Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary was released nationwide this weekend. So, if you haven’t seen it, make a point to do so. On Saturday, I went solo to see the documentary, but upon entering the theater, I was among family. There were several Black women there with natural hair, of course, and we seemed to have gravitated to each other; perhaps in an unconscious act of solidarity—we know we’re in the minority among Black women.
Now, I will not go into details about the documentary because it is my desire that you flock to the theaters to see it for yourself, that is, if you haven’t seen it already. But, I will divulge the thoughts and feelings that I experienced while viewing it. First of all, it’s worth every dime of its money, mainly because it is funny and informative. So, I laughed quite a few times at Rock’s infamous dry wit humor, while being enlightened about some things that I need to research further. It spurned some ideas as well, but I won’t get into that. In many ways, it also concerned and, to some degree, troubled me.
I found myself wondering just how far have we come as a people. Why do we, Black women, go to such great lengths to alter our appearance under the guise of personal choice and supposedly to feel better about ourselves? Have we become so jaded that we actually believe the hype of longer and straighter hair makes us more beautiful? Apparently, we have…at least, according to Rock’s documentary. The issues brought up in the documentary bears discussing at great length in your own neighborhoods and social groups. I’m quite certain that Good Hair will convict a lot of Black women and make them think twice about something that they deemed as relatively insignificant—which is great!
I thought about my own hair journey as I recall getting my first relaxer at the tender age of seven. My mother had the hardest time working with my hair because it was thick and ultra-curly. To add, I was ‘tender-headed’, meaning that I didn’t want anyone to comb my hair because of the painstaking effort it took to detangle it. So, my mother bounced me off to the house of a distant cousin who was starting her beauty salon the old-fashioned way—in her kitchen. I kept getting my hair relaxed and wearing various styles (none of them included weave) until I turned 30. During that time, I didn’t even question why I was getting my hair relaxed. To me, it was just a normal activity for Black women—perhaps this thinking was embedded in me because I started getting a relaxer so young. Meanwhile, I was developing into one of the most Afrocentric sistas you have ever seen—all while I was straightening my African crown with No-Lye relaxers. I was even pro-Black about that as the black owned Dudley’s relaxer was my creamy crack of choice. Interesting, huh?
Before I made the final decision to go natural, I had thought about it quite a few times, hesitating at every turn. I was unraveling all of the deeply rooted notions about Black beauty and acceptance. How will I look? Would men like me with my natural hair? Will I be able to get a job? Did it even matter? Of course, it did…but I went against the grain and decided to go natural anyway, prepared to deal with all of the consequences. It’s been six years and counting…and the only regret I have is not doing it sooner. Here’s what I’ve learned, you have to make people accept you for who you are….not for what they expect you to be. In this day and age, companies have to adhere to their own bullshit about having a diverse workplace; so how I wear my hair is a non-entity, unless they want a lawsuit. As for Black men, I cannot count how many times I’ve been asked if they can touch the ‘Fro.
However, the reactions of other Black women has been the most startling observation. I recall one woman assuming that I let my relaxer go because I was losing hair…and once I got enough ‘new growth’, I was going to get it relaxed again. She kept saying, ‘Girl, when you get your new perm, it’s gonna be pretty!’. Once I informed her that my natural hair is intentional, she seemed surprised. Other Black women have made a point to compliment my hair; yet stated that they can’t wear their hair in its natural state because they don’t have ‘good hair’ like me but they got that ‘coarse, nappy hair that won’t do anything’. Ummm, what? That’s why it’s called ‘natural hair’! Ok, I’ll stop here because I could go on and on…
On a closing note, Good Hair forced me to think seriously about the degenerative effects of assimilation. It’s always been my theory that we pushed aside much of ourselves in order to be accepted within the larger society. This documentary serves as a great reference to prove my theory. As I search for some way to end this post, I realize that I will have to take this issue up again and continue the discussion (so expect a few more posts on the subject). It’s not about hair so much as it is about the psychological, social and cultural associations that’s attached to it. It’s deeper than personal choice, for the most part, so I strongly encourage those who want to write it off as minor to seriously consider that. Bear in mind, Chris Rock’s premise for doing this documentary came by way of his young daughter who asked him why she did not have ‘good hair’. So, this is something that’s being transferred to our young daughters; continuing to perpetuate a harmful cycle of poor self-image. I cannot become a staunch advocate against relaxers; especially since I used to be in the number of ‘permed up’ sistas, nevertheless, it is imperative that we teach ourselves and our children that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Let’s, at least, kill this notion of ‘good hair’ and spending boatloads of money on somebody else’s hair for the sake of exoticism and having that ‘flip’ action.
At the conclusion of Good Hair, I talked briefly with some of the women in the audience, agreeing that this documentary was much needed (whether the concept was stolen or not) and we both shared our impressions of certain parts of it. A couple of us even had the same reaction about the same parts. So again, if you haven’t, get out to the theaters to see it and then let me know what you think. As for me, I’ve given you a lengthy post about my thoughts, but overall, one thing’s for sure, as I left the theater, I was even happier to be nappy.