Natural Hair Has Never Meant Freedom for Me

My Thing Is: The “revolution” just subjected the look I’ve always had to a different kind of scrutiny.

Posted: March 24 2014 2:01 AM



Growing up, I was the only biracial girl in a white family in a rural Wisconsin town. My hair has always been natural, but back then, I had no idea what “natural” was. I was raised ignorant of most black cultural issues, leaving my education about the debate between natural vs. processed hair to college friends and Chris Rock. (I didn’t even know what relaxer was until my teen years, and didn’t fully understood the mechanics of a weave until I started watching America’s Next Top Model in high school.)

Being mixed race, my genetic makeup expressed itself through my hair with a certain “in-between-ness,” claiming neither the color nor the texture associated with the polarized standards of white and black beauty. Its hybridity confused people, and as you can imagine, that confusion evoked questions, misunderstanding, touching and pulling. As a child, I was scrutinized in a way that felt merciless.

Any new hairstyle I wore to school elicited either a yea or nay from each passerby in the hallway. Worse than that, I’d find pieces of paper tucked into my curls with phrases like “Cut your hair” written on them.

The constant ridicule left me jaded, paranoid and riddled with a level of self-consciousness that would make me cry in the bathroom during school days.


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