Jun 9, 2011







Bear with me because this post is going to be long but, quite frankly, I'm ticked off and I am not going to take it anymore.

I'm sure you all have heard of the Willie Lynch Letter and the historical significance placed on it. The letter has come to represent the psychological tactics that masters used to control their slave population. I often wondered how it is one white man/family could manage to control plantations that often held more than 50 slaves at one time. To keep the slaves subservient, Willie Lynch instructed slave owners to instill an overwhelming sense of fear into their slaves.

In order for the Willie Lynch method to work, slaves had to distrust each other and feel total loyalty towards their master. One way this was accomplished was the destruction of families. When two slaves had a child, the Father of the child was usually sold to another farm (sound familiar?? they aren't sold away anymore but how many times has the media reminded us of the high percentage of single Black mothers in this country?) .

Another popular method of separating the slaves came in terms of job assignments. Preferred slaves were kept as house servants who slept in the house close to master while the other slaves were forced to sleep in decrepit,dilapidated shacks. Through the years, field slaves built up animosity and resentment over the special treatment house slaves received. And without a doubt, most house slaves felt somewhat superior to the field slaves. The differences between the two kinds of slaves became even more contentious after years of rape produced mixed-race children who were still slaves but somehow seen as more desirable because of their light-bright, could-pass-for white complexions.

Even after the abolition of slavery, Black continued the divisiness on their own just as Willie Lynch had predicted they would. Paper bag tests and other silliness provided light skinned Blacks with a feeling of moral superiority and left a bad taste in the mouth of darker hued people. Even in modern day times, I have heard people use the expression, "She sure is pretty for a dark-skinned girl." HUH???

A guy friend of mine recently said to me, "I notice a lot of Black women are going natural now. Is that the new trend?" Without a second thought, I responded yes. Being natural does seem to be the new "in style" right now much like the afro's of the 1960s and 70s. Another natural jumped up to berate me, "How can you say being natural is a fashion trend? It's a representative of our homeland and birthright. A celebration of who we are not a fashion statement."

I was beyond perplexed. Homeland?? Birthright?? I was born in Mobile, Alabama, the land of good gumbo, sugarcane, and summers so hot you could literally fry an egg on the sidewalk. What in the world does my hair have to do with that??

Today, my fabulous friend and sister from another mother, savvy sista sent me an email link to New York Times article about natural hair... My mouth started to water as I waited for the link to load... Anyone who knows me will tell you I love all things hair. And I was excited because I thought they would be showcasing some hot new styles or discussing maintenance of natural hair.

Now, they say the definition of stupidity is repeating the same behaior while expecting a different result. The NY Times has burned me many times with articles that are supposed to be unbiased but clearly have a racist slant but I was sure this was different. I mean it's an article about hair in the fashion section surely it had to be good. Yeah, well label me STUPID because I sat there reading and the smile slowly faded from my face.

The article, written Jamila Bey (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/fashion/hair-care-for-african-americans.html?_r=2&smid=tw-nytimesstyle&seid=auto) opens by bashing relaxers. I guess I should have expected that but still I cringed. Mainly because she got the facts wrong. She referred to the relaxer as a caustic paste that you apply to your scalp and it burns your hair. hmmmmm Nope... First of all, relaxers are meant to be applied to the hair not the scalp... A relaxer will burn your scalp if applied incorrectly but to me that's no different than when I get my eyebrows waxed and the lady burns my skin. See if the wax is applied properly, I get no burns. Likewise, if your relaxer is applied properly then your scalp won't burn.

Next, I have never known a relaxer to "burn your hair to change the texture". A relaxer works as a chemical reaction. The lye breaks the protein bonds of textured hair and then attaches to the protein so the bonds cannot reform and that is what changes the texture of your hair. Next, Ms. Bey discusses three women who use various social media to interact with other Black women about natural hair. Honestly, at this point I thought the article was going to list some of the tips they give other Black women about caring for their natural hair. Instead, the article changes from fashion and natural hair altogether and starts talking about how money these women make off product endorsements and advertising space on their website. What does that have to do with natiral hair maintenance? I do not recall even one natural hair care tip being mentioned in an articled titled, Going Natural Requires a Lot of Help.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the little space in the article actually devoted to HAIR is used to pit women who wear their hair naturally against those women who relax. Ms. Bey quotes one of her interviewees as saying, "I hope kinky hair will be the standard."

WOW!!! Why does their have to be a standard for Black women and their hair? We're all individuals so why can't we individually decide how we want to wear our hair at any given time? We're always complaining about the standard of beauty imposed on us by a white media but since when is a standard imposed by a NY Times article a better alternative??

Since everyone else is getting to impose their own standards of beauty, I hereby impose mine. The standard for Black women should be HEALTHY HAIR. That's right... Natural, relaxed, color-treated, weaved to the hilt, doesn't matter as long as you keep your hair healthy.

I do trade shows all the time to discuss my products and healthy hair education and women with relaxed hair are always afraid to approach me.

Healthy hair and the subsequent boost in self-esteem that comes from loving your hair and feeling good about it can only come through education. But no one is going to seek out for education if you're judging them before they can even get through the door.

I am happy that a large newspaper like the New York Times has even take notice of an issue like Black women and their hair but I really wish we did not use these public forums to further antagonize and divide the race. 400 years of living under the rule of Willie Lynch is enough. Natural, relaxed, or color-treated doesn't matter to me, if you want to achieve healthy hair, I'm here to help you.

Lovely Locks is the proprietor of http://www.deeplyrootedbeauty.com/

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