Kunta Kinte. The Black Panthers. A comb stuck in a matted, nappy afro. These are the first images that come to mind every time I think about growing out my hair. It’s a hair journey that I want to take, but it’s one that I’m afraid to embark on.
Hair is a big deal in the black community. It’s part of our sense of identity. It’s a physical characteristic that really sets us apart. I rocked a ‘fro as a baby. Then, as a high school senior, I grew my hair out and let my father convince me to try out an S-curl. The results were disastrous. Let’s just say you never want to get caught in the rain the same day you’ve put an S-curl relaxer in your hair. The end result is worse than a juicy jheri curl.
"Let’s just say you never want to get caught in the rain the same day you’ve put an S-curl relaxer in your hair. The end result is worse than a juicy jheri curl."
I even had a period back in 2014 in which I grew out my hair and beard at the same time. And it was just too much hair for me to take care of. After a lifetime of rocking a low Caesar, having to use a deep moisturizing conditioner on my hair was one grooming step too many.
But other than these three attempts at doing something different up top, I’ve worn my hair the same way for the better part of the last 31 years. Most barbers refer to it as a skin fade. It’s my go-to haircut. I’m so predictable at the barber shop that I could sit down in the barber chair without saying a word and leave with the perfect haircut. I’m a creature of habit. But perhaps it’s time for things to change.
There’s a stigma in the black community about nappy hair. Despite the fact that it’s our natural hair texture, many people in our culture look down upon others who proudly rock their naps. Take Charles Barkley for instance. He’s become rather notorious for publicly shaming NBA players like Derrick Rose and Ben McLemore for sporting their natural hair texture. There’s a belief that, in order to succeed in America, you have to abandon your blackness. By repeatedly shaving off your hair, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Remember that Living Single episode where Kyle refuses to shave his locks to move up in his firm? Or can you recall any time a non-black person has questioned you about your hair-its texture, why you cut it or why you grow it? Black hair is a mystery to most people outside of the black community. But as mysterious as it can be, it can also be perceived another way.
The Black Panthers wore their hair in Afros as a cultural protest. It was the ultimate way to lay claim to their blackness in public. It’s a common belief that black men who grow out their hair seem more threatening or prone to violence.
"Black natural hair is misunderstood within the community. And it’s misunderstood outside of it."
Black natural hair is misunderstood within the community. And it’s misunderstood outside of it. But despite the confusion, there are some people openly embracing the hair style. The Root refers to it as The Nappyheaded Black Male Revolution. Black men all over the nation are taking to social media to show before and after pictures of their previous styles and their new woke hairstyles.
Whether or not I make the choice to fully grow out my hair remains unseen. I don’t have a problem with natural hair. But after a lifetime of closely cropped hair, I’m just not sure I see it on myself. I haven’t been cutting away my blackness for the last 31 years. I just really like how this hairstyle looks on my head. I’m not sure how to proceed. Stay tuned…
More than just a celebration, Pride is a reminder of the courage it takes to be happy and live as your authentic self. Happy Pride y’all!
Happy Pride to my husband, friends, family & allies all celebrating in NY today! Be safe, be proud & enjoy! Sending lots of love from FL.