettes get the same unbridled speculation on their hairstyles as well? That was the question that darted through my mind when I went through the previous week–somewhat reluctant to go into social situations for fear of being bombarded with another person’s “assessments.” When I first viewed Adichie’s interview a month ago, I ruminated on the assumptions that she spoke of–not really knowing that her declaration would bring me into a higher level of consciousness, making me more aware of the social dynamics took place that night and many other instances before that. What a curious world to be in as a black woman.
Solange’s song Don’t Touch My Hair has also resonated with me for this very reason. Her statement, “Don’t touch my hair” establishes boundaries in terms of physical touch, but I want to add to that conversation by also establishing a boundary around how one speaks about and responds to black women’s hair choices/styles. It is my and many other black women’s “crowns.” It is our personal space and no one has the right to challenge our authenticity, or forcibly digest dispensable judgements. We got to respect that boundary for black women, period.
Comment or message me below if any part of this post resonated with you, if you had an experience similar to mine, or if you learned something vital. Love to hear some thoughts!
Top: Gifted by Modupe Alabi
Shoes: Adidas Originals Superstars