But you're also a lot more than just your hair!
In the ideal world people would be judged exclusively according to their personality. However, you don't see personality, you see how a person looks first and from that all your stereotypes and judgements box that person into "their category".
Everyone has stereotypes, some are good and some are bad. I was watching Wife Swap US (Haigwood/Hess-Webb) the other day: A very smartly presented, culturally-conscious black family was swapped with a set of white hill billies that lived the most bizarre life: they didn't send their kids to school or even home school them, they brushed their teeth with butter and clay (eww), they ate raw meat and believed water is bad for you! The woman looked a hot mess, she thought taking care of herself was a "waste of time".
When the white mum was trying to force her beliefs on the black family the black man said something that struck a cord with me, he said, "How can I take you seriously looking the way that you look?" This statement stopped the hill billy mum in her tracks because she realised it was true; to be taken seriously she needed to present herself better.
The fact is, the way you look leads to an instant judgement about your character and the judgement sticks. If you are a healthy weight, smartly dressed, you've taken the time to put on a little make up and maybe shave your legs and pits people think:
The stereotypes some may associate with my kinky hair are: wild (!), unkempt, messy, not professional, slave!
These stereotypes are changing but we are certainly not there yet, the more people wear natural hair the faster natural hair will be accepted as not only normal but also "good hair" in itself.
This process has already started to happen with some chinese people adorning reverse relaxers. Some black folk think the look makes a mockery of us but they couldn't be more wrong, it's a big compliment. I love reverse relaxer because it essentially says "I want to look like you black folk".
When I wore a relaxer I was essentially saying the same thing to straight haired folk, whether I acknowledged it or not. Many white girls with wavy or curly hair also spend hours every week straightening their hair for the same reason, they have been brain washed by the media and social strata to believe "straight" looks better and is more socially acceptable.
It's okay to want the straight haired look sometimes but it's NOT okay to want it all the time. It's a sign that you don't fully accept yourself. Whether you agree or not, that's what you are saying. Some have worn weaves for so long that if their head was supplanted with their own kinky hair they'd look in the mirror and think, "That's not me!" But it is you honey, it's as "YOU" as you can get.
I look different with natural hair than I did with relaxed hair.
My kinky 4C hair is naturally messy looking when it's loose. It doesn't twist out into silky looking bouncy coils. I acknowledge and accept these limitations; I work with them. If I am going to an important event such as an interview I pin my hair up. It looks neat albeit different to straight hair. Partial pin ups with some loose hair at the back also look good.
People write to me with their natural hair frustrations and ask for help before they slap on relaxer. Be patient with your hair, once you figure out what your hair "likes" your life will get much easier and you will be quite happy to BE your hair.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward