Updated: Jan 27, 2021
By Savannah Kayongo
Image retrieved from Totalbeauty.com
As an African American female who attends a predominantly white populated school, I know what it feels like to be constantly criticized for your natural hair. I am familiar with the feeling of being tempted to perm, relax, or straighten your hair just to fit in with society’s standards. However, the world must be open about the prejudices black people experience for our hair. It is beyond just hair follicles, but rather the fabric of African American history, and dismissing our hair dehumanizes us entirely.
Picture this: It’s Monday morning and you’re going to class. Your mom helped you take out your box braids on Sunday, and put your hair in an afro. As soon as you step into class, all eyes are instantly locked on you. The girls who you thought were your friends are whispering, giggling, and pointing at you. Everyone’s jaw dropped as if you were an alien who just hopped out of a spaceship. All you want to do right now is be in any place but this classroom, yet you still muster enough courage to walk to your seat.
“I love your new hair!” says your teacher in the most sarcastic tone possible. You grudgingly reply, “Thank you.”
“It looks like a bird’s nest!” somebody yells from the back of the room. At this point, you are so close to bursting out of the classroom in tears. But you don’t—you know you have to stay in the classroom regardless.
“That’s not very nice!” Your teacher says to the student. The kid doesn’t get in any trouble, and he never will—that’s the sad truth.
At lunch, the girl sitting next to you asks if she could touch your hair, but before you could say anything, she already does as she makes your hair deflated on one side.
Throughout your entire school day, all you hear is backhanded compliments and malicious remarks about your hair. After you spent time styling your afro, your hair is now flying in every direction by the end of the day. When you go home, you don’t tell your mom what happened at school because you do not want her to confront your teacher.
By the end of the week, you’ve had enough. You beg your mom to straighten your hair so you can look like the white girls at your school with their long, blond hair that flows from side to side. All you want to feel is a sense of normalcy in your life.
A few years later as you continuously straighten your hair to avoid feeling uncomfortable at school, your hair is completely damaged. It’s thin and frail. Whenever you comb it, huge chunks of hair fall out. It seems unfixable.
Image retrieved from CurlyNuGrowth
I’m assuming you didn’t enjoy your time with natural hair. As a society, we can do better. We can come together, and teach kids about natural hair. We can make rules against touching and making rude/backhanded comments. School systems always preach about kindness and a zero-tolerance for bullying, yet they allow these discriminatory acts to happen and they are constantly overlooked.
To all of my beautiful people out there with natural hair, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are perfect just the way you are; don’t let society tell you that you have to have straight, or defined hair to be beautiful. You are enough.
Written by writer Savannah Kayongo