The politicisation of women’s bodies, black women particularly; extends from stripping them of their reproductive rights and bodily autonomy to telling them the hair that grows out of their head is not good enough; not presentable and unfit for larger society.
Hair discrimination is thinly-veiled racism that serves to assert white dominance and hegemony in society. Black people are denied access to jobs and schools based on their hair. In some spaces, black hair in its natural forms like dreadlocks and natural hairstyles are banned and deemed unprofessional.
American states like California and New Jersey passed the “Crown Act” outlawing discrimination based on natural hairstyles associated with only a certain race (again, not-so-covert racism) in 2019. That just goes to show that as recently as three years ago, companies could refuse black people employment because of their hair and get away with it.
The natural hair movement encourages women and men of African descent to embrace their natural afro-textured hair. In America, the manifestations of the movement are evident in the passing of the Crown Act and similar legislation in the 11 states that have outrightly prohibited discrimination based on hair texture.
The sole purpose of discrimination against black hair, especially the kind that does not have loose, bouncy curls and characteristic black hairstyles like braids and Bantu knots is to uphold white supremacy and unfortunately, these practices can be found even in predominantly black spaces.
In Ghana, a child with dreadlocks was denied entry into a school because of his hair. We have also had to sit through countless Twitter discussions about how weaves are superior and braids and natural hairstyles are unfit for birthdays and other such fanciful events.
It should be indisputable that all hair is good hair. Even among black people, type 4C hair is regarded as difficult to maintain and even though the natural hair movement was built around this type of hair, it has become a movement that glorifies looser textures and a lot of mainstream black hair care tips exclude thicker curl patterns.
Texturism exists even among black people, and it is evident through practices like relaxing hair and hairdressers charging extra for natural hair. 4c hair is seen as difficult and is referred to as “nappy”. The expectation that black hair is permed, straightened, edges laid to be presentable is anti-black. Our hair is malleable in its natural state given proper care and need not be bent out of shape to fit arbitrary standards.
Many chemical hair relaxers predominantly used by and marketed to Black women contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, are possibly carcinogenic and repeated use damages the hair. Studies show that it may also cause hair loss and thinning, greying, split ends and dandruff.
Truly, tighter curls may be harder to comb and style but given adequate care, the possibilities of what you can do with your hair are limitless. The black hair care movement is becoming more mainstream and this has led to increased awareness on how to take care of and style black hair in its natural state without excess manipulation and product.