The day I decided to go natural, it was strictly about my health. At the time, I had a discolored shade of blonde that was created in the sink of a sketchy hair salon. The thickness of my hair, that I grew to appreciate by the time I hit 18, was no longer thick because of the continued unhealthy manipulation of my hair. My diet did not help either. Once I did the “big chop” and began rocking my TWA (teeny weeny afro), I started to question why I was transitioning to natural. Was it strictly about my health and growth, or was it something deeper?
Not only did I realize that there was something powerful in owning my natural blackness; the idea of being myself was so freeing. When I say, “being myself,” I mean being able to participate in activities that make me happy such as, swimming and working out. When I had a relaxer, it was draining to constantly worry about my hair and stopping myself from doing things that brought me happiness.
At the beginning of my natural hair journey, I was attending an HBCU, so it was amazing to see all these beautiful Black women and men own their natural Black beauty. This is not to say that those who choose to relax their hair do not own their Black beauty. One of the issues with this mentality of natural versus relaxers is that the hair choices that Black women make should not be dependent upon what they think is right or better. Choosing to be natural is not equivalent to joining a cult. It is equivalent to empowerment, cherishing the skin you are in, and choosing to feel beautiful regardless of what society says or thinks. There is nothing wrong with relaxers when it is solely based on what makes the individual happy and not based on the internalized racism that some perpetuate within themselves and others. Whether you are natural, relaxed, dreadlocked up, or weaved out, it is all about how a woman feels on the inside, which then projects itself on the outside.
At the end of the day, the “rules” for Black hair care on both ends of the spectrum and the opinions of others should not dictate your own personal decision to go natural or remain relaxed. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your appearance.
This is in response to previous post, #TeamNatural?
By Shannon Smith, follow her on twitter
Masters Candidate in Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement