I am putting a call out to ask you a massive favour. But before I start with this post, please allow me to sip some tea (I’m lying, it’s wine) and breathe!
I’ve been on my natural hair journey for more than 5 years. Throughout those 5 years I’ve managed to keep politics out of the way. Until today. The reason for this, dear reader, is the fact that no matter how much you want to avoid it, your hair is political. Why, you may ask? Well, let me tell you: Every strand on your head, every kink, every curl, every coil; tells the story of your heritage. Your hair is like a map of your cultural roots (see what I did there?)
The politics of hair
Growing up in South Africa during apartheid we were made to believe that the straighter your hair and the fairer your skin, the more accepted you would be. Accept it or not, this was the absolute norm.
By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the pencil test performed on people of colour during the apartheid regime. If not, let me get you up to date quickly:
In the pencil test, a pencil is pushed through the person’s hair. How easily it comes out determines whether the person has “passed” or “failed” the test.
This test was used to determine racial identity in South Africa during the apartheidera, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. The test was partially responsible for splitting existing communities and families along perceived racial lines. Its formal authority ended with the end of apartheid in 1994. It remains an important part of South African cultural heritage and a symbol of racism.
I need another moment for what I am about to tell you…
Over the weekend Maurice and I were talking about his hair and how his style has changed from when he was younger. I asked him how he wore his hair back then, to which he replied “Always short, but my gran had a good reason for that. She was afraid I may have been reclassified by means of the pencil test.”
My mom has type 1C hair. Her hair was so long that it reached past her bum. At 12 years old, while visiting her aunt, she cut her hair all off and wore it short ever since. As straight as her hair was, Mom still relaxed her hair to straighten the “naughty children” (dry hair) along her edges. The straighter the hair, the more accepted you were.
My dad has type 4Z hair.
Mom did our hair every weekend. She would wash, set and blow out our hair every weekend. Mom or my aunt would relax our hair every third month like clockwork. I can’t remember how old I was, but I was young, when my dad watched us one day and exclaimed “Shame girls, I am really sorry. It’s because of me that you don’t have nice hair”.
That stuck with me for years. I know it was said in jest but to me my dad is perfect. His hair is perfect and his feet are perfect (inside joke, hey daddy!). I had a love/hate relationship with my own hair , but I’ve always seen my hair as the perfect combination of my parents’.
Have you ever lied about your hair?
When I was in my twenties a colleague asked me if I relaxed my hair. I vehemently rebuked her and told her that my hair was naturally straight. Of course she knew I was lying, she must have. Before you judge me for lying, please understand the very different space I was in at that time. I was never happy with my hair or anything Amanda back then. But especially my hair, I always wished it was nicer.
If you’re still reading this then I am sure you can relate to one of these stories. Somewhere in the story of your life your hair was a topic of discussion. Everyone has a hair story to share.
Most of us queried why we weren’t blessed with “nice hair”. But what the hell is nice hair anyway?
We have moved away from archaic hair policies at high schools. Started embracing our own natural God-given hair textures. We’ve been practicing self-love. We are making changes, right?!
Yes, I was just as shocked when I did a random search for “Nice Hair” while searching for inspiration for a post.
Where are the coils, kinks and curls? How do we go about abolishing the hierarchy of hair when this kind of mentality still exists? And don’t get me started on the fact that there is still a hierarchy of hair in the 21st century! What do we do to abolish this mentality?
I have an idea that may help end hair hate and texture discrimination. It’s a simple idea, but one that has the potential of a snowball effect if we work together. If you’re a kinky, coily or curly girl (or boy); please start tagging every single picture you send out into the interwebs with phrases such as Nice Hair, Good Hair, Professional Hair.
Use the phrase #HealthyHairIsNiceHair and #NiceHair to show your support.
Let’s teach our kids that their hair is beautiful period!
If you have other ideas to help this campaign please leave a comment down below or tag me in your posts.
The only way we can really change the narrative is when we take a stand together