People are by nature walking advertisements for anything that they have tried, tested and are sold on. Whether it is a favorite product, a new movie, a bomb hairstylist or a good book, people constantly and almost instinctively, share information about little things that they enjoy or feel passionate about.
The new wave of excitement surrounding natural hair has also sparked an unprecedented number of women to share their testimonies with everyone they meet. It’s natural. Pun intended. Once we have discovered the wonders of being natural, it is almost instinctive for us to share the new found joys of becoming natural. The danger, however, comes when a natural takes on the role of a die-hard natural hair evangelist who finds it necessary to try to convert every perm-wearing woman to a so-called Angela Davis, fist-pumping natural.
I can’t stress how important is it that you ensure your actions, which are a direct result of your passion, don’t become offensive to the person who may not necessarily share in them.
There are varied levels of passion for natural hair, with some naturals just going through the motions of their natural hair journey, not being overly excited about the change. There are, on the other hand, naturals who are very zealous and passionate about natural hair. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing and promoting something that you embrace and believe in; however, it can produce negative results if the approach is wrong.
I believe in sharing knowledge and information about anything that I have discovered that others may find equally beneficial. Nevertheless, it will always be totally up to the person to whom the information is being transmitted to decide whether to accept it or reject it. Bear in mind also that because something works for me doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for everyone else. My passion will not always be your passion, neither will my choices always coincide with yours. This is actually one of the things that makes the world the interesting place that it is, it offers variety and dynamics - without which - it would be nothing short of boring.
As a natural hair lover and advocate, my passion for natural hair and everything surrounding it is always alive. Becoming natural is one of the best decisions I ever made concerning my natural hair. I know there are many naturals who share my exact sentiments and, for some of us, it becomes a serious "Ride or Die” commitment.
Nevertheless, here are a few warnings for those who have cross over and have acquired that urge to "shout about your journey from the proverbial mountaintop."
Warning #1: Don’t be Judgmental
Never be judgmental when addressing someone about wearing their relaxed hair. Nine out of ten of us were sporting a relaxer or a perm at some point or another in our lives.
So, now that we have turned from our chemical applying ways, what gives us the right to judge another person who has not yet received the conviction to do so?
This action is similar in nature to that of certain religious sects who believe that all others who are not of their denomination are damned for hell. That kind of extreme approach is unbecoming of any natural who seeks to encourage others to follow the path they have chosen. It is enough to just share the facts and benefits of wearing natural hair in an honest way. People shouldn’t feel like you are backing them into a corner or giving them an ultimatum.
Warning #2: Be sensitive and courteous
More and more people are becoming annoyed with and offended by a lot of the bashing that is present in the natural hair community.
Sometimes the bashing is not outright, but presents itself in a subtle way. It can take the form of a simple act of insensitivity toward someone who is not natural. I was reading an article recently where a young lady was expressing reasons why she does not desire to become natural. One of her reasons was the level of insensitivity that can occur. She took issue with naturals who find themselves in mixed company; nevertheless, they take the conversation off on a natural hair tangent, completely ignoring or having little regard for non-naturals present. The topics ranged from number of years natural, to products used, from discussions about curl pattern to favorite protective styles, they would go on and on.
Warning #3: You’re not MORE of a Black Woman now just because you’re natural
There are also naturals who disparage and accuse other Black women of being "ashamed” of whom the
y are or being "a disgrace to their ancestors,” simply because they choose to change the curl pattern and texture of their hair by applying a relaxer or a perm.
Being natural doesn’t necessarily make you a better or more "authentic” Black woman. We are worth way more than the hair on our heads and what is inside our heads is what will generate substance or the lack thereof. I am sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are naturals out there who believe that they are more in touch with their roots – no pun intended - than those who are not natural. Yet, other aspects of these so-called naturals are not necessarily in support of what their ancestors bled and died for. There is much more to being in support of your history than how you wear your hair.
My point is: naturals need not take their natural hair evangelism to the level where it becomes condemning, judgmental, disrespectful or condescending. We are all equal despite the color of our skin, our sex, our social standing or how we wear our hair. We need to tear down the barrier that prejudice and separation among each other brings. The question or argument has nothing to do with whether or not relaxers can have a damaging effect. I think everyone is well aware of that fact. Be also mindful, however, that becoming natural is not a free pass to healthy hair. Going natural may be a healthier approach, but natural hair will only be healthy if it is cared for and treated in the right way.
The good news about the potential benefits of wearing natural hair can be imparted if you chose to do so. I am all for sharing information and, to a certain extent, I myself sometimes take on the role of a natural hair evangelist. The danger, however, comes when we progress from being a natural hair evangelist to that of a natural hair "fanatic,” persecuting those who have chosen an alternate hair path.
We still need to respect other people’s right to choose, especially if it is a choice that is not morally detrimental to our society.
Candie's Natural Hairnamix was birthed a few months after Jamaican native Rossette "Candie" Allen began her natural hair journey in May 2010. She gears this column toward naturals, transitioning naturals, aspiring naturals and the naturally curious, sharing experiences, expertise and experiments while celebrating emancipation from chemical slavery.