I was going about my business recently when I saw the caption on a T-shirt: “I don’t need a relaxer; my hair is not stressed out”. I laughed and thought to myself, how clever, yet the more I thought about it, the more potency the words had.
Countless black women have been seduced by the images of the slick straight hair that gives you the thrill of having the wind blow through your hair and tickle your scalp; being able to run your fingers through soft smooth tresses unhindered by kinks and knots, just like in the movies. I know because I have been at that point too many times to count.
It becomes more enticing on bad hair days when those edges just won’t cooperate or when you touch your hair and cringe because the feel of it is comparable to steel wool.
Despite the allure, I am still natural but it might not have been that way had my mother not laid the gauntlet down and categorically stated, “No chemical processing of your hair. You were born with it so you better learn to love it.”
How I hated that, but years later I began to embrace my hair and India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” became my anthem. It seems this song strikes a chord with those who opt to relax their hair as well, since the song takes no sides in the hair debate. Many moms are desirous of maintaining their daughters’ natural hair, though they themselves choose to get a relaxer.
Which brings me back to the question: can you teach your kids to love their natural hair if you are relaxed?
The natural hair movement has come a far way judging by the substantial 12.4 percent decline in the sales of relaxers between 2009 and 2011. Still, a significant number of black women continue to get relaxers. Much debate has sparked from this with many advocates of the natural hair movement saying that getting a relaxer is an indication that you are still mentally enslaved and have not yet embraced your true cultural identity.