It’s the weekend so it’s high time we started talking about it. “Good Hair”. I know the guys are scared, but don’t be. I think what Chris Rock has done is brave and it shows our confidence that we can know talk publicly about issues that we used to discuss only behind closed doors amongst brothers and sisters.

Yes, we need to talk about this for a number of different reasons:

  1. how black hair is treated impacts black (and non-black) psyches
  2. if you’re black and female, how you style your hair is still not just a fashion choice: it’s a decision fraught with class, gender, ethnicity and politics, i.e. would Michelle Obama be First Lady if she had natural hair?
  3. black hair impacts the global economy — hair is the #1 export from India and is a 9 billion dollar industry in America alone
  4. the controversy over black hair isn’t (all) about hair. it’s also about how black people are actually multi-racial people and the unresolved tensions in our community (that also get projected outside our community)
  5. And then there’s what happened to Michael Jackson. We talk a lot about the evolution of his skin color but less about his hair choices.

The very term “good hair” is racist, IMHO. Both my parents were very light-skinned and had so-called good hair. Like many African-American families, people in my extended family have every kind of hair texture, skin color, nose and lip shape you could hope to find. That’s because due to the uh, complexity & majesty of American History, um, some Indian and white blood got mixed up in there along the way. Like a lot of black families. Within our family, then, you have folks with society-preferred standards of beauty — and those with nappy hair, for instance. We call internal family racism: “colorstruck”.

A big turning point for my mom on this issue was when my little brother was born and there was much family cooing over his then soft, wavy hair. My mother said to my father: “I hope he keeps this good hair.” To which he replied with strength and seriousness: “ALL hair is good hair.”

It dismays me to hear Chris Rock’s story (how his daughter asked him why she didn’t have good hair) and how a generation later and with a Black President in the White House, we are still struggling to love ourselves just as the divine intelligence made us. Take a good look at images of the ancient Egyptians and what historians seem to avoid talking about — they had dreadlocks! Beautiful long locs & braids that should look very familiar if you are black. (Well, ok, actually at some point they shaved their heads in ancient Egyptian high society and made loc wigs, but we’re splitting hairs here. Har.)

Anyway, I’m planning to go see it in the theater in the next weekend or two. I have had every — and I mean EVERY — style of hair (except the weave actually, though I have used hair in braids that wasn’t mine in the past). It was a leap of faith, but I’m really happy with the freedom my funky locs give me now. And I know I will never relax again. But I know a lot of women (and Michael Jackson) have made different choices. So I’m really interested.I believe that everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their hair.

Have you seen it? Planning to go? Let me know in the comments.

More about “Good Hair” after the jump.

From the Sundance Festival description where it won a jury prize:

When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl’s head! Director Jeff Stilson’s camera followed the funnyman, and the result is Good Hair, a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African American hair culture.An exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, Good Hair visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people. Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question. What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn’t always benefit the black community and little Lola’s question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.

Recipient of A Special Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary.

From TheGrio:

TheGrio sat down with a group of black women, after they watched “Good Hair,” for a candid discussion about hair, image and the message behind the film.

Lisa Cortes, an independent filmmaker said, “When I saw ‘Good Hair,’ I thought of all those Saturdays that I spent at the beauty parlor. And all the wonderful women that I met while I was there.”

New York native Chris Rock traveled across the nation, to barbershops and beauty salons and discovered that for black women, hair is about much more than just an expression of style.

For Nikita Wilson, the film reminded her of the battles she faced trying to assert her independence through style.

“I struggled with you know, I want to take my wig off, but how am I going to be received? Am I going to be taken seriously? Am I going to be respected? And then it came down to, well, if this is my natural hair, growing out of my head, why should I alter its natural state to please anybody else?” said Wilson.

Shatara Curry, who prides herself on bringing a smile to others as a stand-up comedian, said of her childhood years that her hair often made her feel like the butt of the jokes.

“I remember feeling like I had bad hair because I was going to school with mainly white girls and they would make me feel like I was the only black girl simply because I was a mystery to them. You know, ‘why doesn’t your hair move? Why is it so greasy?’” she said.

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