African American Hair in America pt.1

I was selecting my food in the cafe at the University of North Texas and went to the register to check out. The female cashier asked me if my hair was real. I replied with a yes and a simple smile. She told me that my hair was beautiful. I am used to this question and these types of comments being made about my hair but something changed today.

Darker skinned African Americans are stereotyped as having kinkier hair than others. I am always being questioned about the genuineness of my hair. People tend to ask me if I’m biracial and when I tell them I am not they begin to explain that I am and just don’t know it yet.  I have to admit that last one is  the most annoying one of all. I obviously know my ethnicity and where I come from.

After my encounter with the woman I began to think about what the term “beautiful hair” entailed in the minds’ of Americans. Here is a chart for reference to hair types and their textures.

Image

Many African Americans have a hair type that is type 7 and 8 hair. My hair, for reasons explained later, is what I consider to be between type 4 and 5.

What hair types are we shown to be beautiful? 

As a society the mainstream media has drilled into our heads the modern definition of beauty. We have to be a certain size with long beautiful hair that blows in the wind. There are always exceptions to the rule but you guys no what I’m talking about when I’m describing the beautiful women we see in the mainstream media. So beautiful hair types would be the top row but mainly the top 3 hair types on the chart above.

Why is this the case?

America was founded by The Founding Fathers. Would you like to guess what color they were? You would be correct in guessing that they were white. Then there was the slave trade but that’s another blog for another time. I’ll give you the facts for now. Africans were brought to The Americas by white men beginning in the 16th century. That’s when it all began. Africans were from a totally different atmosphere and their environment was not that of the Americas. African Americans have been in here ever sense and their traits have continued through blacks today. For some reason the kinky hair we inherited from our ancestors has always needed some type of “improvement” according to society. It is rare to see kinky hair  in mainstream media that has not been permed and conceived as being beautiful. I believe that this is the case because from the beginning, when America was founded, there has always been a mentality of the white man running through our minds. Eventually, the mainstream media caught onto this idea of beauty and ran with it.

Ways that Black Women “Fix” there hair

Perms: Perms can be used on all types of hair. If you have naturally straight hair, a perm will make your hair extremely curly and the opposite if your hair is naturally curly. Over the years black women have become very suspectable to perms and these same perms have left their hair damaged.

Weave: Weave is very prominent in the African American community. A lot of this has to do with the fact that many women want their hair to be long or meet a certain of beauty that is portrayed by celebrities.

Maybe all of this has something to do with that fact that most everybody wants what they don’t have. From my experience of being a very impressible teen, what we see on TV is what we want to be. As a kid and sometimes even now I feel like the odd one out. I rarely see anyone on TV that looks like me, a dark skinned African American woman, rocking their natural hair. Which leads me to my next point.

How in the world did I end up with type 4/5 hair? 

I have asked myself this question for the longest time. First off both my parents and both sets of grandparents have a similar grade of hair (maybe even higher on the chart than me) so it makes sense for me to have a hair type that is a lower number than most African Americans. Then I have to think how did my parents and grandparents come about this grade of hair?

  • Genetics: I won’t go into the gory details but we should all know our history on slavery at this point. Often times the women that worked in the fields at the plantations would be forced to have intercourse with their slave master which sometimes resulted in a pregnancy. These children would have traits of both the mother and father. The child would be a medium brown color and sometimes even have hair that resembled the father. Often times my mother says that our family went “waaayyyy back and picked up this hair” from the slavemaster’s traits that run somewhere in our genes. I don’t know the exact number but i do know that I have a couple of Caucasian people in my family that came before me. It is possible I got my hair type came from them.

Dark skinned African Americans have a stereotype of having kinkier hair than the rest. This is why I have a a hard time processing the history behind my hair. To me, it’s something that has to be traced back to the beginning of our family which is hard to do when you take into consideration all the slave trading that was done.

My Advice to All Women

Where your natural hair girl! I know that in a society where a certain hair type is considered beautiful it’s hard to do this but your hair is beautiful that way it is. Make your own style and rock it! There is nothing wrong with perms and weaves but sometimes you need to let you hair breathe and just be free.

http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/how-to-determine-hair-type-on-natural-hair/

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