An assault, not “a haircut”​!

Heavy sad-angry sigh. Here we go again. Have you seen this?

I’ve been explaining the powerful and political hair of Black folks all my adult life. To my close, cloistered, curious (white) roommates @Penn (“Why do you straighten your hair then curl it?”), to the (white) HR manager as she justified firing me for my ‘unprofessional’ braided hairstyle in my early 20s, to my (Black, brown & white) colleagues who didn’t understand why I did a big chop of my flowing shoulder length relaxed hair to start growing my locs in my 30s. But it’s a cross that I dutifully bear because I am privileged to have the opportunity to influence and inform.

Perhaps the best way to begin explaining the gravity of this public assault of this young man is to set the context of the unique rich cultural connection mixed with the painful past of having owners, laws, employers, access and societal shame dictate the appropriateness of our hair. THE HAIR THAT GROWS FROM OUR HEADS! Let that sink in for a bit.

Cultivating locs* starts with a decision. It’s not the same for everyone and the reasons have expanded over the decades, but it is a decision tinged or overflowing with self-affirmation and self-love. It’s a re-wiring of ugly, unkempt, unattractive, dirty, different (with a side-eye). For example, when a Black parent begins the locking process on their child, they have likely decided that they want to invest hours in grooming and months of intimate, slowed down time together. I created beautiful heads of locs on two of my 3 children. Sunday evenings were our time to catch up, to connect through smell, to pass on tradition, to decide which loc needed both shea butter and castor oil to help it along, to explore which curl pattern was more like Mama, Papa or “your father’s side”, to show them how much their hair was a pleasure to touch and twirl in my fingers and palms. They felt my love through each loc, yes they did, this I know for sure. If you want just a taste of what I mean, look at the explosion of joy in the Black community as we watched our beloved Cicely Tyson lovingly comb the hair of her broken daughter, played by Viola Davis in How To Get Away With Murder.

A ‘haircut’? A ‘team player’? Where was the adult, his champion in the room? A young Black man standing in front of a predominantly white (likely uninformed) crowd with his head touched by gloved hands, his locs cut with no emotional preparation or care of their story, with pressure to concede by those in authority (coaches, umpire) and peers, is one of the most brutally ignorant displays of abuse I have ever witnessed. Why? Because it was sanctioned. It was seen by far too many as no big deal, or maybe worst, noble of him. I believe it will profoundly impact him.

Our worth does not begin with others’ understanding, empathy or acknowledgement. We matter because we matter. Start there or take it up with God. Then take off the cloak of color-blindness and ‘we all bleed red blood’ until you begin learning about and embracing the beauty of our differences. Reading and sharing this article, for example. Appreciate you!

*Note: Loc’d hairstyles created with straight European hair have very little in common with the scenarios described in this article. The process, products, decisions, aesthetic, outcomes, reactions, history could not be more different. They are out of scope.

*Assault: attack or bombard (someone or the senses) with something undesirable or unpleasant.


Originally published via LinkedIn:

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