Sheryl Underwood's comments hit a nerve, but will it cause some black folks to openly admit to themselves that they still hold onto these beliefs about hair?
One definition of programming, as it pertains to people is:
"The act of creating something by thinking"
Black people have been programmed to hate their hair and other God-given Afro features.
Like other sisters and brothers I was struck by the ignorant comments made by Sheryl Underwood on her mainstream talk show regarding natural black Afro hair. It was especially concerning being that she was the Grand Basileus (Head Lady in Charge) of a respected 90-year-old African American sorority that was founded on admirable principles, including self-love and sisterhood.
She was rightly checked for those comments and has since apologized (which I personally accept). But I must ask: were her words very far off from what many black people HONESTLY believe about their natural growing hair?
Can You Admit it?
Many of us have been programmed from a very young age to believe that white and all things white are right -- that includes having long "silky" straight hair and lighter skin. If you had the GAUL to be anything other than what God made you then you were teased or made to feel inferior, sometimes by your very own family members.
Many of us (me included!) can remember being placed in that chair as a youngster and having our hair straightened with the hot comb. Every little bit, even the edges had to be perfectly straight and "laid." It's no wonder that many of us (me included!) grew up thinking that straight white-like hair was the ideal.
As we grew older we started to have our hair permed, starting with kiddie perms and progressing to the real thing.
We endured painful scalp burns to ensure that we got all "them naps."
((Side note: On what planet is this normal?))
Then came weaves. Once the hair was permed so much that it began to break off, some black women simply began to wear weaves to cover-up the "problem."
But where did all of this come from? This belief that our hair has to be bone straight in order to be pretty?
I believe it's a generational curse passed down from our elders. Our elders (both men and women) taught us that white is right, because that's all they knew. This idea is also reinforced by images that we see in the media every day. How many black women do you see on TV wearing their hair in a natural Afro vs straight hair? Almost every high profile black woman in entertainment has straightened or weaved hair.
Now that both men and women have been programmed to believe Afro hair is ugly, they think that they must straighten their hair in order to be desirable.
Wake Up Call?
Though I was disturbed by Sheryl Underwood's antics on mainstream daytime television (the white audience and hosts who laughed and agreed surely aren't off the hook), I am thankful for an opportunity for us to further discuss why some of us still dislike our natural hair. Isn't it ironic that a lot of people who were openly offended by her comments have straightened hair? Maybe this is a Sankofa moment.
It's deep. It goes back generations. Countless black hairstylists throughout the years have earned their keep from it. Even Malcolm X fell prey to it at a time in his life.
And before we act like this is just a black woman problem, lets talk about why a lot of black men either cut their hair very low or cover it with a du-rag to make it look "wavy." Why are they ashamed to grow their hair out a little the way that men of other ethnicities do? Why are they ashamed to show off their "crown and glory?"
Not to mention, while doing some research for this article I found out that it was a black MAN, Garrett Morgan, who created relaxers to straighten black men's hair.
This is a black PEOPLE problem.
It's one thing to have a straightened hairstyle because you honestly believe it fits your face best. It's another to do it to conform OR because you deeply despise your own hair. Hating your natural hair is no different from hating your natural skin tone.
There's nothing wrong with US, I think there's something wrong with the way that we THINK about certain things.
The brainwashing and programming can be fixed with education and inspiration from black people who have learned to love their natural hair and teach these self-love principles to their children.
Here is an example of how you do that.