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Education and Hair

I stumbled upon this writing a couple of days and it really jumped out at me. It is looking at whether there is a connection with women with natural hair and their education. You can find the article here: ‘The Correlation Between Natural Hair and Education… or Lack Thereof’.

In her opinion: “I do not feel there is a direct correlation between natural hair and education. There are plenty educated, successful women with relaxed hair. However, I understand why one would believe there is.”

I have to agree with that. She talks about the freedoms experienced in a post-secondary situation where for perhaps the first time, you are away from your parents and have the opportunity to make your own decisions. Decisions about dress, where you go and what you do. And also, your hair. I don’t know about you, but I had quite dependent on my mom for my hair needs. She knew what to do with it, she tamed it, she helped me tame it. My mom was the one to put cornrows in my hair, extensions, relax it, hot comb it. I would joke with my mom and say I hoped I only had boys because I wouldn’t know how to do girls’ hair. But when I moved away from home to go to school I was a little worried about I would do with my hair. Luckily (or was it?) for me I had access to store-bought relaxers. Suddenly, I was independent and I could manage and maintain my hair and I could do it affordably (yay!).

Suddenly, though, I found myself 3 or 4 months post-relaxer with natural hair coming out of my head and so much breakage it was difficult for me to even style. It wasn’t a great time for me… I felt self-conscious, working my hair into headbands, tucking the long, limp, relaxed ends away while completely ignoring my natural growth which I didn’t know what to do with. In that case, necessity led me to go natural.

At the same time, I was taking a Media Culture course and there was this theory, this idea, I think it was a Post-colonialism idea where, in my case, relaxed hair was all I knew. It was ‘normal’. Normal to lather my hair in chemicals three times a year. Normal to submit my scalp to pain and physical damage. It was normal to press my hair between to pieces of heated metal so it ‘fell’. All of these things were normal, but the hair that actually grew out of my scalp, the hair that curled its way from my head, that annoyed me so much. That hair was ‘foreign’. That hair was ‘strange’ it was the ‘other’. And it clicked in my head.

I don’t think I was born thinking my hair was ‘gross’ or ‘unmanageable’. I really don’t. I think I was groomed, by those around me, by what I saw, by what was available to me, that my hair needed to be controlled or managed somehow and that was just how it was going to be. But at 23, looking at all of this information available to me. Seeing what these women were accomplishing, how they felt, how they talked, what they knew. And I found myself. I found that as a person, as a human, I was complete. How I came into this world was as a complete person. So, I didn’t need this relaxer to ‘help’ me manage my hair. And I didn’t want it. I wanted to feel good, and whole and wonderful just the way I am. Going natural has helped me do it.

I’m going to be honest, at times, I do feel naked and I do feel ‘different’. But duh, we are all different in all ways all the time. So love it. Love you. Love me. And love what my hair is capable of.

Would I have gone natural had I not been in school…? I want to say, I think so. With the amount of damage I had, I think it would have been my go-to. But, regardless, I’m happy it happened the way it did.

Instead of trying to change my hair, I changed my mind.


2 thoughts on “Education and Hair

  1. It’s just gone on for so long! Relaxed hair is ‘normal’ to most black women and I started asking myself WHY? What’s wrong with our own hair? If we never relaxed our hair, would we think of our natural hair as difficult?

    • It’s strange isn’t it..? I don’t think I ever had a relaxer where I didn’t have damage/irritation to my scalp afterwards. And, I remember, as the relaxer sat in my hair I would tell myself, as it’s burning, just a little while longer, I want it really straight. For what though?

      That being said, if someone had told me I should stop relaxing and cut it all off I probably would have given them the stink-eye. It’s only until I made the connection and realized the steps I was taking to make myself less.. conspicuous? That those steps were ultimately unnecessary and undesirable to ME. Not to anyone else. After that I felt truly free.

      Going back to school after my Big Chop, looking like my 3 year old self, through the compliments and looks of surprise, I knew, really really knew, that I had done this for me. And I was.. content. I was ready to be surprised, frustrated and happy with MY hair 🙂

      And I also wonder, if we never relaxed our hair, would we think of our natural hair as difficult? I wonder..

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