A Look Into Generational Hair Trauma

A Look Into Generational Hair Trauma

If you’re reading this blog you most likely have generational hair trauma. Our natural hair has been looked down upon by society for centuries. In America, the idea that our coily hair in its natural state was dirty, unkempt, and unattractive was further reinforced during slavery. Degradation and belittlement is a tactic that has been used since colonization began. This, and many other tactics, made colonizers feel superior and forced many groups of people to convert to a new way of living. It placed unreasonable, Eurocentric beauty standards on those who weren’t of European descent.


The fear, pain, and suffering that our ancestors faced for simply existing are still entrenched in our communities today. Many of us were taught that “good hair” was long and flowing, not full of coils, and gravity-defying. If your hair was the latter, you should do everything in your power to get rid of it or hide it. We were taught to straighten our coily hair with heat or chemicals. To tuck our curls under a wig and ignore them. If our hair didn’t look like “good hair”, it shouldn’t be seen.


Post-Slavery Hair

Hair discrimination has prevailed over the decades by not only the descendants of colonizers but within our community. Natural hair was demonized so heavily that many people adapted to this belief out of the need to survive. It was already difficult for people of color, especially black people, to get sustainable work once slavery was abolished. In fact, when it was abolished there were many loopholes that allowed for it to continue under a new name. Those who were able to find work often had to fit their employer’s desired aesthetic. Their children had to do the same, and so did their children’s children.


That is where our generational hair trauma stems from. It’s extremely unfortunate that our community has had such a disconnect from our natural bodies due to forced Eurocentric beauty standards. In many indigenous belief systems, including various African ones, the hair is a spiritual connection to culture and ancestors. Many of us lost that connection by growing up in the African diaspora. Instead of enjoying our relationship with our curls, we were shamed inside and outside of our homes.


Black Hair in the Workplace

There were no laws in place to stop employers from discriminating against natural hair until recent years. It was commonplace to tell a candidate that they needed to change their hair because it wasn’t professional. This hair could have been neatly braided, in a perfect bun, or beautifully twisted out, it did not matter. There are countless stories about employers asking employees to change their hairstyles or schools cutting children’s hair.


Unfortunately, curlfriend, you probably have a story or three of your own. This is why people are fighting for laws like The Crown Act, which makes it illegal to judge a potential or current employee because of their natural hair. This law or a law similar has only been passed in 12 states.


The Shift Toward Natural Hair

Today, many of us are fortunate to be in a society that is growing more accepting of natural hair, in and out of our community. It began to resurge during the Civil Rights Movement and has made a massive comeback in the last decade. However, the shift toward natural hair doesn’t unsay every hurtful comment you’ve heard about your beautiful, coily hair. Your generational hair trauma isn’t healed the second you do a twist-out. Many naturals still struggle with length retention because we’ve been told that long natural hair is beautiful hair. In reality, our natural hair is simply beautiful.


What you want to do with your hair is up to you. It’s your choice to dye it, straighten it, or wear it in a fro. What’s important is that it’s a choice made by your preferences, not by society’s expectations. You shouldn’t feel like you have to get a wig installed to look presentable, you should just enjoy what wigs have to offer.


Always remember: natural hair is professional hair. It is formal hair and it is appropriate for every occasion. Our hair isn’t unkempt and neglected. It’s full of magical curls and coils. We should love each and every one of them.

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