Thursday, April 9, 2015

Big, Huge GIANT!

Me, Jesmyn, and my braids!

In a talk at a public library, Jesymn Ward courageously told her story of racism in America....

After hearing her talk, I thought about this big, huge GIANT that I have been wrestling with since Monday night, and I felt that Jesmym gave me permission to tell this story.

Let me give you some background info before I tell you about this big, huge GIANT.

I am in the midst of a hair transition. After much persuasion by my stylist, I decided to give my natural hair a try. Basically, I am no longer chemically processing my hair to make it permanently straight. For my readers who are not Black, a perm is a chemical process that many Black people do to their hair in order to make it permanently straight, and that is where the name perm comes from.

While in transition, I decided to try something new: BRAIDS.

My people, I had so many negative preconceived notions about braids, and I probably was secretly thinking that others were thinking the same way. However, I worked through all of my baggage and stepped out and tried something new.

The day after I had my hair braided, I listened to "I Am Not My Hair" by India Arie every time that I was in my car trying desperately to convince myself that "I am not my hair." That message finally sunk in, and I heard a very clear voice say that "Black people are sooooo fortunate, we have the kind of hair that is versatile; we can perm it, braid it, wear a fro, wear it curly, and the possibilities go on and on and on." With this in mind, I have boldly been walking around with my hair braided with PRIDE. As a matter of fact, I am really digging them.

So, here is the big, huge GIANT....

Monday, I was on a group bike ride, and we were having a ride that was quite enjoyable. I was super excited for one of my friends who faced her fears and came out for her first group ride, and she rocked it.

Out of what seems no where, a White cyclist, who is a dear friend whom I value having in my life, asked:

"You still got those braids in your hair?"

My heart skipped a beat, and I responded:


She went on to say:

"It's been three weeks."

Now, my ten year old self sort of wanted to cry. (Here is a Black girl being publicly questioned about her hair.)

My twenty year old self wanted to pull her off that bike and beat the crap out of her for doing what I felt was totally inappropriate. (We spend enough time together for her to have asked me one on one.)

My thirty year old self wanted to say something curt like "Why do you care?"

However, my forty-something self, just keep on pedaling.....

And, I have been wresting with this big, huge GIANT ever since.

I have thought about all of the young Black girls who may not want to go to overnight play dates or go swimming in mixed crowds, because they do not want to have to explain about their hair. (This makes my heart soooo sad.)

So, I have asked the same question over and over again: Why would she ask me about my hair?

"Does me wearing braids make her uncomfortable?"

"Is she curious about my braids?"  (She could have asked me one on one?)

"Is she implying that my hair is dirty by saying it's been three weeks, or has my hair been braided to long for her? (Not sure why she would care?)

She sent me a text to ask me about riding with her on Tuesday, but I chose to go cycling with people who look like me, with hair similar to mine, so I would not have to explain about my hair.

I have been wrestling with this big, huge GIANT since Monday....

I have wanted to text and/or her call her to ask her "Why?'"

I have also been doing a lot of self-reflection as well......

"Maybe I'm overreacting?"

"Maybe she tapped into my insecurities about the braid?"

and on and on and on...

I've been wanting to scream from the mountain top: "WHITE PEOPLE, IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND BLACK HAIR; GET OVER IT!"

I have been wrestling with this big, huge GIANT since Monday, and to finally win, I had to write this blog to release it.

I'm soooo grateful to Jesmyn Ward for giving me permission to tell this quite painful story in order to finally beat this huge, big GIANT!

Here is "I Am Not My Hair" by India Irie:

Please, share your thoughts, because I want to know them.....

I'm an open vessel!!!


candi said...

Release it and move on! You did the write thing. If more of us would take the high road and utilize the therapy of writing, we probably would have less stress. I have been natural for about 10 years now and worked with a staff of all white people. I never got comments about what they didn't like but definitely got comments on what they liked. One young lady said, one day when my hair was straight, "you should where your hair like that all the time." It took all of me not to say anything.

Jacqueline said...

Hey Candi, God has brought me a long way. I have given up needing external approval... If anything sits well to me, it sits well with God. And, we have so many things going on in the world, so I won’t waste time explaining my hair. There are lots of natural hair sites out their for people to learn about Black hair if they really want to know.

Also, I am learning to give people the same grace that I need. Stop for stopping by.... The Big Sea!

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