In the Black hair community they call it “The Big Chop.” I had contemplated it for over a year and on one cold night in January, I did it. I took a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer, quietly closed the door to the bathroom and went to town. With several bold snips I went from about 14 inches of hair to 1/4 of an inch of hair. Now, why in the world would I do this?
First, a very brief and incomplete Black history lesson.
Remember the landmark segregation case <a href=”http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-brown.html”>Brown v. Board of Education</a> case? They used this study in their argument:
Dr. Kenneth Clark Conducting the “Doll Test”
In the “doll test,” psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark used four plastic, diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. Almost all of the children readily identified the race of the dolls. However, when asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it. The Clarks also gave the children outline drawings of a boy and girl and asked them to color the figures the same color as themselves. Many of the children with dark complexions colored the figures with a white or yellow crayon. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred. courtesy of The Library of Congress website
It is hard to believe that with all of the social progress we’ve made over these past 50 years, this sense of inferiority and self-hatred still exists. Being Black was never beautiful. And our hair? Not acceptable. It’s hard to change the color of your skin, but you can change your locks, you hair, your mane, or whatever you choose to call it..
Let me use an analogy that may be more relatable. The media bombards us with images of women with photoshopped bodies and faces. Our subconscious convinces us that is what other “real” women look like so we develop eating disorders and pay thousands of dollars for creams, undergarments, (dangerous) drugs and surgeries to become this supreme version of a woman. This is what black women do with their hair. We spend thousands of dollars on very, very dangerous chemicals that are applied to our scalp to achieve that straight and silky look.
Ok. So here is why I pulled a Britney.
RE-DEFINING BEAUTY. I wanted to raise a big fist to The Man; to make it known that I now realize that I have been lied to. My hair–the hair that grows out of my head–is good hair. It is good hair because it is my hair and I want to love all that is me.
HEALTH. Relaxers contain corrosive chemicals. Corrosive meaning that they can disolve fabric, plastic and skin.
FREEDOM. I needed to be free from the emotional baggage that was attached to that hair. I believe that your hair holds energy and a lot of this energy was negative. As I started to cut away, I felt lighter and lighter and lighter. And when it was all gone, I felt so incredibly free.
MY DAUGHTER. My little girl is bi-racial. I have no idea what her hair is going to look like. But I want her to be proud of it (and her eyes, face, body, mind). I need to be an example of a strong and proud woman.
These reasons are sound pretty righteous, right? And I really do believe in them, however. . . . The truth is, that over the past couple of months I started to hate my hair. I was not prepared for the psychological battles I would have to fight. You should have seen the looks on people’s faces when they saw me post-chop. I could see them searching for the right words; afraid to say the wrong thing, they often said nothing at all. Each morning I stood in front of the mirror trying to comb through my thick, coarse hair, frustration mounting with each tug and pull.
Lately I have been tempted to go back to the relaxer, convinced that with straight hair I am prettier, sexier, more sophisticated. But as my resentment continued to build, it seemed as though more and more people started to comment about my daughter’s hair. “Wow, if her hair stays likes this, she’ll be so pretty,” they said. “Her hair is so soft, it’s so pretty. I wonder if it will stay this way?” Hearing that over and over again reminded of why I needed to stick through this. Growing my hair out in its natural state–loving myself and my hair because it is genuinely me–is one of the greatest examples of self-love that I can display for my daughter. Because, what if her hair doesn’t stay that way? What if it changes and becomes as coarse and thick as mine? I want her to know that she is still beautiful despite the texture of her hair. I will no longer consider my hair to be a burden, a dreaded task through which I must suffer. No. It is my labor of love. It is process of self-care and self-love that will continue to teach me and inspire me to stay true to my self.