So I’m back at college for my fourth year! It’s exciting and somewhat overwhelming, and I think I was crazy to think that I wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of money for people to teach me things I could have probably read about. However, the experience is proving to be well worth my constant struggles. But when I came to a predominantly white school and decided that this was the place for me to “go natural”, I can honestly say that would be one of the experiences I would love to forget.
Connecticut College is academically challenging, and rated one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. It also, fills its roster with a majority of the one percent who happen to only have experience with people of color as their household maids and nannies. But that being said, I can honestly say, I did not attend this school because of its lack of diversity. I love it! Finding my niche of friends was harder than I thought, but when you have gone to schools where you are the only black person in class a majority of the time, you learn to deal with it and embrace it as the experience in which you have chosen. So you will hear no complaints from me about the lack of black faces among my peers on campus. It has simply become a norm that I do hope changes over time, but I am no less dissatisfied with my education. That being said, I never thought I would have to experience the hair comments and the looks I get when I walk in to a room.
Two years ago I cut my hair and decided I was definitely ready to try something new. Before that, I had never had a comb in my hair and I had locks (dreads) since I was three. I am currently 21 years old. So when I cut my hair, you can say it was most definitely a shock. I went from people simply accepting my hair and/or just avoiding my head because it was like every other person trying a style, to people clamoring to throw their opinions (good or bad might I add) at the style in which I should keep my hair. I was overwhelmed to say the least. So when I got to school after my summer of soul – searching and loving my new “do”, I was even more shocked by the number of people who wanted to touch me. And the number of white people who simply thought my locks were a new trick obtained by weave.
The comments ranged from, “OMGEEEEEEE! When did you take your weave out?” to “Wow are those curls real? I mean, what do you do to get your hair to look like that? Do you like not wash or comb it for weeks?” I was simply horrified. The look on my face could have made grown men cry. Simply put; my hair was too curly, too soft, too shiny, and most definitely not nappy enough, to qualify as real or natural hair. And let me tell you, my hair is natural. I literally run some water through it, put Treseme Naturals Conditioner in it, and throw on a headband. I’m all about simple. So you can imagine the looks I was giving to people. I had become the official petting zoo. And the guys at my school kept wondering when my hair was going to get long enough to throw in a ponytail. That, they said, “…would make me look ten times prettier”. I was completely done with it all. I remember calling my mom crying that I seriously didn’t know what to do with my hair. Everybody wanted a say. I’m such a private person, and if you know me, my bubble has been perfected to the point of almost being impenetrable. So I was thrown. But I stuck with it. I thought people just needed time. I was completely wrong.
I am now in my fourth year, and people still let their hands be taken by the wind and drifted to my head full of curls. I have snapped on more people in these last two weeks than I have done all summer while I was home. I refuse to let myself be the new modern “hair petting zoo”. “No you cannot touch my hair. No I do not hate you; I just don’t like people in my personal space without my permission. Ask away but please, let’s act like we were brought up on proper etiquette.” It’s funny, but people seem to totally loose their minds when they find themselves around my hair. This year, my professor looks at me during class and asks if my hair has brought more than just African – American males to find me attractive. My answer? It was simply a death stare that spoke volumes. I think she would be surprised to know only African – American males have found it the hardest to approach me. So as I embark on my final year, I am reminded that I still have real life and a new workplace to introduce my hair and I to. The tortuous hair comments won’t end any time soon. I just know I better get my own office if I am to survive. And school. Well we will just have to see how our supposed future leaders will handle themselves this year. So until next month when I can update you on my trials and tribulations, please pray for me. But most of all, pray for my hair.
Natural Black Child