Black Hair Matters (Part 2)

“Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.”– Excerpt from Black Hair Matters Part 1

“Having had the wrong kind of education, the Negro has become his own greatest enemy.”– Marcus Garvey

“We speak often of modernized curricula at the secondary level, and the need to pay attention not just to academic/technical areas of study, but to the sense of identity that young people develop as students. Part of this identity is of course the history of their country and region, and their place in this history. Not just in the Caribbean but wherever young, Black women live, we are told that our hair is somehow inadequate: it is ‘hard’ or ‘knotty’. It is not straight ‘enough’, although enough for whom or what one cannot be sure. And where we are kindly allowed to wear our hair naturally as it grows from our heads, there are caveats: as long as it is pulled back or braided tight or otherwise tamed.”[1]

Though no one can force someone to start seeing and appreciating black beauty, it would be beneficial for us to start questioning our beliefs about race, beauty and natural hair. If we recognized that those who created the dominant cultural ideas we’ve internalized did so for their benefit, and not ours, we would be better able to understand that the psychological conflict this internalization causes is self-destructive. Self-hatred continues the cycle of self-degradation, and it’s impossible to teach our children about their self worth, and get them to take their history seriously, if our own sense of self is distorted through a white lens. What are the lessons being taught to us as a society that teachers would think sending a child home for wearing their natural hair out is acceptable and excusable?

“Among my primary concerns is the message being sent to young women of African heritage in this country that their natural selves are of necessity untidy, unsuitable or otherwise inadequate. The argument that “students can do whatever they like once they enter the real world, but this is school” also misunderstands the role of formal education and the process of young people’s development. School is the real world. Young people are understanding themselves and their environment, and while becoming who they will be, they also are.”[2]

Lessons of self- confidence, self- worth and self- identity have to be incorporated into the collective consciousness. Therefore, children have to be socialized to believe their self worth. I’ve heard parents tell their children, “Nuh deh wid nobody blacker than u madda or fada!

Choose a man wid pretty hair suh yuh pickney can have pretty hair

Nuh bring home nuh black picky picky head man/gyal fi meet mi

I’ve heard teachers tell children,

“Yuh see how yuh black” as if being black was some sort of leprosy and something to be avoided or ashamed of.

Children spend most of their time at home and school. The only way to undo all what we have learned as it relates to self hate is to constantly drive home the message of self love. The brain is a creature of repetition; whoever gets at it the most will rule it. The brain cannot resist the temptation to believe something that is regularly presented before it or that it’s regularly fed. So that’s what makes teachers’ jobs so hard yet critical. Children only spend approximately 8 hours at school. What do they spend the other 16 hours doing, hearing, and watching? The formative years of conditioning are from birth to 12. It is counterproductive that we (parents, teachers, society) instill values consistent with self hate in those critical years and then try to change them after they have already been habituated and developed personalities and hard habits. As the Jamaican proverb appropriately states, “ben’ the tree when it young, when it old, it will bruck” What people have ever been freed by giving the best years of their children to their ‘oppressor’? The ‘oppressor’, in this instance, is the value system of white bias.[3]

We have to replace the old zero-tolerance approach with an approach built on the conviction that suspension and expulsion don’t solve problems at the root of student misbehavior. Continuing to promote zero tolerance, masking it as just a commitment to discipline and blind social conformity, we are failing future generations of black kinky hair students. When you fail to engage your school boards in the conversation around changing these outdated rules, that’s your contribution to the old guard. Yes, systems matter, and yes, there are villains and bad apples out there. But we’ve got to be way more honest and own our contribution to all of this. Our contribution can be what we do but also what we fail to do. Let’s make it personal, and admit our own fault and contributions to this value system that promotes ‘white bias’. I know that’s hard to hear. But yes, you and I, intelligent, well-intentioned warriors of discipline — we contribute to the system when we say nothing and do nothing. If we remain silent in matters of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.

I can see somebody reading and saying, “Look at her telling us not to uphold school rules and preaching about natural hair like she is more enlightened and confident than all of us. But she can say wah she waan say, she don’t have to deal with these unruly kids on a daily basis? and who are you to say we have issues of self hate just because we’re not natural?” I promise you, my intention is not to seem like I am the Malcolm X of natural hair advocacy or that I am righteous and have all the answers. It’s purely out of love for my people when I suggest that rejecting straightened hair is symbolic of a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which are deemed ‘socially acceptable’ are the only means of looking ‘presentable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘groomed’, ‘appropriate’, ‘respectable’, ‘neat’, ‘professional’ and attaining success in society. I, like the other person, am still on that journey of undoing and unlearning all the blatant and subliminal negative messages that were fed to me in my formative years.

The first step to ‘rehabilitation’ is admission and realizing a need for change. Let’s consciously correct our subconscious thoughts, our conversations, and our actions. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. In fact, I have to stop myself from saying and doing things daily that contradict this empowerment of which I speak of. If your ‘discipline’ undermines the values of self love, self worth and self acceptance, it’s time for it to be disrupted.

