Is the Natural Hair Community Too Sensitive?

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As many times that I’ve said I’m going to break away from the natural hair community, I still love you all. I swear, I do. When I first decided to grow my hair out natural, I received so much support from women with curly hair. I was annoying. I asked endless questions. I wanted everyone to analyze my curl pattern because I thought that was the end-all be-all of hair care (I was wrong).

But something that was always clear as day to me was that no one could ever say anything negative about natural hair. It doesn’t matter how the hair looked, if it looked liked it needed all the moisture in the world or the fro looked like it was rolling around a cotton pillowcase like there was no tomorrow. Natural hair is and would always be natural hair, and all of it was beautiful, especially when it came to those outside of the “community.”

There was a recent controversy about Solange Knowles’ hair being compared to a dog, and several people commented that it was racist because it would never happen to a white person. I considered this, but I remember seeing the same kind of comparison before. For some (dumb) reason, comparing curly and straight hair to dogs is some kind of trendy thing – no, it’s not racist. Although, I do think it is tasteless and given society’s perception of black women, one (media outlet or otherwise) should know better. Someone challenged me to find the same comparison with a white person, and in less than three minutes I saw Harry Styles being compared to a poodle. I personally would never want to be compared to a dog, but it’s a cute thing, I guess.

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This was not the first time that the natural hair community potentially overreacted, and it certainly won’t be the last. But at the same time, who can blame us? The historical implications of natural hair kind of give us a pass to always be on guard with society, and yes, even those who love us. “When are you going to straighten those naps?” “You looked so pretty with straight hair.” To us, these declarations are not simple suggestions, but attacks to how we choose to wear our born hair. And that sucks. A few years ago, one of my coworkers saw me for the first time in about sixth months and had that eyes wide “wow” reaction. At the time, I felt that it was because I didn’t have relaxed hair anymore, and I was offended.

But…it could have easily been that I had bright red hair (thanks henna) or that my hair was super short. I’m not saying this to defend people or discount the courage that it still takes to wear your natural hair, but sometimes our natural hair is not that big of a deal to others. However it often is a big deal to us. I’m asking a lot of questions here because at the end of the day, natural hair (even if you aren’t political about it), is important. I don’t consider myself political about my hair at all (I went natural due to the weather and hey, I liked my hair), but it’s plain as day that some of us can’t even wear our natural hair to work. It’s been so beaten, bruised, and downright insulted that we feel as if it’s something that we hold sacred and will protect. I don’t even think that’s militant. It’s just true.

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All I’m asking is that the next time you think someone is attacking natural hair, consider their intentions and try to assess the reality of the situation rather than instantly accuse them of hating black women and our hair. Everyone may not be out to get us all the time. And if they are, well…as a community, we have a voice. And we shouldn’t take that kind of blatant disrespect.

Do you think that the natural hair community is too sensitive or defensive? Do you think it’s warranted?

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair**

10 comments

  1. I do think the community is too sensitive, but i also think its warrented. Im used to rude comments. I usually just brush them off. I have a strange group of friends that are all white and all men. They are also very good and being assholes, but they are my friends, i accept their ways an no they dont mean to offend. One friend says i look like a poodle and likes to touch my hair, another said i looked like and old lady O.o dont know what that was supposed to mean. I just laugh. But i remember the devastation i felt being told by my brothers friend, that my hair in its natural state looked like pubes. This was years ago when no one ever saw my hair in its natural state. I still think about it all the time and wonder if other people are thinking that when they look at me. Its a question im thinking about once again as i consider doing a big chop. Its not something ive ever done, and im not worried what my friends think, im worried i wont be able to accept myself that way.

    1. In the 80`s a friend of mine,her Mother and I were at a Play. Both Black women, I must add.I was natural with my Afro. Her Mother said to me You look like a Poodle, I said Thank you I love their hair. In 2008 a neighbor, young white guy, said to me when I was Rocking my Big natural Afro, You look like you got your Head suck in a light socket. My other white neighbor said Her hair is beautiful! I smiled at him ,and walked away. I did not have to respond to a ignorant person. It`s 2015 and I`m natural ,we have to be STRONG! But we always have been STRONG Natural or Permed!

  2. As someone who is, perhaps, on the fringes of the natural hair community (my hair is quite curly, but I’m white), I’ve been reading enough to know the huge social importance that people, particularly natural women, attach to their hair. It becomes a statement, kind of a ‘breaking free of hair oppression’ statement, I think. Which is really, really cool. And which, obviously, some people are going to be quite sensitive about. Re: Solange, I don’t think it’s ever cool or ok to compare someone’s hair to a dog, unless that person is doing so about themselves; it’s in particularly bad fashion to do so when there is a massive natural hair movement taking place. That being said, I have experienced the questions “Why don’t you straighten your hair?” to randoms coming and touching it without being asked, to being worried about wearing my hair curly to interviews (seriously. I’ve had people recommend I straighten it for professional spaces. Uh, nope).
    I guess this went on more of a rant than I anticipated, but…sometimes the reactions are definitely a bit sensitive, but I can also understand and appreciate why people may be so defensive of such a personal topic.

    Great conversation starter post!!

  3. I just started wearing my straight wig to work- very believable and looks like my natural hair straightened. I have been getting really no comments at all and no funny looks- but was expecting a flood of all types comments etc.
    I had a few people who’ve noticed the change but nothing extra ordinary. My point is- I braised myself for compliments and even side comments when folks really dont care.

  4. I don’t think WE’RE too defensive. I don’t think there is such a thing as “too defensive.” I can’t govern how someone reacts to a slight. Just because “they do it to white folk too” or “white folk do it too” does not means something wasn’t a slight. We do not speak with one voice. If someone is offended, they are offended. If they use their social media to speak about it, they have that right. No one woman or group of women speaks for all natural haired Black women.

    1. I agree with your overall sentiment but it’s not really about governing when people feel slighted, more so when they feel something is racist or a direct attack on natural hair. The argument of “that’s racist because they wouldn’t say or do that to a white person” is depleted when it actually is done to white people.

  5. I made a joke to my hubby tht I was happy to be nappy and he told me I was lazy. My mom said she had a dream tht my hair was straight and flowing in the wind, hinting around she wanted me to straighten my hair. A friend of mine told me to tell her to dream on. Sometimes the negativity omen from your own family.

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