By PAT WATSON
‘Nasty.’ That is a remark commonly heard in my culture to characterize mostly children, mostly girl children when they react to the pain they feel from having their hair tugged from the root – otherwise known as having it combed.
The whole process is carried out daily across the planet as a grooming practice to be presentable to the public. The very person who should be an empathetic supporter for the child often performs the pain-inducing process.
Instead, that may be the first person to label the child as ‘nasty’ for not wanting to be tortured daily by having her hair pulled. It may even be that person went through the same abuse at an earlier age.
The obsession with hair as it presents on the heads of Black people, especially Black women and girls, is pathetic and deplorable.
The obsession has given rise to any number of industries. All manner of hair ‘care’ products are making millions (billions?) of dollars to placate the shame that has been internalized about a genetic normality.
Have there been as many books and heartfelt documentaries about any other hair type?
When we finally assign the term ‘good hair’ to the history books, it will be a massive victory.
It seemed as if that had been happening during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s in the United States, which then spread across the African Diaspora. Remember the Afro? Remember all those Blaxploitation movies that featured actors like Pam Greer sporting a supersized Afro?
The good news is that the current young generation of Black folks is, as it were, finding their roots. Out on the streets of Toronto, it is beautiful to see this. The creativity is also beautiful.
This is not about being against styling that includes straightening the hair, for instance. Every person should feel free to groom his or her own hair according to personal self-expression.
It is instead about a forced expectation about what the hair of Black people is supposed to look like. It is about how Black people internalize these notions such that they despise their own God-given being.
It is also about how people who are not Black feel they have the right to tell Black people how to be in their appearance in order to make those people feel safe and comfortable.
Another person’s discomfort with the appearance of the natural hair of a Black person should be understood as a personal problem specific to that individual; an issue to work through with a spiritual leader or psychological counselor.
The same goes for those who decide that another person’s sensitivity to pain should be characterized as ‘nasty’. Who gets to decide how any person experiences pain in the body besides the person feeling the pain?
The larger point is this: There is a strong tendency to cast our internal discomfort onto others around us. This would be similar to taking your bag of garbage and dumping it at your neighbour’s front door. We all know that kind of behavior is socially unacceptable. Yet, it is often the way with personal prejudice or emotional discomfort.
Ironically, projecting these aggravations onto other persons gives them an appearance of power over our feelings. Disliking what someone else chooses to do with his or her external appearance may be a matter of personal taste, but it’s not okay to decide for that person how he or she should be.
If the discomfort moves to wanting an entire segment of society to conform one’s preference, that should be seen as the call to do the internal work to recover from a misguided belief system.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. This opinion column is in the September 27, 2018 issue of Share Newspaper – http://www.sharenews.com