Queens own your crown: Hair is for glory, not global acceptance

For some reason whenever the topic of a black females personal hair preferences or the controversy behind the “how to’s” of surviving (with natural hair) in the work place is revisited, the lyrics to India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” rings triumphantly in my mind.

We have come upon a time in society where rise in the modern black empowerment movement has paved the way for a trend that spotlights black women: #BlackGirlMagic. To little surprise, the message behind Arie’s inspiring 2006 hit single still resonates with black females around the world over a decade later.

When looking at the topic of a black female’s hair broadly, hair may seem to be just that: hair. Why make a fuss over the strands that naturally grow out of your scalp right? Well, the truth of the matter is (for a black female) that is an extremely complicated, multifaceted question.

The short answer: Hair is an extremely important component in black culture, and the rich history behind different unique styles are ancestrally rooted.

Sadly, the black hair debate is long-lived. For many years black women were faced with the idea of having to decide between wearing their natural hair and exposing their kinks and coils, flat-ironing it in pursuit of a silky-straight look, having unique protective styles or simply wearing extensions.

In my eyes, there is no problem with women choosing any of those hair care methods or even switching it up occasionally at their will because it is their hair, and their choice.

However, the problem arises when something as personal as a hairstyle suddenly affects a woman’s livelihood. It’s easy to deny that black women don’t face immense pressure when it comes to how they wear their hair. But, instances like a three-year-old girl being sent home from school with a note from her teacher requesting for her mother to stop using coconut oil in her child’s hair, the Alabama court ruling that an employer can prohibit the wearing of dreadlocks (a historically black and very PERMANENT hairstyle), or when students at Pretoria High School for Girls in Pretoria, South Africa, had to resort to protesting their right to freely wear their natural hair despite the school administrations request for it to be straightened, the problem becomes very clear.

When taking a stroll on the University of Florida’s large campus, it is not unusual for you to see African American females sporting several different types of unique hairstyles. Controversial or not, here is what their (black hair) means to them:

 

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Nafeesah Attah, 19, international studies major, said that she does not feel that she is defined by her hair. “I’ve always been known to switch my hair up at a blink of an eye,” Attah said. “Recently I chopped all my hair off and I feel more empowered than ever. It just adds so much confidence and power to know you can walk around with little to no hair.” Photo by Shakayla Lee.

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Eliza Isichei, 20, Telecommunications major, said that growing up in Germany she did not feel any pressure to wear her hair a certain way. “It is a very open minded country,” Isichei said. “But since moving to the U.S. I have noticed that the standard of what is considered professional is enforced more often than not. I think a woman should be judged on her skill not her hairstyle in the workplace, and in any other scenario a hairstyle is simply a form of self-expression.” Photo by Shakayla Lee.

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