Natural Hair In The Caribbean: The Truth

African American woman with natural hair looking confusedClothes check, shoes check, nails check, hair double check. Caribbean women take great pride in their appearance; we love to look good. We believe in rocking the latest trends, and personalizing the fiercest styles.

We take it so seriously that we often go to extremes to fit in with fashion fads (like wearing knee high boots with fur and matching winter scarf in scorching summer temperatures).

In Jamaica for instance, each ensemble must be complemented by the perfect hairstyle to match and I do mean match; purple wig for purple halter, pink and blond extensions for pink pumps that match pink shorts.

Until recently it would seem that we had never heard the concept of throwing in a little contrast. Now that is what you call ghetto fabulous!

The thrust of natural hair pride is like a fever washing the United States and Europe but the truth about natural hair in the Caribbean is that many of the older women – our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers- still perpetuate the insecurities they inherited from our ancestors before them.

The Caribbean is a place of great racial diversity; a melting pot of cultures. To understand how natural hair is viewed in the Caribbean, you would have to take a look back at slavery where colonizers used brute force to spawn what many Caribbean nationals refer to as “brownings” or the “mixed” blacks.

Often they would have “privileges” above the darker blacks put out in the fields, since the brownings were closer to the master’s shade and could remain in the main house. This caused a rift among blacks who now envied and despised the mixed blacks.


This still exists, but whether they are envied or despised, those with looser curl patterns, wavy or straight slick hair are still regarded as though they have pedigree. It is totally acceptable and natural for the mixed people, to go natural since they are considered to have the “right type of hair” to go natural.

Even the darker shaded people subscribe to this, so much so that you will be ridiculed as the tough headed or “picky-picky head gal” who takes no pride in her appearance. In St. Lucia someone with afro-textured hair might be termed a negresse (St. Lucian French Kweyol derogatory term for a woman with nappy hair).

In essence, all Caribbean territories have the “little dirty word” used to refer to afro-textured hair. If I dare to venture out to work in an afro adorned by a scarf I will be met with:

“Can’t you comb your hair?” or “Why are you letting yourself go like that, do you want me to fix your hair?”

I know, because it has happened quite a few times. If you have a darker skin tone, proper grooming means relaxed strands, braided extensions or if you insist on sporting your natural texture, twists and corn rows.

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About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

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sabzHannah OkoraforTyjondah MarshallCandie Da-BossladyRegine Gordon Recent comment authors
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Liz Marie Maysonet Sostre

The article should have been titled “Natural hair in Jamaica”. These views and attitudes towards natural hair are not prevalent in my home country of Puerto Rico.

Nikki

Im from st. Lucia and my hair is natural and i have never been called a “negresse.” I have never even used the word or heard it being used by any st. Lucian i know….. This article is “interesting” even laughable.

Kimelle Jemmott

Everyone everywhere has an opinion on this topic as with any other. As a person with natural hair living in Barbados I find this article laughable. Please do not presume to speak on the behalf of the entire Caribbean. I have many friends and family who sport natural hair, I see people proudly wearing their hair in its natural state every time I step outside of my house. I definately cannot relate to anything this author has written.

Tora-Joy Patrick

Than you Liz
and kimelle. The author lumped all of the Caribbean into this one article when in fact she is only speaking from her experienced in Jamaica and that’s not fair. While there is some hair bias in my island of Barbados as with everywhere else we for the most part accept natural hair. It is not common for children to get relaxers as parents feel that is too “womanish”. The young children u with relaxers (and not under the age of seven like in America) usually have young parents who either find it difficult to plait the child’s hair or could not be bothered with that.

Regine Gordon

Im of Haitian descent and I feel like women in the Caribbean seem to wear dreads, twist, and 2 finger twist more often than not.

Tyjondah Marshall

What real research has this writer done to determine this article a generalization of the Caribbean woman and natural hair?

I am a Trinidadian and as it’s seen here, this article is not a holistic reflection of my country’s women of African heritage/extract…

Redo your research then rewrite a more accurate account!!!!!

Hannah Okorafor

She even said west Africa is believed to be where the black Caribbean people come from. And a number of suspect things…

Article say she’s from Tobago as well. But, most is focused on Jamaica.

Candie Da-Bosslady

@Liz Marie Maysonet Sostre….this article should not be titled”natural hair in Jamaica”ridiculous! this is not the Jamaican truth.I can not relate to the things said in the article an I didn’t even read beyond the first page….smh

sabz
sabz

this article is so wrong about st Lucian I didn’t even want to read the rest please do more research before implying that we use derogatory words to naturalistas cause there is no truth to this in st lucia we praise people with natural hair.this is pure nonsense. ps ive nerver heard that word in my life as a st lucia my mom don’t even know it.