All black women share the collective struggle that has been our natural hair.
It’s sad to say, but many of us practically popped out of the womb believing the notion that African kinky hair is problematic and must be corrected.
When I read To Hair and Back: My Journey Toward Self-Love One Strand at a Time, an autobiographical work by Rhonda Eason, I’m reminded how wasteful it is to spend time, energy, and effort correcting ourselves, instead of loving and embracing all that we are.
I’m also aware that our surroundings greatly influence how we look at ourselves, and that regardless of how we were brought up, it’s up to us to change that narrative and control the story.
Let’s Go Back to the Beginning
Eason begins her story by tracing her hair woes to where it all started – her childhood.
I’m sure many of you can attest to this too. Whether it was our mothers, the girls at school, a commercial, or a “Just for Me” perm box at the Beauty Supply Store, the strange enigma that was straight hair hit some of us like a ton of bricks.
For the young and impressionable Eason, those ton of bricks came in the form of her teacher.
Children are sponges who absorb every part of the world around them, so if we’re not careful to teach our children the great things about themselves, then the world will subconsciously inform them on what’s wrong.
For Eason, it was a combination of seeing her second grade teacher with “bone-straight hair”, having sisters who, “were blessed with better hair than she was”, and made her feel like, “an alien in a family of swans”, that pushed her down the path of an impossible pursuit.
But the real trigger was that first exposure of straight hair on a black woman and the equating that to perfection.
This woman seemed better, happier, and more adept at being a beautiful black woman, all because of what she possessed on the outside.
But Eason didn’t understand this at the time.
She didn’t know that beauty is only skin deep.
That physical beauty is only so important and can only take you so far.
That as Africans we are made in God’s image, and thus perfect in his eyes and are beautiful just as we were created.
And that was the problem. She didn’t have anyone to affirm her natural beauty. To give her a positive and powerful perception of herself that would challenge the detrimental lies in her head that she’d mistaken for truths.
Children can grow to become the movers, shakers, and ultimate gatekeepers of society, but without grounding them on a strong foundation that encourages an overall sense of wholesomeness within themselves, we’ve failed them at life without even giving them a fighting chance.
Work From The Inside Out, NOT The Outside In
Eason fought a difficult internal battle many of us can relate to only because we’ve either fought the good fight or are still fighting it today.
Not only did she spent her life trying to affirm who she was to her family, she struggled to convince herself of her own worthiness.
As a result, you noticed how often she struggled with low self-esteem, tumultuous relationships, and how it shaped her overall outlook on life.
This narrative reminds me of countless other books and films that depict the ill conceptions that foster in women of color and end up taking a toll on their lives: The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake, Netflix original’s Nappily Ever After, and even India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” comes to mind.
These narratives serve as lessons not just to the adult women and young girls watching, but to the black community at large: we’ve got to do better by our girls by consistently teaching them of their worthiness.
We cannot afford to allow damaging effects of pop culture and mainstream media to convince us that you are solely valuable based on your physical features.
Beauty comes from possessing virtuous ideals, not superficial ones. And if you didn’t grow up believing that, understand that it’s working from the inside out, not the outside in, that helps you to get there.
Rhonda starts off the beginning of every chapter with a quote. On the very last chapter reads the following, “when I discover who I am, I’ll be free- Ralph Ellison”.
Don’t wait until your millionth relaxer, billionth wig, or trillionth sew-in to unshackle the mental bonds that deny you of loving yourself. Just start now.
Or pick up this amazing read. Rhonda will show you how.