You gotta fight!, For your right!, to be Natural!!
My friends Leroy and Tommy go on Tindr a dating app used to find women of their liking based on a photograph.Leroy swipes right when he sees a women who wears their hair natural because it symbolizes self-acceptance and strength.Tommy tends to swipe left when he sees women wearing their hair natural because Tommy would rather have a women who has less self acceptance but is beautiful and fits into society. Point being today in the community of African American women there is a divide on whether to choose to wear their hair Natural or Non-Natural. This argument is huge, celebrities like Erykah Badu are involved serving as a leader in the movement. From the start of the movement in the late 1800s, this issue has grown in the African American Community, from the creation of relaxer by Garrett A. Morgan to the industrialization of chemical hair products. A lot of Non- Naturalist have so many reasons to wearing their hair as they do, one of them being so they can fit the European standards and look acceptable to our society. African American males seem to be agreeing equally with how their wives choose to up-do their hairstyles, some like them natural, some like them non-natural, and some just do not care. Times are changing for the movement, now in present days Natural hair has a much more powerful standpoint in the political argument then they did 20 years ago when the Non- Naturalist were on the winning side. As we continue on with my research you will see how time, looks, and thoughts are a huge part of the movement.
Are you Natural? Is that Natural? What is Natural? African american women deem the term natural to be described in many ways so that there cannot be one definitive description of the word. The Natural Hair Movement has been a movement for decades now and up until the 1920s was not recognized as a movement. Being apart of this rejuvenating, powerful spiritual journey gave the black woman strength and power as a human being. It made them realize that it was okay to be black and not fit the non-natural look. African American women all over were picking up on this natural look, not knowing how big of a movement was ahead.
Moving forward into the future, choosing to wear your hair natural became apart of The Black Power Movement, one of the prime targets of this movement was the straightening of colored peoples hair. To be Natural was to be Black, to have pride in your own race, be proud of the skin that you are in, not wanting to be like another race because that is how society wants it. The Afro was a major symbol for the Naturalist and the Black Power Movement, it was considered a posing threat to society. The Afro is not the only “meaning of Natural”, going natural can mean a lot of things like wearing your hair with no extensions or without any chemicals or relaxers to damage the natural follicles of the human head.
On a secondary note isn’t the hair that women use for extensions natural human hair? So, what does natural really mean? Being natural in the African american community shows that you have a strong meaning in life; you want to represent yourself as a strong black woman. The self confidence you have in yourself is at an all time high. It is more than just a choice it is a way of life. Wearing your hair natural is the way to go now in present times. The women who use relaxer and wear weave are considered un-naturalists. African american women who wear weave or relaxer in my eyes can be categorized as natural too. My reasoning behind this theory is because when using relaxer you are simply straightening the curls of your natural hair so that it looks nice. Women that wear weave are using the natural human hair of other human beings so why can’t they be apart of the natural movement? Many questions, but unknown answers.
In the naturalist point of view it does not count, but to the Non-Naturalist they bought it and it is natural hair from another humans head. It seems natural, but is it? Natural can be described in many ways and seen or looked at in many ways. That is why the term really cannot be defined or explained in my eyes. There are many forms of natural not just dealing with hair, but foods, bodies, plants, animals etc. Natural is a broad term that keeps evolving with time and will never clearly have a simple definition.
Contrary to many beliefs, Madame C.J. Walker was not the inventor of the relaxer and perm. Relaxer, aka creamy crack was stirred up and concocted by an African American man named Garret A. Morgan, a child of former slaves in Paris, Kentucky way back in 1877. This invention of his was made to be used to manage African Americans hair take the regular curls they were use to and relax it (making the hair straight).
Many African american women now felt with the invention of the relaxer that it was improper not to fit the European standard and wearing their hair in its natural state was disrespectful in the society of their day. The invention of relaxer had many African american women walking around feeling all high, and mighty. You could feel as though they felt as though they were Caucasian because they had straight hair and no nappy curls. African American women feel compelled to adapt to a European standard look because they feel as though as many people do, that in order to fit into any society you should have that standard look so that you do not get look at as an outcast. Also many women were and are still wearing their hair with relaxer in it because many men love the hairstyle.
A lot of black men are involved in this empowerment for the their own reasons. African American men seem to vary in what they like their women to wear on their heads. Some are for the natural, some are for the non-natural, a lot truly do not care. The men that do care have many opinions on why they want their wives hair to look a certain way. Men that choose the natural look for his women, loves and respects his wife. He wants his wife to be true to herself, and let her know that he loves her for her not for whatever other reason. The men that choose the non-natural look for their wives usually love their wives but want them to look a certain way in order to be able to be in the presence of the black male. This is sad because this destroys the worth of a lot of black women, it makes them think they have to look a certain way in order to have any man, and that is not the case.
This has caused a division in the community of African American women. Some women still like wearing their hair natural and others like to wear it non-natural. It is crazy how the creation of a hair product can divide such a great race of human beings apart. This division is a serious debating topic in present times. A movement has derived from this division; The Natural Hair Movement. Many political leaders and musical artists and models such as Coretta Scott King, Condoleezza Rice, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, and many many more partake in this woman empowering journey.
