No one knows the love-hate relationship with their hair better than a Black woman. I spent the better part of my childhood and teens in pigtails and twists, endured perms and straightening, all in an effort to tame my tresses. I’ve gone through the Jheri curl phase and even submitted to the BIG chop. It was not until I went natural and committed to dreadlocks that I learned to love my hair (and myself). But some folks just don’t get it.
I’m reminded of a time when a Black woman’s hair humbled a man who should have known better. I was a high school teacher, working at a predominately Black school in the heart of the city. While on the-much-dreaded lunch duty roster, I was talking with a group of girls in the cafeteria.
An assistant principal, an African-American man, came over to the table and casually reprimanded me. One of the girls was wearing a colorful head scarf, and he wanted her to remove it. I knew why she was wearing it. I had done my due diligence, asked her about it, and decided (in the best interest of the child) that it was not my place. For the last few months, she had been wearing her hair in a protective style—micro braids—and then spent the better part of the previous night taking them out in preparation for getting the style redone. It literally takes hours. Her hair was…out of sorts. I was not about to ask her to remove the scarf.
When the administrator directed me to make the request, I refused. So, he directed her to remove it.
The child obediently complied and revealed an unruly mane that was uneven, flaking, knotted togther, and in need of care. My heart dropped, and so did the administrator’s. But the girl smiled proudly, looking us both in the eyes. He promptly told her to tie her headwrap back in place, patted me on the back, and left us.
Marcus Garvey once said, “Take the kinks out of your mind, not your hair.” He is right. The next day, I was commended for my disobedience, and the rule was promptly amended. Love me, love my hair.