The New York Times on Black Hair

“NY

Bellas — slow down, take a moment. Drink it in. Our hair is having a moment.

Tyra Banks is about to devote a whole show to her own Natural Hair Day. Chris Rock and Nelson George’s film Good Hair hits select cities October 9 (and opens nationally October 23). And just last week, the New York Times did a whole article and special interactive feature on black hair in its myriad textures and forms. The beautiful photo you see here is of Shayna Y. Rudd, who was featured in the article. Photo by Andrew Councill for The New York Times.

I think I was sent the article — titled Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics, oh… maybe 20 times. One of my friends even thought I’d written it, which gave me a good belly laugh. I’m going places, but trust me, the WORLD will know if my byline ever appears in the Times.

What did I think of the piece by Catherine Saint Louis? Well, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know but it was an engaging read nonetheless. The author did her best at being balanced, revealing the perspectives of academics:

In the face of cultural pressure, the thinking goes, conformists relax their hair, and rebels have the courage not to. In some corners, relaxing one’s hair is even seen as wishing to be white.

“For black women, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Ingrid Banks, an associate professor of black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “If you’ve got straight hair, you’re pegged as selling out. If you don’t straighten your hair,” she said, “you’re seen as not practicing appropriate grooming practices.””

Saint Louis reached out to those who embrace the versatility of hairstyling through all means, by featuring Tywana Smith of Treasured Locks:

“... in recent interviews, a number of people of color expressed a weariness with the debate. They asked, essentially: Why can’t hair just be hair? Must an Afro peg a woman as the political heir to Angela Davis? Is a fashionista who replicates the first lady’s clean-cut bob really being untrue to herself?

“I am who I am regardless of how I wear my hair,” said Tywana Smith, an owner of Treasured Locks, a Web site devoted to upkeep for relaxed and natural hair. “I want my kids to be seen for who they are, not for how they wear their hair,” she added. “Whether they walk down the street with twists or braids, they aren’t making any other statement other than ‘Today I felt like twists.’ ””

And big respect to Patricia Gaines of Nappturality, for being quoted in the piece on hair color — a topic recently explored right here on Afrobella:

“Oddly, Patricia Gaines, the founder of Nappturality.com, a pro-natural Web site, points out that dyeing one’s Afro puffs or double-strand twists blond isn’t viewed as conforming to a Euro-centric look. “It’s never been about color with black women,” she said, referring to the tint of one’s hair. “If it’s blond hair and it’s nappy, it’s still nappy.” (A term she uses proudly, though some use it as a slur.)

Saint Louis’ article covered the bases, and as Jezebel pointed out the great hair debate does become tiresome after a while. But I found the comments on the NY Times to be even more insightful as to where we’re really at regarding this issue today.

Whenever these issues are raised in a forum that isn’t necessarily targeted to black readers, one finds an interesting curiosity (often coupled with a lack of understanding) from readers of varied backgrounds. Most often I notice women who express admiration for kinky, coily black hair and wish their hair had the ability to be as multitextured, and then there are my curly haired Caucasian sisters who say their hair issues are similar which… I’m sorry, and I say this with love and affection — in my opinion, they aren’t. Hair texture is a much more complicated, deeply rooted issue in black communities around the world and I sincerely believe that so much of this dates back to the days of slavery. There’s more to be said (there always is), so maybe I’ll write a post on that in the future.

For now I’ll say congratulations to Nappturality and Treasured Locks for being featured in such an esteemed publication, and I encourage you to check out the piece for yourself. I
loved the interactive feature where 9 black women discuss their hairstyles.

That feature really made me want to know more about the women featured. Two of the women in particular — Megan Kennedy declared she was from Trinidad, but I think I know my accents, and Michelle Lewis, who proudly wears a weave, sounded Caribbean as well. Hmmmm.

Did you read the article, bellas? What did you think? What would you have said, or left unsaid?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. I saw this article, too. I found this one comment to be most interesting:

    http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/fashion/27SKIN.html?permid=265#comment265

    I really hope Chris Rock delves more into the *reasons* behind the many heated discussions surrounding our hair. So many of the NYT comments were basically “why is this news and why does it matter”. I love the article and the author covered many things well in the space she was given. The comments confirm this for me: people say it shouldn’t matter but it does, and simply saying “it doesn’ t matter” doesn’t make the issue go away.

  2. I only clicked on this post because I thought YOU were in the NY Times!
    I was excited for a minute. I’m still excited for the other sisters as well so congrats to them!
    Love talking about our hair and I think for every conversation we have it makes another woman of color at least consider going natural, and that alone is an important step for us.

