Let's Talk: Is It Just Hair?

 A cherished reader left this comment on the post The History of Black /African Hair(It's not just Hair).  Now, this is going to be perhaps our longest post so kindly grab a glass of juice, sit down comfortably and read on!

I think people put too much thought into the black hair/natural hair thing. Truly at the end of the day - it really is just hair. But then again, the lives and history we Africans in Africa have and the lives and history of Black Americans are very different. I think Black Americans have a lot of legitimate issues with their hair based on their history. However these are issues which are largely nonexistent to us black africans in Africa, (Rosina from Zambia, Southern Africa)

Thank you, Rosina for stopping by and sharing your view with us. This debate has come up over and over again on various hair care forums. This is what AfroDiva and Emprezz have to say :
From AfroDiva:
Surely, there must be a reason why there is much emphasis on the issue of hair and why day in and day out, people like me, start blogs and other forums to share our knowledge on hair with others.When I was born, I played with barbie dolls; I used to look at it,comb its hair, dress it up and wished all day long that my hair was as silky as hers and my mothers as well. No one ever took the time to teach me how to take care of my own hair.After senior high school, I hinted to my mom, I wanted to have dreadlocks;you don't want to imagine the response I got!
Then about 3 years ago, I hosted an African American who cut her very long relaxed hair when she returned to the United States.I asked her why and that began my search into hair care .I began to take better care of my relaxed hair until I eventually decided to go natural.

Till date, my own mother does approve of my natural hair. So yes!!! There has to be a big fuss about it.I have faced discrimination in some places I have worked because I decided to keep my hair the way it is. On a daily basis, I am constantly told by people I meet that I need a bucket of relaxer in my hair.(Yes,I am told this on a daily basis). At the beginning of my natural hair journey,all the information I got was from the west. I couldn't believe my sisters out there were going natural whilst we in Africa were doing the opposite. I could not find any local information or products about natural hair care in Ghana or Africa.
The haircare industry has become a source of exploitation-making millions of money every year. Guess what? Majority of this money comes from black women. I think you should watch Chris Rock's video on "good hair" and see how much money we are prepared to spend on just our hair.

For me, its not an issue of just hair.Its an issue of self identity and being giving the opportunity to learn for ourselves how to take care of something that is our own.And decide,if we want to keep it that way.There has to be information available to us in Africa to make informed choices about how we wear our hair. I believe the history of Africans in the diaspora and those of ours on the African continent are largely interconnected. After slavery came colonization and this brought about a lot of changes in African society-namely religion, culture, etc.Today, traditional religion has been demonized to the extent that we don't celebrate our traditional festivals anymore.
It's not just black Americans who have issues with hair. We as black African know absolutely nothing about hair care,especially natural hair. I have called the major beauty schools in Ghana inquiring about their courses, there is absolutely nothing about natural hair care in their syllabus.In some organizations in Ghana, you cannot wear you hair in its natural state(yes,its true). Do you know of any local African entrepreneur who produces hair products for natural hair? Apart form Natural Nigerian who lives in Nigeria,I don't know any at all. Unfortunately,I cannot provide you with statistics from Africa to show that it is a big deal.But trust me,these issues are very existent in Africa.

Its not just hair, its the beginning of self awareness and self identity.

Its the beginning of a journey to discover your roots as an African.

Its about Culture.

Its about development.
How we each wear our hair is an independent choice

From Emprezz
I can write a  10 page post on this issue but let me say that honestly, my perceptions about relaxed or natural hair have evolved into I could care less attitude (yes, me!). Both relaxed and natural hair ladies are under societal influences and conform to social standards if they don't focus on their worth as women; be it economically, socially, financially and spiritually independent.  There are straight naturals too and what would you say of them? If society says I've lost my identity because am relaxed, the same society will say that I've lost my identity as a woman if I don't get married. If society says am not pretty if I don't relax my hair, the same society will say I don't deserve to be educated or hold any valuable position in the society because I can't think for myself as a woman. Let me stop here before I write the 10 pages. I don't live for society; I live for me and other women who have gone past what society dictates!


  1. Interesting article guys!First off,please allow me to repost it on my blog as a guest post.Secondly,I agree with Emprezz.I think no matter what,hair will always be just that,hair.However people choose to respond to how you wear your hair is comparable to how they would respond to you if you didn't fit their image of what a 'beautiful' woman looks like.That's my take on this anyway.There are tons of other things society can choose to judge you on,but in the end,the choice to conform or not belongs only to you.Being comfortable with who you are as a woman and accepting that you are so much more than hair is an important part of this.Until you make society aware of this,they will keep fixating on your hair.Some people will do it regardless,but focus on what's important.-

  2. Hmm I don't know if it's just hair. Then again I'm a Black American so I could be stilted in a certain direction. As women there are a few things that society, family, and we ourselves define as being distinctly feminine regardless of how we dress or eat or our interests. Our hair, breasts and skin all seem to be linked to how we see ourselves as women. I hate makeup and I have been questioned about it routinely but my skin looks healthy and my eye lashes are long enough without mascara. However, I remember when the breasts popped up (was very traumatizing as I was in 3rd grade) and how my guy friends went from hanging out and wrestling because we like WWE (WWF at the time) to wanting to wrestle because they wanted to cop a feel. Hair especially long shiny hair was the other thing girls were supposed to have. Be it natural, relaxed, extensions or braids more hair makes people respond to us differently and whether we are conscious of it or not we internalize pieces of that. Now, having said that at some point we do realize we are not JUST what other people try to make us into but when any of those things in our mind that make us women gets damaged or is different that can throw us off. I don't have the same kind of trauma I used to have when my hair would break off because I've proven to myself I can make it grow back. However, if it was ever JUST hair we wouldn't have a billion dollar business (even if most of us have gotten more success with non mainstream products and treatments) surrounding hair and how to get more of it and make it look a certain way.

  3. You know.....I also adopt a "get over it (whatever issues you have)" attitude towards anyone who thinks i'm "fake and artificial" when i keep my hair relaxed. You don't say!! And you are wearing clothes, makeup, shoes, using a phone, internet, eat packaged food, speak english, learn french, ..............i can go on and on and on! Not to talk about all the products naturals use too...and the time spent trying to get the hair to look curly, shiny, soft and frizz free!! THAT IS NOT HOW OUR NATURAL HAIR IS....IF YOU'RE KEEPING IT NATURAL, KEEP IT NATURAL...........just wash and go and leave it hard, dry, kinky and natural!

    My humble opinion but if you wish to bash me.... please do so on my blog..........www.ghlonghair.blogspot.com and like Ghlonghair on facebook.......!


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