Can I Live: A Rant on Natural Hair

It can be hard out here for Black women who do not straighten their hair and/or wear weaves. Over the past year a number of  stories regarding the treatment little black girls receive from other children and school administrators have come to light. In the latest incident 12 year-old Vanessa VanDyke was threatened with expulsion unless she cut or straightened her hair as it was a “distraction”. When I saw Vanessa’s picture my first thought was how beautiful and healthy her hair looked. Her thick, billowy halo mirrors my daughters’ when she wears it down. I see my daughter, myself and all sisters who wear natural hair in stories like Vanessa’s, and my rage flares. The fact that our hair is fussed over so much grates my nerves. To hear our hairstyles classified as ‘fads’ and
to see them deemed ‘inappropriate’ begs the question: can I live?

I’m not asking that our hair textures be the standard that everyone is held to. Nor do I seek validation and accolades for wearing natural hair. However I do emphatically assert the right of all black women to wear their natural hair and not be persecuted for it. White women exercise that same right every day and we think nothing of it. I have no tolerance for the notion that it should be any different for black women.

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A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

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