The Weapons of Our Warfare
Weaves, Extensions, and other Tools of the 21st Century Black Woman
We have all seen it, knowingly or not; and chances are that if you've seen a black woman, of African decencent, with long flowing hair of bone straight, wavy or loosely curled texture flowing down her back, 9 times out of 10, it is what we call "weave".
After listening to various viewpoints on the reason for this phenomenally expensive hair addiction , I couldn't totally agree with any of them. So it led me to search for a more sound explanation for my question:
Why do African-American women spend a billion plus dollars yearly on weaves, extensions, perms, and other hair-care services and products?
One of Beautiful Pop Singer, Rihanna's weave styles
I've heard all of the excuses like the ones mentioned in the video above: "I wear weaves because its easier to deal with", or "I just have more freedom when I wear weaves" and let's not forget that "black women hate themselves that's why they wear weaves". But none of those ever sat right with my intellect.
Wearing weave is not easier than wearing your natural hair and I agree with rapper and activist David Banner when in a recent interview with Hip Hop reporter, Sway, he challenged the listeners, with the question, what could be easier than wearing your natural hair?
From what I know, it IS pretty easy, unless I am going for a more defined look. All I really need is a pick and some moisturizer to keep it from drying out. What isn't easy is dealing with other people and their comments when I choose to wear my natural hair; especially comments from people I care about.
And I definitely don't HATE myself or anyone who looks like me. I adore my skin tone and my rich history.
The primary reason, I say, is much more complex than that...
Solange Knowles' natural style
Beyonce's short cut frenzy
It's Not A Matter of Vanity
Let's get straight to the point by listing some facts:
FACT #1: Although beautiful in many ways, America is a racist society.
FACT #2: The group affected by racism THE MOST are black women.
FACT#3: Weaves, extensions, and other "enhancement" products ensure the survival of the Black race.
Now, fact number three is a bit of an exaggeration, however there is some truth to it and I'll show you how in a minute.
If you do not agree with facts one and two, than you'll have to catch up by reading ANY book on early American history, piece written by Malcolm X, or by watching the historical series "Eyes on the Prize." When you are ready, you can resume reading THIS article.
After you do, you will be closer to understanding that this hair issue is more than vanity; it's a matter of survival.
Why We Are At War
Hopefully, you've had your history lesson, and now I can explain what I meant by saying weaves, extensions, and other products ensure the survival of our race.
The majority of adult Black men in today's American society are a product of Black family life that is only one or two generations removed from the Civil Rights era. As potrayed in the movie Selma, Black people fought long and hard for every right that they currently have. So this means the black men of today were raised by parents steeped in a tradition of oppresion, racism, and white supremacy wherein the values and standards of that society slowly became intermingled with the values and standards of black families.
The "Black Is Beautiful" cultural movement of the 60's was so revolutionary because it was the first time that the Black community, as a whole, showed their collective PRIDE and displayed their natural beauty to the world with their heads held high. More importantly, it was a MENTAL victory for Black Americans; we believed in ourselves and our right to live a free and fair American life.
Finally, it appeared, Black Americans would overcome the polluted messages engraved in their mind by their former masters, that Black was something to be ashamed of and that Black was bad.
Unfortunately, that didn't stick..so now we are at war!
It is an unspoken war in which, beauty salons and private homes are bunkers and weaves, extensions, wigs, and perms, are ammunition.
Black women are fighting for the affection, attention, and love of Black men.
I hear the guns blazing...
Images and Their effect on Black Families
Self-Hatred or Fun?
As the black man in the viral video above sings "You joined the natural team, I'm seeing combs broke apart, you're cutting things off of your body that were so close to my heart...Please don't touch me, baby it's ugly...", I can't help but smdh. It is a sad display of the type of mindset black women face on a daily basis from the very men who are supposed to encourage, love and uplift them.
Now I know that this does not apply to ALL black men in America. There are many black men, and may I add men of other races in this society who appreciate and admire the natural, God-kissed image of the Black woman, but unfortunately, not enough are recognizing the impact this mental self-hatred has on their black queens.
Black women get a piece of their confidence from their men; in childhood from their father or dominant male figure in their lives, and from their significant other in adult-hood. When a black man tells us that we are ugly when we are simply wearing our hair the way God made it,if he's joking or not, it does something to that confidence and self-esteem.
Other statements such as "you're cute to be dark" and "you got that 'good' hair" further lead to a vicious cycle of destroying the black woman's confidence in herself which leads her to find ways to correct her appearance to re-gain the admiration of her man.
Black women are willing to disguise and alter their beauty just to make her man comfortable and happy in his world. She will endure poisonous chemicals burning her scalp, burnt ears and necks from pressing combs and flat irons, broken and missing edges due to overprocessing and lace front wigs, and spend billions of dollars on extensions from places they've probably never been, like Malaysia, India, and South America, just to get his attention.
Some are willing to deny what they KNOW is true; that Black is beautiful and everything from our hair, to our skin color should be celebrated and not ridiculed.
For the most part, this is not done consciously by Black women, but it is an automatic biological and evolutionary response to her changing environment. It is adaptation at its fullest.
Why This Matters
As a little girl and later on as young adult,I struggled with my identity. Finding that space where one becomes comfortable in one's own skin can be very difficult and at times. I fear that this current generation of girls who are growing up watching "reality tv" watched through a Kim K standard of beauty lens, are going to struggle and suffer even more than I did on that path.
I grew up with a great representation of Blackness and boldness from my parents. I always knew that I was beautiful and special because they told me so. Not all Black children are growing up with this reinforcement of their natural beauty. All they see is who Kanye is married to or what color Nicki Minaj's weave is today or how video vixens with long weave and big asses get all the attention. They have no history or role models to fashion themselves after.
One thing I can say is that I NEVER hated myself, or the way that I look when I wear my hair totally free of chemicals and extensions (this is the true definition of natural). At times in the past, it was very uncomfortable because I was usually one, if not THE only one I knew wearing my hair natural. In addition to this, the negative comments from males and females who looked like me made it worse, and the requests from White people to touch it was a unnerving, to say the least.
Unfortunately, I did endure degrading comments from some Black men when I did so. For every compliment I received, I got 9 disapproving comments. And that's the sad point I'm making.
When I wear my weave or chemically altered hair, I receive more attention and invitations to dinner/outings from men in general; and definitely more Black men seem to be attracted to me. There are always exceptions to the rule, however, overall, the majority of men I've encountered over the years are more attracted to my non-natural image.
It appears that Black American men have an obsession with length as well as texture when it comes to the women they are initially attracted to.
So, what is my conclusion? Not all Black men will be attracted to the hair God gave to the Black woman; but that is ok. Even if every Black woman in America decided to go natural tomorrow, they wouldn't be able to change the mindset of Black men overnight. All we can do is love ourselves and love a man who loves us for who we are, or continue to fight for the admiration, attention and love of a man who will only love us for what they think we should look like.
As India Arie pointed out in 2007, "I am not my hair, I am not my skin..."
Hopefully, with the rise of more darker-skinned, natural looking Black female celebrities, educators and community members,we will conquer self-hate with self-love and keep acquiring the love of our Black men using not only these weapons of our warfare, but continue to improve and uphold the legacy of our race for the next generation through education, self-pride, and love.