I have to say I am lucky to have a family that accepts my natural hair journey. Unfortunately, every now and then we read about people that don’t understand why someone would choose to have natural hair. It is so hard being judged over something you did not choose to be born with. What is worse is when people around you, family, coworkers, and even strangers determine your natural hair is not acceptable.
When I graduated university I moved back to Zambia, where I got a job working in the government. I decided to apply for a driving license so I could drive to work. Imagine this, I took my form and passport size photos to the driving license office. The officer took one look at the photos and said he could not accept my photos. Why? because I had dreadlocs. Wait a minute, how long ago was this you are probably asking. No it was not in the fifties but the 21st century.
At that moment I also thought I had been taken back to the fifties. I remember asking him to explain what was wrong with my hair. He said it was not acceptable. My next question was, “then what hair is acceptable?” He said I could come back with photos of me with relaxed hair, wearing a weave or braids. I was not going to be bullied for my hair which had become my pride and joy. Let me take you back to how I came to have locs.
When I was at university, I couldn’t find the time nor the money to go to a salon, so I relaxed my own hair. University life can be hard. Needless to say my hair was unhealthy. When I graduated, I decided I was going to go natural. I did my first big chop. At that time I knew I would have my locs for years so I found money to have a well known loctician start my locs. If you have natural hair and you just did the big chop you know the stress that goes on trying to decide to cut or not to cut your hair. It is so liberating to cut the unhealthy part and start afresh. So to have someone question a decision that took the whole of me to decide. I was completely shuttered.
He went as far as asking me, why I thought with my American accent I could come and change the law. Telling me it was the law, just follow it he said. I put my case in but he was so adamant that this was a law made before I was even born. I decided to just leave. As I was leaving, I realized that there was a white man behind me in line. Then it occurred to me that he was trying to show off some kind of bwana authority (trying to show off that you can do what the master says even if it means oppressing your own kind) or the crab mentality. In Zambia you still find some people that behave like they are still under colonialism. Some of our own black people do not appreciate our hair.
What did not make sense is that my new job required me to meet with high level government officials. They did not care about my locs when they hired me. Years later when I came back to the USA, I got a job were I interacted with top level executives from companies like Coca Cola, Boeing. They did not care about my shoulder length locs either. Not only that I have gone to renew my license in the US, sometimes I have my natural hair on or a wig on, sometimes I am wearing big hop earrings. I remember getting ready to take out my earrings and put a serious face on. The employee was like we don’t care about that, just smile and you are good to go. Natural Hair is Not Acceptable
That hair is when I realized my natural hair is not Acceptable I went home determined that I did not care about the license. I remember telling my mother. She offered some wise words. Don’t let this setback destruct you from the bigger goal. I was not going to cut my locs, so I went bought a wig, took my pictures again and got my license.
Recently in the US, there was a beautiful black girl with an afro who was minding her own business walking down the street. Some black men in a car rolled down the window telling her she must be hot in that big afro. Its incidences like this or mine that make me realize that we have a long way to go because we still have black people that criticize and literary condemn natural hair.
I really appreciate women and men who use social sites like Facebook and Instagram to educate about natural hair. It will take years for everyone to be onboard.
What challenges have you faced? How have people around you accepted your natural hair journey?