“Why? It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.” These words were uttered by a white coworker who looked incredulously at me when I expressed that I didn’t want to cut my hair into the trendy style she had suggested. My hair at the time was a very awkward TWA, perhaps even warranting its own abbreviation as an MWA (Mid-way afro).
Basically, it wasn’t short enough to really be called “teeny weeny”, and not quite long enough to be the bold afro style every naturalista fantasizes about. So I was stuck, and it was tempting to imagine shaving down my sides, getting a fade and wearing something that would be much more suited to my face shape, and style in general.
But since my long-term goal was the aforementioned fantasy fro, the thought of shaving my sides to me seemed like a fate worse than death. By this time I was a year into my natural hair journey and my MWA, no matter how awkward, was a powerful reminder of my gains. Hard earned and carefully tended, these inches were more valuable to me than any attention that jumping on the newest fad would have gotten me.
Her statement though, that it was “just hair”, was unintentionally loaded with privilege. It made me feel both embarrassed and belittled at the same time.
Although there are plenty of black women who could care less whether they grew or shaved or dyed their hair, there is, I believe, an equal number of black women for whom every inch gained represents a sort of victory.