Just the way it Grows

In the dictionary hair means “any of the fine threadlike strands growing from the skin of humans.” Now, I’m sure this definition would be accepted by a lot of different races, but to black women hair has a entire different meaning. A black women’s hair plays a huge part in her life, from the time she is a child to an adult. A lot of people would say that hair shouldn’t be such a big deal but a black woman’s hair can dictate her moods, emotions and is an essential part of her identity. There are all different types of hair that a black woman can have, and the textures are separated by numbers and letters: 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b, and 4c. 3c has a loose curl pattern, 4c has a tight and more coil like curl pattern and the textures in between vary from loose to tight curls.

Type 4b/c hair texture Photo taken by: Lenisha Smith
Type 4b/c hair texture Photo taken by: Lenisha Smith

Out of every demographic black women have experienced the most “hair hate” and that is proven through history. Believe or not, back in the 1700s there was a law called “Tignon Laws” in Louisiana which forced women of color to wear head wraps or tignons. This law was passed under the administration of Governor Esteban Rodriquez Miro as a way to enforce “appropriate” public dress for women of color.

Since the 1700s America has come a long way when it comes to black hair, but of course there are times where you still feel as if you are back in the 18th century. There are some schools and organizations who have created rules and regulations on the way that girls can wear their hair to school by calling it a “distraction.” Vanessa Vandyke is a young African American girl who faced expulsion because she wore her hair just as it grows from her head. Two young African American girls from Massachusetts were suspended from school for wearing their hair in a braided style called “box braids.” These are just two examples but there are hundreds of more stories just like theirs. Keep in mind these girls chose to wear an average, not out of the ordinary style, that any young African American girl would wear.

Now hair discrimination doesn’t stop in schools but it also over flows into the work place as well. Women of color have to consider how to wear their hair to work  in fear of not being accepted. Wearing your hair is a sleek ponytail or straight is an “ideal” style for the professional world. Most black women would choose not to wear their natural hair to a job interview in fear of not getting the job because of her hair. I know, it sounds unreal, but this is something millions of women of color face every day.

To some, this may all sound like a fairytale, something that should never be true, but in reality it’s something black women have learned to live with. In some ways a black woman has to hide who she really is and can’t feel comfortable in her own skin. Black hair is looked down upon because of its texture or how it makes someone else feel. We have come so far but yet we still have a long way to go.


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