"Don't remove the kinks from your hair, remove them from your brain!"
-Marcus Mosiah Garvey
By the time you read this, it will be done. What took one year to grow took only hours to cut down; hours of pampering, coddling and picking out lint gone amiss. My curly locks-my jet black, thick, beautiful curly locks-have been laid to rest on some barber's floor. Ironically, a Rastafarian cut my hair while his religion forbids him from cutting his. I later concluded that that's about as paradoxical as eating food from a skinny chef (which can be indicative of how good his or her food is).
In short, it was as if I'd lost a child, parted forcibly by a sadomasochist barber. The barbershop became Dante's Inferno and I Judas, having betrayed my locks for a more aesthetic look. As the automatic door locked behind me, I was feeling a bit woozy, probably from the "contact high" I got from my barber's THC soaked fingers (for religious purposes of course).
Back in "Funcie," I feared that at first glance people would no longer recognize me, as if I had lost a part of my identity. I would now be ordinary my fear reminiscent of "American Beauty." Historians one day would refer to this moment as the "Acculturation of Anthony Head," but fear not, I pen this column in an effort to provide some context to this momentous decision.
One's hair can speak volumes about one's culture, age, socio-economic status, and even organizational affiliation (as the "Mohawk" is to Mr. T and the "A Team," so too is the Mullet to people with questionable taste). Having a mixed ancestry of Cherokee, Creek and African, my hair is often referred to as "good" because of its unique texture. I vehemently disagree with the misnomer of "good hair", as I'm sure any of my balding buddies would concur, any hair is good hair.
This point of dissension puts me in conflict with the "Madam C. J. Walker's of the world" and their impact on African-American culture. They continue to perpetuate an attitude that while not totally pervasive in African American culture, is detrimental nonetheless. The attitude that I speak of is one of appropriating an alien standard of beauty (underweight, bleached hair, genetically impossible light-eyes) at the expense of one's natural features (in this case African, but this attitude is seen in Hispanic/Latino and Asian cultures as well).
"We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes."
-Paul Lawrence Dunbar, c. 1896
For Africans in America, the third stage of their assimilation into this society (after language and religion) has been physical. Just as the American diet has had catastrophic effects on the African-American community, the American standard of beauty has had similar effects on the psyche of African men and women. Words like "nappy" and "kinked" have emerged as disparaging terms to describe an undesirable state of one's hair, especially African Americans.
Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson says "The great hair obsession is driven by the painful need of many African Americans to conform to the dominant values of American society. And beauty, fashion and hairstyles are the most popular and perverse expressions of those values."
"Our HAIR" an article written by the self proclaimed "Champion of Darkness" Victor Brady, provides some interesting insight on the relationship one shares with his or her hair:
"I am an essential part of nature... My hair is the most original among all living organisms... It represents the spinning of our planet, the curling of ocean waves, the spiral movement of sea shells, the spiral movement of climbing vines, and everybody knows the tornado moves like my hair grows."
Brady goes on to mention "Samson's strength was not in the LENGTH, but in its originality." Samson's strength can be analogous to Sha'Naynay's beauty-it lies not in its length, but its originality. While relying on this narrative to counteract years of propaganda, chemicals and hair weave may seem oversimplified, I feel it necessary in trying to negate the effects of years of low self esteem, isolationism and psychological trauma experienced by women and men not able to achieve this "ideological" standard of beauty. As the next trend comes and goes, one would do well to take a keen look at how he or she defines "beauty" and by what metrics it is measured. By the way, I really didn't get my hair cut, I figured, if God doesn't tamper with its essence, why should I?
Write to Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org