I have a dream that one day, among black women, hair will be hair and everyone single one of us who has some on top of our heads will be free enough not to see someone else’s mane as more desirable than our own, or the personal celebration of one’s texture as an infringement upon the love of our own. But alas, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t stop segregation with one march and today will certainly not be the day that I end the texturism war with one article, though I shall try my best.
I can’t take credit for that word texturism by the way, that’s a term used by a vlogger named Chrissie to describe “the situation where we see a lot of light skinned, ‘good hair,’ biracial women, in what are supposed to be black natural hair spaces.” Chrissie described this situation, i.e. problem, in a video in which she asks whether biracial women have “hijacked” the natural hair movement. And she strongly asserts that answer is yes.
Interestingly though, Chrissie isn’t putting the blame on these “light skinned, ‘good hair,’ biracial women,” for allegedly taking over, she’s pointing the finger at “nappy headed” women for allowing them in the space to begin with. She states:
“This is just something else that black women do to undermine themselves because we’re so inclusive and then when something goes down, when texturism happens, we throw a fit about it, not realizing that we actually had a lot to do with it.
“I can’t tell you how many natural hair websites on Instagram and Facebook that I follow where literally most of the women promoted are light-skinned biracial women with type 3 hair. What happens is we let them in our spaces and then they take over and become the center of attention, then later on we complain about lack of representation or we complain about texturism.
“Not only do we allow them to take over, but it creates this atmosphere that we’re all the same — ‘Youre just like me!’ It creates a space that implies that texture shouldn’t matter in a black natural hair space or this atmosphere of pretending that texturism doesn’t exist.”
Here’s the thing, while I understand Chrissie’s perspective, I will never support a mentality that calls for more division within the black female community. Hair has already separated us for as long as plantation masters have, and I won’t be complicit in a movement to further divide and deny access to one another. That being said, I do think Chrissie has a point about light-skinned, fine-textured women dominating the natural hair space, but the answer to that problem, and I do agree it’s problematic, isn’t exclusion. It’s acknowledging the deep-rooted hair biases that led to this predicament and making a choice to support the 4c sista as much as we do the one with type 3a hair, which is really a choice to love ourselves.
Chrissie somewhat acknowledges the underlying self-hatred that has allowed only certain types of natural hair to be deemed acceptable, even among us, but rather than calling on women to examine their beliefs about their own hair texture and how that manifests into which natural women we follow and support and the ones we don’t, she simply implies that doing away with 3a biracial women will fix the problem, proclaiming “Type 4 should be the only natural hair anyway.”
“3A should not be the face of natural hair. That should not represent natural hair,” she states. “Think about it, when were biracials –most of them with 3a hair — ever not natural? They don’t usually go natural. Us nappy headed women go natural. Black women with Black kinky hair are the ones that go natural, so why aren’t we the face of natural hair?”
If white people were behind the natural hair movement I could get behind Chrissie’s answer to her own question when she says, “Black women don’t feel like they can win on their own. They feel like they have to include what society deems most beautiful and they feel like they have to attach themselves to it… they live vicariously through these women.” But here’s the problem with statement, Chrissie is looking at this issue from the state of natural hair in 2016, which is, above all, a business. Ten years ago when women were doing the big chop it wasn’t about anyone but themselves; there was no such thing as feeling the need to include what society deemed beautiful. You went and got your hair chopped off because you were rallying against that very ideal. And then started doing styling videos to help other women as you learned how to care for and style your texture on your own. Of course, anything that attracts hundreds of thousands of women with disposable income is going to be exploited and that is how we arrived at the place we’re in today where natural hair is more about being cute, than being comfortable with yourself. And that’s why so many of us are gravitating toward women with type 3 hair the same way we were drawn to the woman on the African Pride relaxer box — we’re still not comfortable with ourselves.
At the end of the day, no one can “hijack” your self-worth. If more of us were truly okay with our hair textures we would’ve never left a space for biracial and light-skinned women with good hair to take over. And I don’t mean we would’ve excluded them from the conversation, I mean we wouldn’t have been overwhelmingly seeking them out because we would’ve had no desire to mimic their beauty to begin with.
But that’s not what happened, and Chrissie is right, we have no one but ourselves to blame for that. But instead of delegitimizing the experience of many biracial and light-skinned women — who did and still do perm their hair and embark on their own natural journeys by the way — let’s really ask ourselves if we’re following certain bloggers because their hair knowledge is applicable to our (realistic) hair goals or because we admire a beauty in them that we don’t see in ourselves? You may not realize it, but the way you answer that question will either tear down centuries-old standards of beauty or play right into them. As long as we continue to do the latter — even subconsciously — the status quo will forever remain natural to us.