Politics

feature: it’s deeper than hair – a tumultuous journey to self-love

June 19, 2015

For some, the larger their coarse, coily hair becomes, the more uniquely beautiful they feel. For me, it was like being forced to exist in society wearing fewer clothes as time passed until I was finally wearing absolutely nothing. No two journeys (yes, it is a journey) in the pursuit of natural hair are the same, but I never would have thought mine would be like this.

By Kim Diggs, AFROPUNK Contributor

I began two years ago. I immersed myself in elegant photos of women with luminescent skin and humongous afros. It was like a religious ritual to surround myself with black female beauty.  

What I failed to do was invest in my own – mentally and spiritually.

I am the only black journalist in Plano, Tx. I work in a city with few black people, even fewer black people with natural hair. All I wanted to do was let my talent speak louder than my appearance. I didn’t want anyone making any preconceived notions about me. I didn’t want any stigmas to be my undoing.

So, I submerged my hair in gel. I incessantly raked every coil with an ungodly glob of Ecostyler to freeze it in place and slick it down. I wanted to blend in with my co-workers. I wanted my hair to grow longer, not wider.

For the first time in my life, I was uncomfortable with my blackness being on display.

 

To understand how I can love the natural hair of others and be self-conscious of my own, you’d have to understand my family.

I am the product of the prototypical black middle class upbringing.

“You represent not only your family, but all black people when you enter a room.”

“You have to work twice as hard as your white peer to accomplish the same goal.”

These heavy mantras constantly rang in my head along with a few new comments I got from family members after I went natural:

“This hair is suitable for a garbage man, not a journalist.”

“I’ll give you money to get your hair done. We have family coming to town.”

“I don’t want to get this hair in the photo for posterity’s sake. “

A family member told me that on Christmas.

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While my family hates my hair, the white co-workers that I’m closest to constantly touch, pat and squish it.

Though I know it’s out of love, it always felt like a proverbial pat on the head, like it’s their silent seal of approval of my natural hair. Everything about it always felt condescending and gross.

I’ve never been one to seek attention. So, this constant scrutiny of my hair was extremely uncomfortable for me. It felt almost as if my blackness was constantly being examined.

My blackness is ugly today. My blackness is fun tomorrow. My blackness is unprofessional the next day.  My blackness is adorable the day after that.

I wasn’t able to find peace of mind and, later, truly enjoy my hair until I took that intense love that I have for my people and I stole a bit of that for myself. Just as I would protect anyone being wronged, I learned to protect myself.

My hair is not meant for anyone’s entertainment. I will not entertain men’s fetishes. My hair is only my hair. My hair is not a political statement and, most importantly, never again will I let others’ self-hatred mar my self-love.

Because I can’t help how my hair is perceived, I no longer care. All that matters to me is making myself feel like the women I’m inspired by.

My hair- kinky, coily, unpredictable and round – is flourishing … and I’m in love with it.

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Kim Diggs is a journalist, author and public speaker from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @kaydigs and on Facebook.com/writerkimdiggs

Art credit: David Raphet

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