Before I reverted my hair back to its natural state 21 years ago, I had been going to the hairdresser every two weeks for almost 20 years; my mom began taking me when I was 4, saying she couldn’t do anything with my thick hair. So for the next 18 years I got my hair straightened with a hot comb, the blow dryer and finally relaxers and each of these methods changed the structure of my hair and even caused a thinning of my left edges which lasts until this day. My mom was only doing what she knew to do. When, still at 4, she had to wash my hair at home because my hairdresser was sick and she had to let it air dry because we didn’t own a dryer, I begged her to let me keep the afro my drying hair was becoming. She quickly told me she was going to press that “nappy _____.” Her declaration, an attack on my hair, began my struggle to embrace my natural hair, which I have always thought was beautiful. She thought differently, had been taught differently, but over the years she embraced her own natural hair, now having worn a short afro for about the last 10 years.
I had to wait until I was physically grown to embrace my hair, and my mom was really grown—60—when she embraced her hair. This may have been a long time for us, but it should be expected. Our culture has privileged whiteness over blackness for centuries, really pronounced when slave masters pitted house slaves against field slaves. The house slaves more often than not were the mulattos and the field slaves were the dark-skinned blacks. The house slaves didn’t have to work in the heat performing extreme physical labor. Their white skin, the result of a white slave master impregnating a black slave, allowed them the “privilege” to work closely with the slave master. In general during black American slavery, whites embraced that blacks were less than human, even years after slavery legalizing this twisted view with Jim Crow laws. And we still have laws written upon men’s hearts that manifest themselves with redlining, which is in full effect. When people constantly tell you that, treat you like and legalize you to be less of a person, it is hard not to believe it. We believe the old cultural saying “If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, stick around; it you’re black, get back.” And we all have told someone or some aspect of black to “get back” in one way or another.
Black women straighten their hair because they hate it “nappy.” Some of us won’t shop black businesses; we won’t hire black people; we won’t seek black expertise; we ignore black expertise when it’s given; we assume black shoppers and professionals are sales clerks, janitors or some other form of help; we think dark skin is ugly; we think dark people are mean, violent, dirty and other negatives associated with being dark. Some black folks bleach their skin and have surgery to slenderize their noses and lips in an effort to become privileged, to be accepted by the privileged, to get the benefits of white privilege. We hate blackness, but that’s not biblical.
From one man (God) created all the nations throughout the whole earth.—Acts 17:26 (NLT)
When God created everything, including humankind, He saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31). That didn’t change when He created other ethnic groups from the blood of the original man, Adam. So when we decide to see someone or some inherent aspect of someone as bad that God sees as good, we are not only violating the person but we are violating God. We are challenging God’s wisdom in creating black people the way He created them and are seeking to destroy what He made. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and the only way we can do that is if we remember that God loves them just as much as He loves us. We must model our lives after Him; we must exhibit that we are children of the Most High God. We must cease hating blackness and begin to love.
Take a Risk Challenge: So this week, to help us celebrate Black History Month here on the blog, I want you to think of the way or ways you have told black to get back and renounce that. This is the first step to being able to love blackness and is a radical act of love.