Honestly, I've never considered myself to be a part of the natural hair community. Yet, I've been sans chemicals all my life except once when I made a poor decision in ninth grade and got a perm. Never made that decision again because I lost a lot of my length.
For practically all of college I didn't alter my hair texture at all. I wear my 4C hair in all its natural splendor. Including when I graduated and I had to make it fit under the graduation cap that clearly wasn't made with my hair in mind.
While I love how my hair looks aesthetically, it's also a political statement. I realize that my hair is looked down upon by mainstream culture. I know that many Black women are discouraged from wearing their hair the way I wear mine. And all of that makes me even more enthusiastic about stepping outside my house with it in an afro. It's like I'm saying I'm Black and I'm here. Deal with it.
And it's because of this that I've side-eyed the natural hair movement ever since I heard of it because I immediately noticed that it was about embracing loose curls and not hair like mine. I also noticed that for girls who do have hair like mine the movement was primarily interested in altering hair texture... albeit not with perms.
But it's just a testament of my privilege that I don't feel like I need a natural hair movement. I didn't need it because I was fortunate enough to be raised by a mother who also didn't alter her hair texture. My mother taught me how to care for my hair. I was never told it was unmanageable or ugly.
In fact, I was expressly forbidden from altering my hair texture until I was around 13. So even in my pre-teens when I was receiving and somewhat accepting messages about my hair being inferior I was forced to work through it instead of changing it. And I'll be forever thankful to my parents for that.
But even though I personally have a very minimal interest in the natural hair community as a whole I'm still angry about its hypocrisy.
I'm angry because a lot of 4C Black women didn't grow up in a household where their hair was affirmed. A lot of Black girls grew up without even knowing the natural hair texture of their mothers, aunts, grandmothers. Without even knowing their own hair texture. It was destroyed by perms before it even had time to fully develop.
A lot of Black women are constantly bombarded by the anti-Black and sexist opinions of Black men (and men in general) who claimed that natural hair was unattractive. They are discouraged by their jobs that tell them their hair is "unprofessional."
These women are looking to the natural hair movement for affirmation they didn't receive at home. They are looking for visibility to encourage them to embrace their hair in its natural hair texture. And yet, the movement keeps letting them down time and time again.
The natural hair movement is about a lot of things. It's about optimal health for hair. It's about feeling good about your hair. But if it's not fundamentally about refuting white supremacist messages that categorize hair like mine as unmanageable and ugly then what's the point?
And if it's not honest and bold enough to grapple with the historical and present reality that kinky-haired Black people continue to be marginalized in schools, in professional contexts, and within their own families and interpersonal relationships then I don't want anything to do with it.
You can't turn everything mainstream without watering it down, without looking over or even actively harming the people you claim to support.