Girl, you got that good hair.

hair-imageClare Norris-Bell,
Los Angeles, CA.

In the Black community, hair has been been a measurement of one’s value for generations. In the African-American culture, “good” hair refers to hair that is not kinky or not what is pejoratively called “nappy”. It is hair that is closer to the texture of people in parts of the world away from sub-saharan Africa, like Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. My hair has almost always been at least to my shoulders and wavy when pulled back and braided, fuzzy when left to its own devices, but formed small, uniform ringlets when controlled with a handful of hair gel or mousse. Obviously, “good” hair is a judgement call, not just an objective observation, and those Black girls and women who called my hair “good” as I grew up were giving my hair texture value usually superior to their own. Unfortunately, with the advent of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it was to the advantage of Europeans to convince Americans of African decent that their features were inferior to European features. That message was powerful and pervasive. Its remnants remain strong in our society. I teach at a community college with a large African-American population, and I look at students who cannot afford books but invest their money in straight, Indian-hair weaves that hide their natural hair. That investment speaks volumes to the value Black women place on possessing what they classify as “good” hair. So I dedicate my race card to all of those beautiful Black women out there with beautiful kinky, curly hair. I am so gratified to see the slowly burgeoning movement of Black women embracing the texture of hair that grows from their heads and trying new styles and products to care for it. I am eager for the day when the weaves and relaxer chemicals stop selling and I hear Black girls and women refer to the wide variety of textures in the African-American community as “good” hair.


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