Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hair Thing Part Two

“…And if you have braids on, take them out before your interview.”

This is what I was told by a relative days before I was scheduled to attend a job interview. If that comment had come from the lips of a non-black person, it would be tagged racist, no questions asked. My response to that comment was silence. This is my default mode when someone makes a senseless comment pertaining to me, especially when I've made up my mind on an issue, because there’s no point expending energy arguing over a fait accompli.

Why should I have to take out my 1 day-old braids, which by the way took 3 hours of my life to make, just because I was going to be interviewed by Caucasians? Even if I wasn't feeling the little discomfort that accompanies new braids and they were a year old, I still wouldn't have taken them off! Why should I have to take them off at all? Are they unprofessional? Too black? Were they going to scare the interviewers, and risk my not getting the job? Or were they going to make me forget my lines? Suffice it to say, I kept the braids and got the job.
Solange Knowles rocking a stylish Afro
Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage
Are we Africans suffering from an identity crisis? Have we gotten so used to bone-straight weaves and wavy wigs that we don’t have any recollection of what our real hair feels and looks like? Are we ashamed of braids that are authentically African and Afros that are audaciously bold?

Speaking of Afros, last week, I decided to take my natural hair for a test drive. To bring you up to speed, I cut my hair late January and braided it throughout the transitioning period. Now I have an Afro that’s all black and healthy and dense. Anyway, back to my test driving story - I decided for a week that I was going to wear an Afro, as I had been itching to practice some of the hair jujitsu tricks I’d seen on YouTube.

So with a little bit of apprehension and a truckload of excitement, I braved the new week with my coiffed, natural hair. Of course, I didn't just settle for a plain, ol’ Afro, which to me is tantamount to having a plain vanilla ice-cream, I had it stylishly coiled to give it that extra oomph.

Some people weren't thrilled by my new coiffure and thought I was nuts (I could tell from the stares); others, like my colleagues, loved it. Either way, I didn't care a fig about their opinions because I loved it and felt confident, plus I got a compliment from Mother Dearest which, by the way, weighs more than any compliment anyone could ever shower!! However, I was somewhat amused by the reaction I received because I didn't think it was that much of a deal. I guess it’s because too few of us wear our hair natural anymore that it’s become something of a curiosity.

I understand the reason most African women or women of African descent wear weaves, wigs and retouch their hair, because taking care of our natural hair isn't a walk in the park. Case in point, my hair type is 4c, which means it’s tightly coiled, highly susceptible to breaking, and torturous to comb when dry, but that hasn't discouraged me from letting my hair grow wild and free. In essence, I've have dropped the mentality that my kinky hair is a messy, recalcitrant cross I have to bear. 

My advice to Africans and people of African descent is this: Be proud of your Afros, dreadlocks and braids. Don’t subscribe to the narrow-minded view of the beauty industry that beautiful hair can only be long, soft and straight. Beautiful hair can also be short, stubborn and fabulously nappy. And if someone is scared of your natty hairstyle, just know that they are certifiable, because it’s just hair.

PS: Before anyone starts thinking I’m growing an Afro to make a political statement, or trying to be trendy, or simply going against the grain, let me reiterate that I’m not. I’m simply giving my hair a much needed break while I fall in love (all over again) with my nappy, natural and recalcitrant hair…