By Kierra Leggett
India Aire said it best in her 2005 hit song, I Am Not My Hair, in which she affirmed that despite what society and people as a whole had to say, she would not be defined by the hair growing on top of her head. Now, six years later, it seems as if we have ceased to take heed of India’s meaningful message. With the process of “going natural” becoming ever more popular amongst African American women, it seems as if negative sentiments and notions are being continually aimed towards those women who get their hair chemically relaxed.
Some members of the natural hair community have taken to bashing those with relaxed hair, claiming that their relaxed haired counterparts are trying to achieve a more Anglican appearance, or as it has been said, people relax their hair “just for it to be white.” This is a complete and total misconception. My hair has been chemically relaxed since the age of six, and honestly there has never been a time that I looked in the mirror and saw anything but my own beautiful brown face staring back at me. Even with a relaxer, the texture of my hair (and most other black women) has little resemblance to that of any white woman. Those that say the only reason that some black women choose to relax their hair is to “look white” have completely missed the mark.
While admittedly there are some advantages to all natural hair, it is not the only option for having healthy, stylish and beautiful hair. Natural hair requires a lot of maintenance including daily moisturizing, increased washing, and the hassle of detangling. If ever you decide to straighten your natural hair, humidity and water are toxic in that hair at the first signs of moisture, will return back to its original, kinky state. As college students we can all attest to the fact that time is absolutely of the essence; not everyone is willing and or able to dedicate the amount of time necessary into maintaining natural hair. With chemically relaxed hair one has the ease of wrapping hair, which will maintain a hairstyle for up to two weeks. Also, relaxed hair can be just as healthy as natural hair, if it is not over processed and cared for properly.
All in all, there are positive and negatives to both styles of hair. Whether you rock a natural or relaxed style, the biggest thing is that you respect others opinions to wear their hair in the style that is pleasing to them. Do not automatically assume that because someone has relaxed hair they are unhappy with themselves or trying to give off a different persona, also the same applies to those with natural hair. Do not automatically assume that natural haired individuals are afro-centric or looking down upon you because of the chemically altered state of your hair. As India Aire said, we are “not our hair.”