  3. My hair has been natural since 1999 (and I had gone back and forth bt natural state and relaxed before). Sometimes I shave it off, and sometimes like now…I fro’ it out…although the hair changes, my evolution as a woman has nothing to do with it…it’s cosmetic. But why should I be considered a rebel if I chose not to alter the state of my hair? Is God’s creation not good enough?

  4. I had heard about Good Hair but had no idea it was coming out so soon.

    I’ve had natural hair almost my whole life, after a brief time as a teenager when relaxing it left me with a ridiculous amount of damage.

    I have definitely felt like an anomaly but at first it wasn’t a matter of choice–& now I couldn’t see myself any other way. Given how personal a journey it is, it’s too bad that people still make such snap judgments (rebel/conformist) now.

  5. Whenever these issues are raised in a forum that isn’t necessarily targeted to black readers, one finds an interesting curiosity (often coupled with a lack of understanding) from readers of varied backgrounds. Most often I notice women who express admiration for kinky, coily black hair and wish their hair had the ability to be as multitextured, and then there are my curly haired Caucasian sisters who say their hair issues are similar which… I’m sorry, and I say this with love and affection — in my opinion, they aren’t. Hair texture is a much more complicated, deeply rooted issue in black communities around the world and I sincerely believe that so much of this dates back to the days of slavery. There’s more to be said (there always is), so maybe I’ll write a post on that in the future.

    Please do write that post.

    I was excited but apprehensive when I saw this article in the Times, and as I read through the comments my apprehension became more and more justified. Whenever these conversations hit spaces not specifically equipped to deal with such issues, there’s always the matter of outsiders wondering why it matters, wondering why you care. Or of other women trying to take the focus off of your pain, with the rallying cry of “But I’m oppressed, too! See, we are all equal!” And…no. I don’t desire at all to demean the personal struggles of white women who grew up with hair that could not be easily made to adhere to societal ideals. But there is an entirely different cultural/sociological lens at play when it comes to black women’s hair, and I grow weary of explaining that to non-black friends.

    And I’m going to hush now, before this comment becomes a post of its own.

  6. Love talking about our hair and I think for every conversation we have it makes another woman of colour at least consider going natural, and that alone is an important step for us.

  7. I am glad you took this on. A Facebook friend of mine posted the original NY Times link to which I responded “I can’t believe THIS is still an issue.

    I still in awe over the narrow mindedness but just be yourself. If you like your hair wild and free…like me… then great. If you rock a weave or permed hair…do you. You don’t need to prove your blackness with your hairstyle!

  8. I will say this-
    The reasons why many whites and other nationalities experience the mistreatment they do is LINKED to the reasons most of us still straighten our hair.
    When I observe the extent that some of them will go to straighten (what looks to me to managable) I realize that while the extent is not the same (in terms of self esteem and self loathing) the root of it is (the same)

    I don’t think they have gone through what we have but the fact does not miss me that curly/nappy/kinky/textured hair is still hated to the point that light skin (the media’s standard of beauty) cannot compensenate for the “flaw” of having nonstraight hair.
    Let’s not dismiss what other races have to say as it is a link to resolving this epidemic once and for all.

  9. For latest information you have to go to see world wide web and on the web I
    found this website as a finest web page for newest updates.

  10. I think that what you said was actually very reasonable.
    But, what about this? what if you were to create a awesome headline?
    I ain’t suggesting your information isn’t good,
    but suppose you added something to maybe grab folk’s attention?
    I mean The New York Times on Black Hair | Afrobella is
    kinda vanilla. You could look at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create article titles to get viewers to open the links.
    You might add a related video or a related pic or two to get people interested about what you’ve written.
    In my opinion, it could bring your website a little bit more interesting.

  11. It iss not always the christmas gift, but the thought tthat counts, so
    give some thought to your item diligently. Basically,
    offer something you know that the individual would really like, possibly something that has been brought
    up in talking or something tht you’ll have seen that person thinking of getting or exploring.

    You will find extra points to be acquired for entertainment and ingenuity.

  12. Sensus Capital Markets Germany
    Awesome! Its genuinely remarkable piece of writing,
    I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this piece
    of writing.

  13. The longer a person has smoked, the great the risk of getting it.

    What do you do to get rid of these sicknesses quickly.
    It is also used as an eye drop to dilate the pupil in order to arrange the visualization.

  14. This website definitely has all of the information I needed about
    this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  15. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing
    this website. I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own,
    personal website now ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] PostsYet Another Michelle Obama Hair ArticleHappy Independence Day to My Trinis!The New York Times on Black HairAvon 3-in-1 Giveaway Winners!Fefe’s Back!A Curly ConundrumCall Her Dr. RoxanneDear, Sweet [...]

Speak Your Mind

*