My Hair, My Crown

by Alice Raglan First day of college; I strut into the lecture hall. Throngs of lace-straight head...

 photo black-woman-afro.jpg
by Alice Raglan

First day of college; I strut into the lecture hall. Throngs of lace-straight heads turn in my direction to behold my "captivating" coiffure. As they confusedly study my cotton-candy textured Afro, I wonder what the motivation behind their curious glances is. Is it confusion as to why my hair is wool-thick while other people with the same caramel skin have hair that lays flat? Is it bewilderment as to why I have decided to keep the tiny shred of my robbed, violated culture that still exists? Are they wondering why I would want to preserve the minuscule mark of my origin washed white in every other way?

First day of high school, junior year; I strut down a hallway filled with caramel-skinned and coffee-skinned people like me. Instead of glances of curiosity, most are viewing my hair with utter disgust. Most have straightened their hair chemically, endured the pain involved with toxic white-washing, risked their health and surrendered their final scrap of ethnic pride. They see my hair as untamed, uncouth, a reminder of our dark past that they try to ignore or simply don't know.

They try to forget that in grade school, the people with "nappy" hair would be teased so badly that they would beg their mothers to violate their hair with lye. Lye is a noxious lie; our hair is not straight, point blank.

We have been conditioned to know that anything close to the culture that stole us is beautiful, while anything close to our connatural condition is hideous. Cornrows, locks and Afros are frowned upon; Shirley Temple curls, overlong manes and straight strands provoke smiles of approval.

The night before the first day of fourth grade; I was tired of being teased about my braids. So I sat for a half hour with white poison in my head, burning into my scalp, fighting back tears of pain, thinking to myself that "beauty hurts." But beauty is nothing more than self-acceptance; if beauty hurts, self-love is distant.

It took me seven years to be finished with the lye, finished with the lies, finished with agony of the cancerous chemicals. As the stylist cut the final traces of my trance, of the myth that I was living, I thought to myself:

Why did I change my hair and consent to conformity? No, I'm not my hair; yes, my hair is part of me. My hair is my heritage, hints of my history. As a Black woman, my hair is part of my journey.

I strut into any room, any place, any time. I accept the curious gazes as compliments and the disgusted stares as signs that as a whole, we still need to acquire an absolute adoration of our true beauty, our Blackness and ourselves.

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