…Would you want my type of hair? These were the words of what I call a beautiful girl whom we shall call Mpho for now, as she played in her Indian friend’s hair. I had gone to collect my boys from school one sunny but slightly chilly afternoon and as I waited for them to be called from the play ground, I happened to over hear the above one sided conversation. I say one sided because Mpho’s friend did not answer back. She did not seem to mind Mpho playing with her hair though. Mpho looked about 10 years old, somewhere there and had a beautiful afro. A full head of kinky hair, combed out. I wanted to approach her and ask her why she preferred her friend’s hair to her own. I stopped short of gathering her in my arms and whispering to her that her hair is indeed beautiful. Because of the school policy governing the conduct of parents and learners which are not their children, I could not. I just looked hopelessly and walked away wondering what must have been going on in Mpho’s mind.
But wait a minute, there are things that when we see, we immediately go, oh sweet, oh how beautiful and why is it that with kinky hair, dark complexion, that has to be said and sometimes several times for us to accept that it is indeed beautiful? Her story, my story and many other stories of black girls with kinky hair is what pushed me to write this post.
What is the norm of beauty and why should beauty be categorized? Who defines beauty? Is diversity not beautiful already? I know lighter skinned thin models with flowing hair, never mind it is mostly not their real hair, will sell any product. And I am not saying fuller ones and darker skinned ones are not there but the majority are such. Making us believe the demographics of this world are indeed dominated by them.
I am a mum to 3 boys and at one time the 2 older ones broke a neighbor’s window with a pebble. Upon inquiry or rather investigating on what had taken place, they revealed they were playing David & Goliath as seen on the video they had been watching earlier that day. You know, I just stood there and could not say anything but smile. That’s kids for you. Yeah, we have come to know they will do “monkey see monkey do” on almost anything. These young minds experiment and aspire to do, be or have what they see on TV/video. I can only imagine what goes on in a little girls mind when bombarded with pictures of lighter skinned thin models with flowing hair several times a day, everyday. I do not blame Mpho at all for thinking her hair is not as beautiful as Indian hair. In fact I am not sure there is anyone to blame considering companies are there for a profit, to make money and they know what will help them make more money. Media is also included.
What I know though is that societal norms need to change. Although there are changes here and there already, it is hardly enough to create a generation of kinky haired girls and boys who will love their hair as is and will not wish they had straight hair or otherwise. No prices for guessing why the weave and perm were created and look at the damage they have both caused on our hair. I for one do not wish another generation to go through a re-discovering phase of our kinky beauty like we did. We are beautiful in every sense. Every race, skin color, hair structure etc. is beautiful and there is no need to compare because we are DIFFERENT.
I know there are a lot of Mphos out there and my childhood also identifies with her. I am glad to say that armed with knowledge, growing and managing kinky hair is not entering a maze anymore. For those willing to learn and do the work, there is a lot of satisfaction to owning your look and being able to be content with what you are and nurturing it to its full potential. Indeed your kinky hair, my kinky hair and Mpho’s kinky hair is an intricate part of who we are much as skin color, the shape of eyes, being short or tall and all that.
So as you go about your way, remember you were beautifully and wonderfully made. Society defines beauty and we need to own the situation we find ourselves in and start sending correct messages and being the change we want to see.
Many blessings to you and yours.