Culture | February 8th, 2020
The Black Struggle: Natural Hair
By: Mia Uzzell | Akilah Winters
Every publication, digital or print, is bound to include an aesthetically riveting photograph that captures natural hair, accompanied with an article on the beauty of it.
Lockscrew curls and looped waves find themselves juxtaposed against muted sceneries across magazine spreads to highlight the beauty therein. The natural hair appreciation campaigns, done time and time again, mirror the presence of the natural hair movement within society. It is a movement angled to recognize the beauty of natural hair— without uncovering the layers beneath it.
In actuality, this portrayal of black hair as if it has reached full acceptance in American society detracts from the movement’s power.
Lisa Sykes knows this struggle like no other. The lifestyle blogger of “Wife Mom Her” and mother of two wears many hats flawlessly, but naturalista’ is one she’s grown into.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Sykes
Her 113 homegrown locs were grown from a wholesome journey of self-love revelations. Like many other pre-permed naturalistas, committing to nurturing and loving your natural strands is a steadfast dedication bred through primary school teasing and opposing societal standards.
“As early as I can remember, I’ve desired for my hair to be relaxed-straight because that’s what I felt would make me beautiful,” Sykes said.
After a failed attempt of flat ironing her hair in the sweltering Florida heat, she encountered the first taste of the hateful breeding ground called school.
What starts off as comedy from class clowns that labels black hair as “nappy” transforms into perspectives that view hair through a negative lens.
Speaking of how these views traveled with her, the lifestyle enthusiast said, “At one point I considered going natural in undergrad only to receive feedback that it wasn’t for me and that I’d look like Ceily from The Color Purple.”
These impressions that others have however are the ones that one has to endure in order to reveal their God-given beauty.
Spoken like a true naturalista’, Sykes said, “My natural hair journey has allowed me to connect with the idea that God makes no mistakes and I fell in love just the way God made me-every strand, every curl.”
“The Black natural hair movement is a very positive thing, encouraging Black women to embrace the hair they were born with is nothing more than a benefit to Black culture, it is definitely helping them to be proud of being Black,” Cecil Washington, a Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate said.
Some Black men look down on Black women who embrace their natural hair. Washington believes that this situation is a product of the systematic oppression that still has a presence in our society.
“For the men who look down upon Black women, it’s a very unfortunate situation, I feel that its a symptom of the systematic society that we have in place where being Black is not considered appropriate to the majority of society and why,” Washington said.
Black males are also subject to hair discrimination in society as well. Some Black men feel as if society tries to influence them to keep their hair kempt for a job or simply when they walk out the door.
“There was a time while I was on a job that I wore my natural curls and I was told that it [wearing natural hair] was offensive, unruly, and all over the place, and that I needed to be sent home without pay,” Tajai Facey, a fourth year Interdisciplinary Studies student said.
“Growing up, I was taught that as a Black man that I must keep my hair shaved low and growing my hair out was a taboo because I would not be able to be successful in society and that with my hair, I would never find a job,” Facey said.
Black people have been seen as an unacceptable race throughout history. Everything they do, from the culture to their style and their hair, has received such backlash and has been deemed “dirty”, “ghetto”, or “unprofessional”. Ray Robertson, a FAMU Sociology Professor, has shared his input on this issue as well.
“White America has had problems with Black men and women since our first contact with them in America and those problems continue to exist…systems of oppression do not die quickly,” Robertson said.
To fix this issue of the misunderstanding of Black people, their culture, and their natural hair, Robertson believes that there should be training in place for school teachers and administrators. He also believes that penalties should be put in place in order to truly enforce policies on how to effectively deal with these discrimination issues.
“School teachers and administrators should be required to attend training and workshops on the relevance and value of natural hair,” Robertson said. “And, which is most important, face stiff penalties for trying to circumvent it…If there are no stiff penalties, then the policy will be useless.”
There are so many intricate aspects of Black natural hair like the way it curls, shrinks, or grows upwards to the sky. From the pattern of a curl to the afro that stands tall, Black natural hair is seen as the growing emblem of Black culture and the Black community.
“Natural hair is seen as the epitome of beauty,” Facey said.
Many Black people wear their hair as a symbol in their movement and wear their hair proudly. Although some Black people still struggle with acceptance of their natural hair, others pull them into help them accept their Black beauty and to help them understand that their hair is beautiful.
Check out the hair journey on Youtube.