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The Other Side Of Natural Hair That's Not Talked About Nearly Enough

We are one but we are not equal.

Hair

Since the natural hair movement dashed on the scene, WOC everywhere stood in reclamation of their natural tresses. Learning to care for and love natural hair became a pilgrimage to embracing natural beauty in a society where that reflection is often not mirrored in mainstream culture.

Along the way, a glorified breakdown of hair texture became an encyclopedia for figuring out where your curl pattern fit. Like anything in Western society, the idea of what type of hair texture was more favorable than others started great debates. Though diversity in natural hair is more represented in today's social media climate, there still seems to be a quieted trend of underrepresenting the natural hair characteristics that are "least favorable" by collective admission and vocalized acknowledgement of the internalized pain this causes.

Today, as the natural hair movement has spread into blogging and Instagram, there is still a happy-go-lucky energy that ignores the lesser represented hair types and characteristics.

My personal testimony began as the natural hair movement exploded in our culture. YouTube gurus popped up left and right. Unfortunately, the forerunners of this movement had hair that looked unbelievably easy to manage. Finger detangling, washing hair without separating it in quadrants, and doing the quick wash and go with defined curls that seem cemented in time, are not things that every woman with natural hair can easily do. Yet, for a long while, that was the only type of hair texture you would see online.

I did not see many reflections of mixed 4B/4C, thin, coily, kinky, or Z patterned hair, and the process one would go through to wash, deep condition, and style. When I would happen to see a more fitting hair type tutorial, it would always be about how to stretch the hair and how to define a curl. The videos that I needed to see of women with thin strands and low volume seemed nonexistent.

I personally remember stressing over where the videos were of women with hair like mine. I used to think that I wouldn't see any of those videos because nobody wants this hair. I knew that my hair couldn't and wouldn't do the things that the softer, looser, longer, and curlier textured hair types could. For a long time, I felt left out and lost as I learned how to care for my own natural hair, after years of succumbing to the "creamy crack".

I knew I am not the only one feeling slighted by what the natural hair movement has become, so I reached out to some other women who have a lot to say.

*Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kayla Williams @KayJohnae


Kayla is a wardrobe stylist hailing from New Jersey, and she recently did the big chop for the second time.

"In 2014, I wanted to go natural. I did the big chop. I felt like my hair wasn't as pretty as the natural girls on social media, or my friends. I wore my hair out for a short time, and I put braids in and wore other protective styles. In 2017, I cut my hair back down. I went as low as a pixie cut this time and then I relaxed it. I wore my relaxed hair proud and boldly because I felt like it looked better than my natural short coily cut.

"Two weeks ago, I decided to embrace my natural hair fully this time and not backpedal. I cut the perm out of my hair after letting it grow out for five months. I'm now back down to my short coily cut. I feel completely naked when I wear my short hair, I can't hide under the perms, wigs or braids anymore. I've decided to embrace my hair and I finally understand that I'll never be the natural girl with the big curly fro."

Ayana Hall @yan_niii


Ayana is a model from New York City, and she broke down why the natural hair movement is misleading.

"In all honesty, we [in the 4b to Z patterned community] are so underrepresented and it's honestly misleading to those looking to join the natural hair movement. These images of looser textures have somehow become the face of our movement, when I know I never casted my vote!

"My beef is not with women with these textures, but with those spreading the propaganda and appeasing to this European standard of Black beauty. It's continuously holding us back from seeking and flourishing in self-love.

"Think about it, young black girls who are very impressionable see these images and still think that this is what it means to be natural, and this is the "look" I must have to be "presentable" and socially acceptable with my natural hair. Sound familiar? It definitely should, because this is the same idea and rhetoric behind relaxers; aside from the ignorant rhetoric about natural hair maintenance.

"It honestly kills me that people think being natural is just about hair! It's more than that! It's about embracing your true self! Appreciating what God has given you! Accepting your honest self and vowing to never let that truth slip away! This movement is about identity and standing firm in that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and TEXTURES! If we're gonna keep momentum going, it's time to be inclusive of all textures! From loose to kinky, soft to coarse, curls to waves, kinks to coils!

"My journey hasn't been easy and honestly, I'm still on it! You know the Black woman is one of the most disadvantaged groups in the world. Now tag on dark skin or 'nappy headed' and look, we've got more setbacks. With that being said, if we're going to do this, and if we're going to be in this, let's do it together and get it right! From my naps to yours."

Coral Foxworth @FXWRK


Coral Foxworth aka FXWRK, is an up-and-coming underground electronic producer and DJ from Brooklyn, NY. She had some profound truths to share about black hair and identity.

"I have 4C hair. But not the thick, long, dense kind. Not the 4C that does enormous puffs or juicy twist outs that hang and shine. Mine is short. Naturally thin. Highly porous and cottony. No curls unless I rake gel through it, or put rollers in. Too thin to hang, shrinks up and tangles badly when loose, but starts to lock if I leave it bound too long. It breaks so easily, not because it's unhealthy... it's just naturally fragile and knotty.

"I've been natural since 2010, and my hair is six inches long. It doesn't grow fast and never has.

"It's genetic. Coming home and falling asleep with loose hair or without a scarf on even ONCE can mean noticeable, irreversible damage from breakage...or tangling so bad I'm forced to spend four hours undoing it strand by strand. Most people without this hair type really don't understand.

"The natural hair movement initially gave me the strength to transition. It was about self-love and reclaiming the glory of something I'd been conditioned to hate. A few years into it, I started to feel the movement had changed a lot. It had become extremely commercialized and 'curl' focused. I found myself looking at famous YouTubers and bloggers with type 3 curls, and long, thick type 4 hair. It seriously seemed like NO popular vloggers had hair like mine. I won't lie; I got sucked in, and found myself coveting other woman's tresses, wondering if I used this cream or that method, that I could get their look and manageability.

"I would cringe with envy when I saw 'hair growth' videos celebrating six inches in one year, or styling tutorials for the many looks I can never achieve. Millions of girls have my kind of 4C. I hope the 'movement' changes to reflect our beauty back to us. Now I look for low manipulation YouTubers and ponder freeform locs because I'm tired of feeling like I HAVE to constantly soften, stretch, detangle and baby this stuff on my scalp.

"Is it really necessary, or is this a social construction the black community hasn't confronted yet? Is our hair really so unkempt in its truly natural shrunk state? Are breakage and knots inherently bad? Can we love our hair as is and not use styling as a way to avoid inner work?"

Featured image via Coral Foxworth

Originally published on July 5, 2018

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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