The Queen of Neo Soul herself is a prime leader in The Natural Hair Movement. Being a music artist from Hollywood, you would think she would go with the celebrity look straightened relaxed hair, or weave, but no she chooses to be a Naturalists. Erykah Badu has embraced her natural look when pop culture has not. She feels as though this look is healthier for her mind, body, and soul. Why should she choose which way to wear her hair one way or the other. Her hair embodies who she is as a human being. Being apart of this division of the African american women has shown her she’d rather be a person with “a natural mind and processed head than a processed mind and natural head.” Erykah states in her interview that “Being natural is really fresh but every once in the while, super natural!”
Reasons such as previously stated is why she is a huge staple in this Natural Hair Movement. Many protests and political arguments have taken place over the years between the Naturalists and Non-Naturalists, and from these arguments over time both sides continue to switch sides for the win. For example, twenty years ago natural was not the style. A women took us on her personal natural hair movement from 1996 to 2015. Her reasoning for bringing us with her is because she wanted to show how Natural hair was judged in the 90s , and how now in the 2000s is embraced highly in the black community. Back in the 90s black women were so harsh upon other black women who chose to wear the natural look, and in a course of 20 years it amazes me how they embrace the natural look. Now in present times natural is the way to go. Although very quiet this movement is huge and ongoing. I see no end to this debate amongst the African american women.
A number of African-American women continue to damage their hair more and more each year. Author and physician Loren Pickart speaks on the damaging affects and loss of hair in her article “The Truth About Hair Relaxers.” Pickart states relaxing hair seems to be the talk of the party in the African American women’s community; although this product damages their hair with all the chemicals it contains, they continue to use it and sell it in stores. The non- naturalists the weave, braid, chemical relaxing wearers that choose to be everything other than natural. These are the women who want to fit into society not only as themselves, but be able to be themselves but look as if they are apart of another race. So they can mirror “the European standard of beauty.”
Natural hair is looked at as inappropriate and socially unacceptable. Long straight hair is beautiful and elegant, why wear your own hair when you can buy Brazilian, Malaysian, or Chinese hair to sew into your scalp? That is the non-naturalist point of view. Black women want to be apart of society so much that they rather damage their hair and change their looks to fit into the European style than just be themselves. The idea of relaxer seems very counter intuitive, this is a whole race of beautiful different shades of women varying from mahogany to dark chocolate, that has fought almost 300 years for freedom and equality to be who they are, and not to be looked at as different. Now they have invented a product so that they fit the standard look of their past oppressors. It is confusing and ridiculous to me. A lot of black women could have long beautiful hair, curls of gold , but they continue to treat their hair with relaxer which in the end damages the hair follicle completely.
The FDA clearly lists the dangers of hair relaxers and people still use them. Relaxer contains sodium hydroxide the most prominent chemical used in this product. This chemical is found in drain cleaners, so why use this chemical toxin? The strength of the product is clear now yet using drain cleaner chemicals does not deter African-American women from continuing to damage their hair. The pH factor in relaxers is 10-14; the stronger the pH the faster and longer black hair stays straight, resulting in deepening the damage to the scalp. The chemical penetrates the cortex or cortical layer and loosens the natural curl pattern.This inner layer of the hair shaft is not only what gives curly hair its shape but provides strength and elasticity. Once this process is performed it is irreversible.This process which produces the desired effect of “straighter” hair at the same time leaves hair weak and extremely susceptible to breaking and further damage.One must keep in mind that relaxers do not help the hair, but actually strip it.
Seeing the dangers of using relaxer, African american women ignore the damage just to fit the European standard and they can feel beautiful. Follow these steps for those who continue to treat hair with relaxer, and less damage may be caused 1. A protective base is applied 2. Relaxer is neutralized 3. Conditioning treatments are vital. Many women are against using relaxer products in present times because of the dangerous chemicals they contain and the damage it does to the hair and they are more aware of the dangers, not using relaxer leads to a safer route and stronger, healthier hair.
In closing, the reader has gained knowledge on The Natural Hair Movement. My goal was to give people an understanding on how dangerous relaxer and weaves can be to the hair; sparking the mind with facts about the healthier route to take with your hair. The result is not only have stronger and fuller hair, your mind and body will be in a better state then they would be if you decide to choose the Non-Natural way of life. By explaining what the Movement is and what it’s all about, I have hoped to really expressed the time I took to understand my topic so that the reader can fully get with the movement and by the end choose a side that they agree with natural or non-natural. This little movement is so big that it deals with bigger issues that we have and are facing, like the Black Power Movement, racial tension, and effects little things such as job interviews, presentations for school or work; being natural or non-natural takes a toll on black women in their everyday lives. The fact is most people choose to be Natural now a days and are being more accepted in society because they are glowing with self-acceptance rather than hiding behind a false hair-do to surpass to a European standard.“I love my hair because it’s a reflection of my soul. It’s dense, it’s kinky, it’s soft, it’s textured, it’s difficult, it’s easy and it’s fun. That’s why I love my hair.”
-Tracee Ellis Ross
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Pickart, Loren. “What You Need to Know About Chemical Hair Relaxers.”The Truth About Hair Relaxers. Real Published Science, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
“Erykah Badu : I Love MY Curls.” Curlology BloSpot. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.
“Perceptions of Natural Hair: The Black Male Perspective.” Clutch Magazine RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.
“I Hate the Natural Hair Movement – Curl Centric™.” Curl Centric™. N.p., 20 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.