Natural or Relaxed?

To relax or not to relax? This has been the question many black women have asked themselves. This is because black women have been taught that the idea that straight hair is more acceptable since childhood. To the point that numerous young girls don't even think about learning how to properly care for their hair. And instead assume getting a perm is just a part of growing up.

The media has a lot to do with it. Black women are usually seen with long, straight, flowing hair. Even on packages that contain kinky hair used for twists, there is a picture of a black woman with long, straight hair. Until recently, women who chose to go natural were often portrayed as eccentric. Or they were dismissed as being afrocentric. Also, some biased beliefs dating back to slavery still survive today. During that period of bondage, African-American hair was viewed as dirty and unkempt. So, many blacks were shamed by their hair and eventually found ways to change its state. After awhile, it just became the social norm for black women to have relaxed hair.

Often, a woman who chooses to maintain her natural hair is considered to be going against the grain. Some even believe (as per an article in Glamour Magaizine) that this type of hair is not appropriate in the corporate world.

For a brief period in history during the 1960’s -1970’s, natural hair became a source of cultural pride. The Civil Rights Movement caused many to esteem their heritage, including their locks. It was common for men and women to wear afros or other natural styles. However, as the Movement died down so did these displays of diverse African-American hairdos. Many returned to using chemicals or heat on their tresses to achieve a straighter look.

Today however, the tide is once again changing. Many women of African descent are returning to their natural roots. It has become more and more common to see blacks on television with cornrows, braids, afros, and many other culturally unique hairstyles. Women such as Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, and Kim Fields-Freeman wear their hair unapologetically.

What is there to be sorry for anyway? It would be odd for Caucasians or other ethnicities to feel inferior because they were born with straight hair. It is natural for their hair to grow that way after all. That should also be the attitude regarding African textured hair. The way it grows out of our scalp is the way it was designed to be.

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