Digging at the roots while going for gold: Gabby Douglas’ hair

This is a great piece on the politics of black hair by Dr. Neal Lester. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. I have been natural for years because I live in town were hair dressers are stuck in the 1950’s. My hair dropped out because the small town hair dressers used a ridiculously strong perm on my hair over 10 years ago. The older member of my upper middle class family squawk about my hair every time they see me offer to get it breaded (which I gladly accept) or to perm it, which I flatly reject. When it was I child I begged to wear afro puffs and finally got permission in 7th grade. even when I finally got was allowed to get a perm in high school I would let out grow out because Ultra Sheen scalp burns we no joke and I want to look like Chaka Khan, which disturbed my mother to no end. I reallt hope that the current natural hair movement doesn’t go the way of my afro puffs and women can wear their hair anyway they want without criticism within and outside the black community.

African American women slaves covered their hair with bandannas or used axle grease, greasy dishwater, or lye to temporarily straighten their curly hair. An 1894 minstrel song by African American Gussie Davis, “When They Straighten All the Colored People’s Hair,” proclaimed that heaven would be the place where straight hair, even for black folks, would prevail. Some sources allege that slave women felt ashamed of their non-straight, non-flowing hair when compared with the mistresses’ or the little white children’s they were grooming. In the 1960s, some black women embraced the Afro as a symbol of political resistance and saw activist Angela Davis and Davis’ bold Afro as the embodiment of black power. Davis later lamented her disappointment that her politics had been reduced to a hairstyle, a hairstyle that in the 1980s and 1990s became a fad among black youngsters who saw the Afro and the Afro pick as more fashion than political statement.Continue Reading.

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