by Jasmine White

Sometimes I look at the pieces of my chemically-straightened hair that are scattered around my bathroom floor, and I wonder what it would be like if things were different. What if relaxers were never invented? What if having afro-kinky hair was okay?

I’ve been getting my hair chemically straightened since I was around eight, and before then, I got my hair pressed with a straightening comb each week. I have no idea what my natural texture looks like besides from what I can guess from childhood pictures and the tiny bit of roots that grow out before I straighten them again. My hair is at my shoulders and will not grow past them because of breakage.

The answer to my dilemma may seem simple: just go natural! But here’s the thing—I’m not a big fan of natural hair. (Am I even allowed to say that?)

At least, I don’t like natural hair on me. I cannot see my hair being anything but straight, straight, straight.

The question then becomes why.  Why can’t I accept the way I am? Why do I try to change this thing?  Will there ever be time when I feel different? Can’t I be beautiful even with even a shaved head? How nice it would be if the answers to all these questions were yes.

Often, women haves been forced to rely on their beauty to get anywhere.  Soft red lips, small waist, thin fingers, and long, silky hair are measures of “success.” This is the ultimate image that’s been created for us, the rocky,mountain that we must climb in order to succeed. Times have changed, you might say. It’s not that way anymore. Yes. I would have to agree with you.  Now you have to be pretty and smart.

But what if I’m not beautiful to the majority of the world? What do I do if I don’t look like this:

Or this:

What if I am this instead?

The black hair industry rakes in over nine billion dollars a year, more than any other hair industry in the US.

What costs so much? It’s the weaves and the relaxers; the wigs and the pony tails; the flat irons and the hair dryers; the creams promising “straight and shiny.” And what makes people keep buying into it even when they’re struggling to feed themselves?  Because this is what it takes to be beautiful, and being beautiful means being powerful. It means you can accomplish the things that you should have been able to with just your smarts and your character alone.

Even within the black community, there are debates between what is “nappy” hair, and what is “good” hair? Good hair being the looser, wavier type of hair. It looks a bit like this:

I dare to say that black women have been brainwashed into thinking that kinky, coarse, tightly-coiled hair is not acceptable.  I say this because I believe that is what has happened to me. While I am happy for the many African American women who have become a part of the largely growing “Natural Hair Movement,” I am still unsure as to whether there will ever be a day that I join their side. If that day shall come, I hope to celebrate with many other young girls who are learning it is okay just being the way you are.