On February 12th I attended a showing of the documentary Good Hair produced by Chris Rock who is a very popular comedian. He traveled all around the world from LA to India learning and researching all about the hair that is on a black woman’s head. He started in Atlanta and did a number of interviews with celebrities like Raven Symone, Nia Long, Ice-T, Maya Angelou, Reverend Al Sharpton, Meagan Good and many more. He also went into local hair salons and barber shops to ask the black community what their thoughts were on the subject of hair and what classifies it as “good”.
Well, you all know that I am half black and half white so my hair is not as course as a full black woman’s hair would be. I have put relaxers in my hair on a regular basis since I was about eight years old until I was twelve and then at fourteen years old I had a keratin treatment done. From then until now I haven’t put any chemicals in my hair besides straightening it with a flat iron every once and a while. I like the way I look with straight hair rather than my natural hair because it looks cleaner and nicer. Black women essentially got the look from the western European women and wanted to look the same way. So we put relaxers that have sodium hydroxide on our roots, some even have their daughters start at three years old and once you get it done the first time it’s almost impossible to stop because you’re addicted to the results it gives. There is a possibility of harm that comes with relaxing your hair because it containing a harsh chemical called sodium hydroxide which could give you extreme chemical burns if left in too long.
Then there is the alternative of the weave which is a hairstyle created by weaving pieces of real or artificial hair into a person’s existing hair, typically to increase the length or thickness. These weaves cost upwards from $1000-$5000 depending on the quality of hair that you want to use. The sad part is some women will pay to get their hair done every month rather than put food on the table for their family. Most of the hair comes from India were men and women think they are sacrificing their hair to their God but in reality it is getting shipped all over the world, mostly to the US, to be used for weaves. The most ironic part about this whole thing is that African Americans are the ones who buy these products the most but the Asian population dominate the manufacturing and marketing of this hair empire.
This whole movie essentially takes you through what a black woman has to do to be accepted and taken seriously in this world, when it comes to their hair. They have to compete against the built in privileges that white people have. For example Peggy McIntosh says in her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” that she is very likely to walk into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can deal with her hair, because she is white and has white privileges. Well I can attest to that because I am mixed race and I haven't had the best luck with my hair. I have tried every type of shampoo and conditioner and almost every type of hair treatment to make it look somewhat presentable and manageable. I do feel that because of my race I have to search for the right hair treatments and products whereas if I was white it would be much simpler to pick the first thing on the shelf and to find someone that knows how to take care of it.
Another article that I read in class was “Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children” by Lisa Delpit. This article was about the “culture of power” and how people with power are least likely to know that they have it and people without power most likely know they don’t have it. People with power have money and that money can pay for the hair on their heads, for example. So people with power have the luxury of getting their hair down whenever they want, whereas people who can’t afford it may not be able to get the job they interviewed for that day because their natural hair doesn’t look sophisticated enough for the interviewer to take them seriously even if they are the most qualified for the job. It’s kind of like how some of us went to our service learning projects and came back and we thought we were over dressed but it did give us an upper hand at the time.
|Chris Rock and family|
One other article that we read in class was “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez. This article was mostly about how when Richard had to learn English to be more American he lost his “private individuality” or his Spanish speaking roots. The lesson behind this article was in order to gain a public individuality you may have to lose your private one. This applies to what the movie was about too, because black women feel like they have to have straight hair to be taken seriously in America today, and having straight hair is valued more than curly, nappy, natural African hair. Since most people know that it is possible for them to straighten their hair, when they see someone with their natural hair they question why. Why would you want to look that way, or they must not have the money. It’s those assumptions that can apply to so many other topics in society.
These two videos are of Chris Rock, Nia Long and Raven Symone answering some questions about the movie and some clips from the movie.
I also found this Huffington Post article about a very controversial topic in the black community.