The Politics of My Kinky Hair

Image of myself

“Why didn’t you comb your hair?” a former female colleague asked.

“I don’t comb my hair”, I replied — you should have seen her face drop.

“ You don’t have money to do your hair?”

“Mau Mau’s ancestors”

“Rebel”

And additional remarks I get from my mother and aunties when I decide to wear out my afro or afro puff.

These comments mainly come from a generation of African women who are used to overprocessing their hair using electronic or chemical straighteners. They take me back to when I was fourteen and I was counting down the years, to my rite of passage of chemically straightening my hair. It was one of my most exciting days, because who wanted hard unmanageable hair? Definitely not me.

Of course, all this changed when I decided to transition to my natural coils. It was a transition I did not plan on, in fact whenever I had a bad day, I would come home and just cut off the permed ends.

Therefore, I cannot blame my mother and aunties for the lack of appreciation of their kinky hair. They have been sold on the idea of straight hair being appealing and desirable — unlike kinky hair which they view as untidy and undesirable. For example, try googling images of professional hair, your search feed will be filled with caucasian women with straight luscious hair as seen below:

You will also see a few pictures of black women and their afros, because of the backlash Google received from black women on why black women’s hair was not being featured in the professional hair search feed.

So, where do black women fall in society’s spectrum of professional hairstyles?

Black women’s hair still falls under unprofessional hair, as seen below on the google feed:

Google has not changed much of the search feed results even after the backlash.

The society still deems black women’s hair as unprofessional and undesirable and black girls and women have been suspended from school and lost jobs because of their kinky hairstyles. Some schools and workplaces have gone to the extent of establishing policies to ensure black women and girls cannot wear their natural hair. I have schooled in institutions that did not allow students to wear their kinky hair in afros, loc’d or with hair extensions such as braids — the only hairstyles allowed were straightened, shaved, cornrowed or tied back.

Fortunately, I have been able to work in organisations that accept kinky hair in all its styles. Of course, I will still get some not so pleasant remarks, but the “Wow! I love your hair!” comments from my other naturalisters keep me going.

The fight for inclusion of black kinky hair continues and one-day kinky hair will be accepted by society. As for now, I will continue to wear my kinky hair that grows out of my scalp in all spaces because it is my; identity and crowning glory.

Words inspired by my feelings on life, gender, sexual reproductive rights, mental health, youth 🤓