Others should not be able to dictate to us what is beautiful and we just sit powerlessly regurgitating those beauty standards. Racism ‘works’ by encouraging the devaluation of self-identity by the victims themselves, and that re-centering of a sense of pride is a prerequisite for resistance and reconstruction. Let us take charge of the messages we consume daily and the messages we allow our children to consume. Our hair doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’! Society’s view of beauty is what is broken. I’ve been told more often than not that I’m prejudiced towards women with natural hair. I am not. Some of my most beloved friends have processed hair. However, I choose to highlight beauties with natural hair through this medium because, as a black woman, I understand that I needed to see positive images of black natural hair beauties and, by highlighting them, I am contributing, if only minutely, to my people seeing themselves as BEAUTIFUL. I am challenging the idea that there is one standard of beauty. Good hair is not only straight hair or hair with curl patterns closer to Caucasian, Indian or Asian textures. ‘Good hair’ is HEALTHY hair whether it be kinky, curly, coily, nappy, or straight.

“Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

We are Kings and Queens whose history have been distorted because we allowed someone else to tell it. We were never slaves. We were enslaved. Two different things. I see a need to incorporate and structure our history in the school curriculum in a way that empowers us as a people and that builds self esteem. But who would teach it if there are teachers who themselves need these lessons? Black Hair Matters. Until these hair rules are applied unbiasedly to all kinds of hair then you are asking us to accept that we are ‘valorized according to the tilt of our whiteness’ and that ‘rules are rules’ and must be followed regardless. Back in the day you may have blindly followed and upheld those hair rules but now that you know better or at least should know better (even if only after reading this). Don’t you think it would be irresponsible and cowardice to go back to enforcing those kinds of ‘rules’? The mind stretched by an idea can never be returned to its original dimensions. No man can grow and remain the same. Are you going to stunt positive growth and awareness because of fear and because ‘it has always been done that way’?

Let us be brave if only for the future generation.

Let us not apologise for the texture of our hair and for being disruptive about policies and changes that affect our race.

Let us not judge our beauty based on European standards or we will forever believe we are ‘ugly’ and ‘inadequate’. We are not Europeans. We are AFRICANS… and our hair (and lives) matter.
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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

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[1] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[2] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[3] Dr. Umar Johnson

*Not all images are property of the blog

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Raise Your Price!

mighty race

“If you put a small value on yourself, rest assured, the world will not raise your price.”

I’ve always known this but the revelation has just now jumped at me so refreshingly and with such a convincing intensity that I had to write about it.

The secret has been out for so long, yet as a people, we refuse to consciously decide to act and change the way we view ourselves. We refuse to change our limiting beliefs of who we are and what we are worth. The startling realization that the ONLY thing that could be keeping you down, keeping you in bondage, keeping you poor, keeping you in bad relationships is how you see yourself, is still not even enough to force you to see your worth.

It’s as clear to me as daylight now. Have you ever wondered how such a strong, powerful, smart, ingenuous, creative race could succumb to being enslaved for so long? It’s simple, our oppressors weren’t any stronger, any greater in numbers, any more creative but what they had was the “secret”. You keep someone down by instilling their sense of worthlessness, by ensuring they never come to realize their worth. You do that to someone, and you have in your possession a devoted slave for life… a slave to oppressive systems, a slave to bad relationships, a slave to mediocrity, a slave to failure, a slave to low esteem… Now, you do that to a nation, to an entire race and you can just imagine the power you hold in your hands.

You’ll notice the minute someone starts seeing his worth, his actions change. The fact is, no one can change without first changing his mindset…That’s where it all starts. Our very decisions are affected when we change how we think. We start making better choices, accepting better things and refusing to accept that which is bad for us because we know what we deserve. Marcus Garvey said that without confidence in self we are twice defeated in the race of life but that confidence only comes when we realize our worth. Our worth is tied to our possibilities.

When you know your worth, you walk accordingly. So there is really no magic to what people have been saying all along about the law of attraction. If you are walking with your head down, if you have a low self esteem, if you are negative etc., you will send off that signal and you’ll attract those things and people to your life that may feed on those kinds of attitudes and energies. However, a woman, who is confident, looks good and knows it, knows what she’s about, knows what she wants and what she’s worth will attract those men bold enough to take on the challenge and will probably deter those that don’t think they can match up to the expectations. That’s the simple Law of Attraction…. we attract what we honour, what we respect and what we believe.

I’m not saying it’s easy to change how we think and how we view ourselves especially since some of us have been born to believe our worthlessness but it’s NECESSARY if we are going to improve our lives, make better choices and BUILD the confidence Garvey wanted us to have… What is good about you? What is different about you? Find out and instill in yourself a sense of worth. Read good books that will help the process. Hang around people who know their worth and who are confident and positive. Your life is in your hands. You cannot depend on others to make you feel worthwhile because such is the system of slavery and capitalism….designed to keep you in classes- one above the other, one smarter than the other, one richer than the other, one superior to the other…

Find your worth, cherish it, internalize it, live it….. and see yourself walk into a better life.

You are worthy. Raise your price!

Love,

Queen Stacia.

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