• Tanaya Eyvette

Telling A Black Person Their Hair is Unmanageable is Systematic Oppression

Good day Starshine!

I was having this conversation the other day that actually fired up my brain to write this post. So, buckle up.

I am a Black woman, as many of you know. I am marrying a Hmong man, as many of you are aware. We follow a lot of AMBW (Asian Men Black Women) couples, but we also see a lot of AWBM (Asian Women Black Men) couples that have children.

If you know me, then you've heard me speak a time or two about knowing how to do Black children's hair if you are not Black. Especially when you've decided to procreate with our race.

You should also be aware that I am a natural Black woman. Meaning no creamy crack or unnatural products (besides dye) have been used in my hair since 2012.

Okay, so now that is out of the way, let's get to the point.

Telling a Black Person Their Hair is Unmanageable is Systematic Racism

I was having this conversation with someone about their children's hair. One child has loose curls, another has tight and thick curls. These children are biracial (Asian & Black). The mom, not being Black, told me that the loose curls were better because it's easier and that the other child's hair was hard to deal with. I began to say that I have coocoo beads so I know how to do hair. But she insisted that I didn't understand what I was getting myself into.

Let's break this down right here, shall we? If you are Black, then you understand the complexities of our race. We are not just ONE thing. We have bunch of different races inside of us, Meaning, our hair comes out in all sorts of textures, thickness, lengths, curliness, etc.

I have a mixture of tight curls and kinky patterns that are lightweight and spring up. My hair is really thick and poofy when I let it grow out. My sister has more springy (slightly looser) curls that are heavy and lay down with gravity. My other sister has a mixture of tight curls and loose curls, and her hair is fine. Another sister has super tight spongy curls. My brother has more of a zigzag/kinky pattern of hair. My mother has looser curls if she wears her hair wet. My uncles had (they're bald now) thinner looser curls. My grandma had a mixture, a big afro with laid natural baby hair. My paternal grandma had tight thick kinky curls, my dad had zig zag, my uncles have zigzag. And they're all equally beautiful.

But that's just my immediate family, and it's even more complex if I include the rest of my relatives. Do you know why? Because Black hair isn't just ONE type! Some people may have easy to comb through hair, but at the same time their sibling may have the tightest, fullest, thickest curls in the whole bunch.

Black hair isn't just ONE type

NEITHER of which are unmanageable.

I have a problem with non Black folks telling me our hair is hard to do, even if they are not talking about me specifically.

  1. Because we have been told what to do with our to make it more "appropriate" (Read: White) in order to get hired at a job, or go to ANYTHING remotely close to professional.

  2. We have had literal FIGHTS over defending our natural hair texture,

  3. It is oppressive to make our hair the "other".

  4. "Good hair" is defined by have finer strands of hair (originally based on a Black person being mixed with a White counterpart), thus making anything remotely close to thick and kinky "bad". Which resulted in many Black folks going to lye (and later no-lye relaxers/perms) to straighten their kink to eliminate a piece of their oppression. Erasing part of their history.

So, when you have finer hair (or you just don't understand Black hair), sharing your opinion about our hair is a European concept that has been adopted in America (of many different races) to make our hair seem like it isn't the greatest. When it is.

I told my fiancé this once: "If you know how to do the complexities of Black hair, you can do anyone's hair'.

I said that because you will never run into the a person with the same texture as you as a Black person. It may be super similar, but it ain't the same. Which means you can't put Black hair in a little box and label it "unmanageable" because you can't seem to figure it out.

If I had a nickel for every time I was told my hair needed to look a different way in order to work, or I was called nappy in a derogatory way by my own folks, or someone voluntarily TOUCHED MY HAIR, I would be RICH (or at least wealthy). We are not and art museum folks. Your children's hair is beautiful no matter the thickness or "difficulty", no matter how hard YOU try to make it seem like their hair is bad because it won't do what YOU want it to.

I already grew up thinking natural hair was bad because it was considered "untamed" by my White (and...Asian) counterparts. But it isn't. It is gorgeous, and if you are not Black, you have NO RIGHT to tell another Black person (whether they are mixed or not) that their hair is unmanageable. Maybe YOU are the problem. Because our hair is perfect just the way it is.

So please stop thinking you're down with the brown just because you are married into our race, or hang tough with our culture. You still have to unlearn your own systematic oppression/racism before you are even able to TRY and understand the biases you will possibly carry into your children. As for me, I know Black hair. Even when the texture is new, you best believe I will work to try and figure it out.

If you are not Black and you're reading this, let's put this into perspective.

When was the last time you were fired for wearing your natural hair?

When was the last time a stranger caressed your strands without permission?

When was the last time a hairstylist said they couldn't do your texture of hair because it was "unmanageable"?

When was the last time you had to search for products specifically tailored to your hair type?

When was the last time you had to put "hairstyles for Black women" into a search bar because "hairstyles for women" only yielded finer hair counterparts?

If you have never had to do any of these things and yet you are judging our hair- you are part of the problem.

This message is for you: If you are doing your child's hair (whether you're Black or non-Black) do not (I repeat DO NOT) talk about their hair with a negative connotation in your voice. You are supposed to be setting this child up for greatness, and the crown on their head should be supported by the person/people raising them. Don't get mad at their hair because YOU can't figure out the complexities of it. Strike down the White standard of what hair is supposed to be (yes, even if you are not White, you may have adopted it, check your privilege and your ignorance at the door) and learn about your child's crown. Appreciate the way it grows out their scalp, and maybe, just maybe, we'll have less children ashamed of the type of hair they have as adults.

if you need some more sources and articles about this subject, click below. Do the work and unlearn your biases.

Why Women Are Fighting Back Against Hair Oppression

Discrimination Based On Hair Texture

The Connection Between Hair Identity and the Black Culture

Black Women Speak Up About Their Struggles Wearing Natural Hair in the Workplace

Some black children are getting in trouble for natural hairstyles

XX, Tanaya

Enjoy these photos of my many hair styles and family pics.

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