Naturals: The “Real” vs The “Fake”
Are you a natural if your hair is natural under a weave or wig or if you regularly flat iron? The answer is: It depends on who you ask. This was never a debate when I was growing up as a natural or even a few years ago because there was no natural hair community and natural hair wasn’t a “thing.” Instead people were just confused as to why I wouldn’t just look like everyone else.
It’s a question of what you consider the natural hair movement is TO YOU. Some consider it to be a movement towards abandoning relaxers or the “creamy crack” as we have now learned how damaging it can be to our scalps and overall health. I suppose if you subscribe to that thinking, simply not relaxing would make you natural, meaning wearing a weave, wig, any protective style and even flat ironing would still be natural. Others believe that the movement is actually geared towards embracing our hair texture and challenging the European standard of beauty after feeling the need to conform for so long in order to be more accepted by society. For those of us that take the latter position, sewing the hair of another person into your own or even flat ironing regularly further pushes the European standard of beauty. Now you’re just doing it without a relaxer.
The problem with disenfranchising a person is that we all stand to be disenfranchised in the eyes of someone else. Am I a real natural because I mostly do wash and go’s? It depends on who you ask. See, sometimes I use a hooded dryer to avoid an 8 hour dry time. In the eyes of someone, that could be an offense. I’m using a tool and one with heat at that. I actually purchase products and don’t whip up butters and creams in my kitchen. Is that another strike? It seems to me that we’re just looking for more categories to put people in. Natural vs Relaxed, 3c vs 4c, good hair vs bad hair, light skin vs dark skin, etc. It’s beautiful when the movement is about encouragement, empowerment, education, and health, but it’s dangerous when we turn it into finding a way to tell someone “I’m better than you” or “more of something than you.” We all know how it feels to use proper grammar and to be told we’re “not black enough” or to wear our natural texture and be looked at as “not white enough.” Do you want to do that to someone else?
We have to understand sometimes there are steps to things and everyone doesn’t jump all the way in immediately or ever. Maybe someone wants to wear their natural texture but they’ve had a relaxer their entire life and they’re just not comfortable yet, so they wear braids. I hardly think you commenting on their Instagram to tell them they’re not a real natural will help them. What if you encourage them to embrace their journey and share how you became comfortable? And why is it that the most common aggressor I’ve seen commenting are those that have been natural for a year or two? You just found “the light” but you’re trying to dim someone else’s? Sometimes letting people know what they are not enough of, makes you feel like you’re more of it and that’s a frame of mind we have to get out of. I’m sure an oppressor somewhere rejoices in the division that WE CREATE.
So where do I stand? It’s up to you to define yourself and be proud of the standard and image you put forth. I consider myself a natural because I wear and embrace my natural kinks and curls, but my journey is a little different and not at all new. My parents never allowed me to relax my hair and always told me “your hair is fine the way it is.” I simply carry that on in my adult life. My hope is always when a little girl sees me in Target, she feels she doesn’t have to change either. Growing up, I saw plenty of relaxers and wraps, but I can’t help but imagine how encouraged I would’ve been to see a big curly fro. I try to be what I wish I had to look to, so a silky press or Brazilian bundle isn’t really my ministry, but maybe seeing someone with those things will show someone else an alternative to a relaxer. In my mind, anytime someone is not risking their health for a relaxer, it’s a victory for all of us HOWEVER they decide to do it. Even if you have a relaxer, I’m more concerned about your spirit than your hair.
How do define natural?