Black hair, let’s care: Celebrating, politicizing black women’s natural hair

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - For many women, their kinky, curly, coarse hair has been frowned upon, which is why many women straighten their hair.

But for others, it's just their preference and that deserves to be celebrated, too.

As it relates to natural hair, I wanted to know how and when did we get to the place that says the way a black woman's natural grows out of her head is unkempt, unattractive and unacceptable.

"A lot of the perceptions of black woman's beauty started believe it or not started in antebellum America. Full lips and broad noses and coarse and kinky hair were thought to be unattractive or less than or inferior and unfortunately that has followed us over centuries and that idea still exist today," Author, Tamara Winfrey-Harris said.

Winfrey-Harris says those harsh perceptions forced black women to assimilate and straighten their natural hair with relaxers or perms and hot tools, all in an attempt to achieve what was perceived as the standard of beauty.

Winfrey-Harris believes women became more comfortable with embracing their natural hair when women like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu came on the scene in the 90's.

But years later, there's a cloud of judgement around being natural.

"Teachers saying there hair is distracting to other students. There was a circuit court ruling a few years ago that it was acceptable to fire people for wearing locs like mine. There's a true cost sometimes to wearing your natural hair."

Many women aren't willing to pay price the price. For some, it's not about sacrifice or not embracing their natural beauty. Some women simply prefer straight hair.

"Just beautiful. I felt a lot more confident. I can wake up and just know my hair is pretty much already done," Lorissa Turner said.

After years of wearing her natural curls, YouTube beauty blogger and owner of Ebony Flo Creations, Lorissa Turner decided to straighten her hair earlier this year.

"Just do whatever makes you happy and whatever makes you feel most beautiful. And you're happier now? I'm absolutely 100% more happy."

"There's nothing wrong with straightening your hair or wearing it curly. The problem comes when you're doing it because you think black hair is deficient because you think it's unprofessional or hard to manage," Winfrey-Harris said.

Winfrey-Harris will sit on a panel at the Indianapolis Public Library discussing The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery. For more information and to learn more about the other panelists click here.