I’ll come right out and say that I do a terrible job taking care of my hair. It’s something I’m trying to be better about, but it’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of energy that I don’t always have. As someone that has worn their hair in its natural state for about 3 years, I can understand a natural curiosity about what my hair would look like straightened, or how long it would be. When people insist, however, that I should straighten my hair, or that my overall appearance would be improved by straightening my hair, I can’t help but be annoyed.
The beauty standards of the United States are understandably very Eurocentric, as white people are the predominant demographic in this country. While I can understand this from a logical and rational perspective, I know how much it can hurt to feel inherently ugly because you don’t have the long flowing hair, light colored eyes, or button nose that you have been taught to believe epitomize beauty.
Beauty, contrary to popular teaching and belief, isn’t a fixed set of physical features, almost completely exclusive to one group of people, and there is nothing normal or healthy about other groups of people desperately trying to alter their looks in order to emulate the “chosen” group. The attractiveness of one group of people shouldn’t be measured by how accurately they can mimic another.
I’m not saying that every black person that alters their hair in one way or another has an identity issue, but the fact of the matter is that the history of weaves, perms and wigs within the black American community is deep rooted in self hate, and the notion that kinky hair was an inherent flaw that needed to be corrected. To many black people, their own, natural hair repulsed them, and represented everything they were trying to distance themselves from: poverty, classlessness, inferiority.
I refuse to accept that. I refuse to accept that my natural features are anything to be ashamed of or in need of correction.
Instead of insisting that I would be more beautiful or worthy of admiration if I were to appeal to Eurocentric beauty ideals, consider that beauty exists outside of your Eurocentric mindset.