natural hair

TSA Needed to Search My Afro For Your "Safety"

TSA
TSA

Racial profiling is alive and well in America. Not only do I continue to be pulled out of the line after going through the security screeners for a full body pat down, but yesterday, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents at the Denver International Airport felt the need to put their fingers (with gloves on) through my medium sized afro. Haven't we already discussed ad nauseum how black women feel about being treated like pets and a petting zoo? Please do not touch our hair without asking. Not only does this seem to be an incredibly ineffective way to identify someone intent on doing harm while in the air, it's flat out disrespectful.

I'm aware of the "behavior detection program" that TSA agents went through last year, where they were taught of certain behaviors and antics that they deem to be an aviation threat and thus necessitating a further search. My awareness to this subjective discriminatory practice has caused me to act exceedingly "normal." I code-switch when going through airport security. Being a black woman (which stereotypically is synonymous with danger, crime and/or lower socioeconomic and educational status), I silently work hard while in line about to go through security at ensuring that people all around me can feel safe. I come prepared with all of my liquids in the correct sized ziploc bag, I take my shoes off earlier than necessary (as to not suspiciously hold up the line), and I pack my laptop in a bright colored, preppy case, and never wear a hoodie. However this code-switching routine rarely works - I'm nearly always given the pat down, while Bryan waits patiently on the other side for TSA to finish with me.

After polling some of my black friends, and learning that I'm not alone in having to go through this procedure, I'd like an explanation from TSA about how  much more protection and "safety" they're offering the general population in searching a travelers afro. I'd like to see statistics to help me to better understand this practice. Until I hear from you (TSA), I will not allow another agent to put their hands in my hair again. Feel free to support the internal complaint I've filed by emailing TSA at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov.

Do you feel safer knowing that TSA conducts a secondary afro pat down?

Celebrating Afros vs. The Blue Ivy Petition

Two weeks ago a women created a petition using change.org, the text simply read:

Dear Blue Ivy, Comb your hair.

The creator begged Beyonce and Jay-Z to use their money to ensure that Blue Ivy no longer have "matted dreads or lint balls." One commenter stated "Because no child whose mom spends thousands on her hair (monthly) should live life looking like a sheep!"  I am disturbed and saddened by the petition especially in knowing that so many black folks (including myself) struggle with embracing our natural roots. Unbelievably, the petition has reached its goal of 5,000 signatures.

Walking through Seattle's Northwest African American Museum's Afro exhibit personally provided some balance, hope and strength. The exhibit features stunning photos (by social documentarian Michael July) of strong black men and women who wear their natural hair proudly.

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photo-26

One male shared the complexity of natural hair and professionalism:

"Being out of an office environment allowed me to have no restrictions on my personal style. I decided not to cut cut my hair. The longer it got, the more free I felt..."

A woman shares the complexities of being mixed race;

I be that half breed/Bastard seed

Not in need of your validation

Brothers in need/Think I'm pretty

While brothers in know/Know the cost

They say that I am beautiful/By historical default

I am what happens when love mixes with hate

I am what's produced when oxymorons mate

I've become acutely aware of the confused stares from strangers and children, and have mastered the art of deciphering the unspoken wonder from folks who silently wonder if I forgot to comb my hair.  While confused in wondering why life sometimes feels akin to the stories I hear of the afros in the 1960's being worn as a symbol of power and making a statement,  I'm simultaneously empowered by the proud and few rocking their natural hair.

Black Ownership of the Words "Natural Hair?"

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80472210

When I type the words "natural hair" in to the search box on Pinterest, my feed is automatically flooded with pictures of black women confidently wearing their hair au naturel. I find lots of information about natural hair care, afro styling suggestions, braiding techniques and encouragement to stay away from straighteners. Instagram and Google provide more of the same. It seems as though the words natural hair have meandered its way into mainstream Black cultural lingo. My Caucasian friends who aren't wearing wigs or weaves don't describe their hair as "natural hair," and photos of natural caucasian hair never pop up in these searches...can we then classify this as black terms? Obviously, neither the words "natural" or "hair" are inherently or exclusively Black...

To some extent every group participates in code switching in one way or another. The relationships that particular sub groups have to languages happen as a result of different groups living together as a consequence of historical events, human migrations, redlining etc. Although it may seem that attempting to fit in and ascribing to a cliquish mindset will only serve to keep unwanted racial barriers, languages and word associations of various ethnic and cultural groups is critical for uniting communities and preserving our identity.

Many transracial adoptive parents ask me styling questions about caring for their children's black hair. Whilst being steadfast in my encouragement towards wearing black hair au naturel, I openly acknowledge through words and photos that my journey towards ridding myself of wigs and weaves did not happen overnight. I also know that peer pressures (for both the child adoptee and their parents), finances, weather, access to black hair salons and politics are factors when deciding upon natural hair. After NYC Mayor de Blasio's son donned his afro I read a tweet by political correspondent Hunter Walker who stated that de Blasio "...should probably encourage Dante to give his hair more than a weekly washing."  This culturally insensitive comment is not unique - a once per week or once every other week hair wash is easily understood by the black community, but other ethnicities may think this to be unsanitary. Though comments like these may feel to be a jab in our weary armor as we continue to be embrace our natural selves, let's plod and take a cues from Esperanza Spalding and Lupita N'yongo as they help to redefine the rigid lines other cultures have drawn for us.

I'm curious what minority subgroups may take over next? Perhaps instead of the general public stigmatizing adoptees as adorable, cuddly, black, orphaned babies, we will begin to be seen and heard as articulate and intelligent adults? We, adoptees are making progress via sites such as The Lost Daughters and Land of Gazillion Adoptees, but truthfully we still have a ways to go until we gain as firm the grasp that Black women have on the term "natural hair." 

***This post is dedicated to 22 year old, Karyn Washington, who took her own life last week. She was the creator of the website For Brown Girls, and worked hard to empower black women everywhere learn to love their complexion and themselves. She seemed to have so many things going for her. It's important that we check in with each other often - especially to those for whom we think may 'have it all.' ***

My White Husband & My Black Hair

621A0086
621A0086

My husband is great for so many reasons. But tonight, it's because his hands are in my fro! It feels like the good 'ol days when I'd spend hours in front of the television as my sister would braid extensions into my hair. Oh, the nostalgia!

From the days in college when I chemically straightened my hair to wearing wigs and weaves, extensions and then back to its natural state - Bryan has been understanding of the whys behind the progression and has told me that my hair looks beautiful throughout. He acknowledges my continual struggle  of desiring Caucasian-like hair as it flows in the wind, and can be brushed and curling ironed. He's fine with our bathroom cupboards being filled with hair oils and hair butter and never complains about my nighttime satin cap and satin pillowcase needs. Though the Herbal Essences advertisements make me wonder - if I was able to use that kind of shampoo, would I miraculously end up in a field of roses where life is perpetual bliss? Bryan brings me back to reality, reminding me of our own world of blissful reality right here in Seattle, complete with my once every two week shampoo and Miss Jessie's deep conditioning regimen. He knows that whether I choose to wear my hair as an afro or in cornrows that I'm not doing it to make a statement or to try to showcase my cultural roots.

I am so thankful to have married a gentleman who can simultaneously understand my longing for fine, shiny hair that can be pulled back in to a ponytail, yet he also encourages my natural state, and supports my Pinterest natural hair obsession. What a guy!