Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s post is really part of the reason for the BW of Brazil blog in the first place – the exchange of black experiences across the African Diaspora. It comes courtesy of Amanda Gil of the Belo Crespo Facebook page and the Afrokut blog where it was also posted. Amanda was actually featured in a previous post about the increasing numbers of black Brazilian women going natural. The actual post comes from a friend of hers named Tata Lopes who sent a message describing her hair experiences in the United States with African-American women. Very intriguing insight that Tata shared here. Tata also seems to be taken a bit by surprise to discover that the Brazilian term “cabelo bom” (“good hair”) is also used in the black American community where black pride is supposed to be the standard. Before moving on to the post, I DO feel it necessary to state that Tata’s experience in NO WAY represents ALL black American women. It simply expresses her personal experiences with a select group of women. The dialogue should be welcomed.
In previous posts, BW of Brazil shared memories of activist Mundinha Araújo being influenced by icons such as Angela Davis and the Jackson 5 helping her to embrace a natural hair style; a black hair revolution in Brazil and black American influence on black pride in Brazil; the irony of black Americans leading one famous black Brazilian actress to embrace her natural hair in the 197os and America’s top black pop star influencing another black Brazilian actress to go blonde with extensions in the 21st century. In the context of the exchange of Diasporic experiences of beauty and identity, the dialogue is fascinating. Lopes’ comments also highlight the endemic contradictions within the African-American community oscillating between black pride and an apparent rejection of natural hair textures. Please feel free to read, share and post your comments.
Black woman: The experience of having natural hair outside of Brazil
Report from our friend Tata Lopes, sharing with us the experience of having natural hair outside of Brazil
I would like to make an important point about this issue of ‘hair as a point of identity for African descendant women’. I’ve been in the US for 6 months and this hair debate goes far beyond the question of beauty vs. prejudice. Here, black women rarely wear their natural hair, they wear wigs, hairpieces and braids. One of them told me that the wig comes first, then comes the food and clothes!! They spend a lot on fake hair because they all want to have “good hair”, so it is that the term “good hair” also reigns here! Men pay for their girlfriends’ hair. That is, the richer the man, the more beautiful woman’s wig. It even interferes in relationships, because if a man sees that the girl only wears long and expensive wigs he realizes that he can’t date her because he will not have enough money to pay the hair salon bill!
The African-American woman is proud to be black, even the Protestants dress like Africans to go to church, respect and admire the religions of African origins, all call each other ‘sista’ (sister), are very united and make a point of with coming up with colored hair, flashy clothes and shoes .. and the vast majority only have relationships with black men so that they don’t to have mestiço (mixed) children…
Black women can’t swim and suffer prejudice because of this, but you know why? Because they don’t want to get into the pool or beach so as to not get the wigs and hairpieces that they use get wet. I was very surprised to learn that the men could not touch their hair – this is a rule here –“don’t touch my wig!” even at the time of sex it’s prohibited, they prefer to be on top to prevent the man from touching the wig and messing it up!! Because of this, I hardly see blacks in swimming pools and bathing in the sea … if it’s raining then they don’t even leave the house.
They always stop me in the street to ask where I ‘bought’ my hair or if it’s natural and whenever I say I’m from Brazil they say “awwww, I love the Brazilians they have beautiful hair and the attitude of confident women!”
Girls I know it’s a long text, but I would like that you realize that it’s not just dealing with hair, we must ask ourselves how this prejudiced society prevents us from being happy, to live as ourselves. And even here where there is a strong sense of unity and struggle among black people, ‘good’ hair is prioritized at the expense of much suffering for the black woman.
I have to admit I agree with some of the viewpoints the writer expressed in this article. It is true that the majority of black women prefer a European or Caucasian type look instead of an African centric look. However, this is rooted in pre-slavery era, during slavery era, and post slavery era. It was culture conditioning reinforced by the rascist white man and woman that anything African is “malo” or bad. so unfortunately it is probably going to take the majority of black people another 400 years to break the bonds of mental slavery, insecurity, and oppression. However a small percentage of black women are embracing their heritage and going back to their roots by wearing their hair natural and with pride. I am one of those black women belonging to the natural hair community. I have been without a relaxer for 2 years and do not have a desire to return to the chemicals. My hair is long, super thick and surprise, surprise, curly and wavy. I do not have the stereotypical hair type that all black people assume they have ( even though the majority have never even experienced or seen their real hair texture) and all the time I get weave checked by black people, asked repeatedly what do i do to my hair to get it wavy and curly; and I am amused by some black people’s reactions to my hair. What is sad and astonishing to me is that so many of our people are ignorant to our heritage and do not realize that black hair comes in every single texture and curl type. We can have kinky, coily, tightly curled, loosely curled, wavy hair ranging from big giant S curls to lower case s curls, to i curls to o curls to z shaped curls and l shaped curls, or simply a mixture of anything in between. Black people have every hair type except for straight hair, but you will be surprised that many black people are not aware of this. In conclusion, I am glad that the natural hair community is growing, it is still a minority, but more black women accepting themselves and loving themselves for who they are and how God made them is a small victory. However; we still have a long way to go to overcome the dominant perception and standard of westernized beauty.
You make very good points. However, there are many Black people with naturally straight hair, including on the African continent. These cases are also not due to the influence of genes from another race. Therefore, you comment that Black people have every type of hair type is true (but also includes straight hair).
i love my natural hair but sometimes it’s just hard to manage. i keep my hair in braids so i won’t have to deal with keeping my hair maintained. i go to the pool always and just wash my braids out wiyh shampoo. plus i just feel like long hair looks better on me than just short ,which is what most natural hair look like. braids also help my hair grow faster.
some people may be getting wigs, weave and other fake hair out of shame, but others like me may just get them to help maintain hair, increase hair growth, and just for a new style.
there is nothing wrong with natural afro hair. all hair is good hair