THOSE PEOPLE

A black magazine for people too hip for black magazines. 

If Another Motherfucker Comments on the Need for Me to “Do Something” with My Hair, I Swear to God

If Another Motherfucker Comments on the Need for Me to “Do Something” with My Hair, I Swear to God

 
For the Black woman I currently love, whose hair, in all of its evolving stages, will always be beautiful:

I’m minding my own business — as I’m wont to do — and a young white woman I’ve known only a handful of days says to me, “You should fix your hair, you need to pick it out.”

“No I don’t,” I respond to her. “It’s perfectly fine.”

All she did was shake her head.

Now, this for sure is no new phenomenon — white folks have long been policing and disciplining the hair of Black folks and other folks of Color. It is a means by which our hair is coerced to assimilate, to “straighten” up, to be “presentable.” Read: White.

The message is one of respectability politics: be more mainstream (white), more neat and clean (white, white), and less strange and different (Black).

It implies that, as Chris Rock once jokingly said in a stand-up act: “If it’s all white, it’s all right!”

My hair, as a proxy for my Blackness, doesn’t fit with their notions of propriety. They tryna lock up my Blackness, re-shackle it and drape me in all white with that whack shit. They tryna chop down the forest blooming on my head, casting a gleam of radiant curled obsidian. They tryna knock my swag. Y’all musta forgot, yo. This shit right here, this shit right here — is my Blackness. Don’t touch.

My unruly fro is a site of fugitive naps that has gotten me into some shit.

Like this other time on Facebook this dude I haven’t talked to in almost four years — I mean, like, not one word, and we weren’t even all that buddy-buddy to begin with — comments on a picture of mine, saying:

“You need a haircut bro. Getting nappy.”

I’m sorry, I gotta step outside of myself real quick and say something real uncharacteristic:

Image created by Kwesi Abbensetts

Image created by Kwesi Abbensetts

 

“NIGGA, WHAT?!”

The guy was a white-looking dude of Russian descent, but justifiably classified as what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls an “Honorary White” — essentially a multiracial person/person of Color, akin to Malcolm X’s construction of the “House Negro,” who is more pro-white than white folks themselves, defends a system that discriminates against them, and acts as a buffer between white folks at the top and collective Black folks at the bottom — and I replied back to him with a swiftness:

I must say I don’t appreciate your comment, Dan. My initial thought is that it has racist undertones — recall to mind Don Imus’ “nappy headed hoes” comment and the black children who are suspended from school for having dreadlocks and other “faddish”, “unkempt” hairstyles — i.e.typically the natural hair texture of people of Color. I will not tolerate the comment, nor the word “nappy” as I strongly think it is used exclusively on people of Color as a way to denigrate how our hair typically grows. I don’t need to cut anything. I like my hair as it is and will continue to keep it that way.

His response:

“-_-”

A blank stare. As if my reaction — rejection — was unfathomable. He was only carrying out the will of the powers that be. What’s the harm in that? So down — or up — to my hair I try to practice fugitivity. And this is the price of it. They will come for you, and you must refuse. This policing is such an apt word. These comments try to gun me down, put a cap in my ass.

Bullets do know what color your skin is.

No more hands up. Fists up.

My man Joshua Bennett, spoken word poet who has shown me so much love, was on point with this in his poem Say It, Sing It If the Spirit Leads:

Say, ‘no, you will not touch [or comment upon] my hair.’ Say, ‘for real. The next time you try I will slap you.’

And Black folks have done this to me, too. My sister, ten-years-old, has told me numerous times I need to cut my hair, comb it — “Do something with it.”

She too, immersed in the smog of white aesthetic normativity — a fancy way to say ‘If it’s all white, it’s all right!’ — is trying to rein me in, trying to get me to be “normal,” trying to quash my rebelliousness.

Nah. We don’t do that over here.

Commenting on my hair, while racist as hell, shows me that you think something categorically negative about Black hair, and thus feel the need to correct it by imposing your own white standards onto it. I wish you would. Trying to fix my hair is nothing more than trying to make me less Black.

Leave my hair alone because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
 
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