AV - “I am not my hair” or am I?
Students discuss “Good Hair”
Lancaster, CA – In lieu of Black history month, students gathered at Antelope Valley College this week to talk about Chris Rock’s newest headliner, “Good Hair.” From laughs to gasps coming from the small mixed audience of mostly women, students and administrative facilitator Michelle Hernandez discussed the heavy attitudes toward Black hair, identity, and what it really means to have good hair.
“I didn’t think we were still being judged like this, by our hair;” one student commented during the discussion. Several agreed.
From weaves to perms, braids and natural dos, Black women and men are still graded by the their glorious crowns. It almost seems as if there is an unspoken class system when it comes to Black hair.
What is good hair? “To me it’s when you don’t have to press it. You can slap some gel on it, or it’s wavy or curly and you don’t have to do much to it,” another student said.
Though the general consensus among the small group of attendees was, “If you’re happy with your hair, it doesn’t matter what other people think,” there was also heavy discussion about the need to match the standards of societal norms.
Getting that job promotion or acing that interview could be a matter of how your hair looks. Working in corporate America often calls for interacting with customers or clients, which may or may not necessitate Black employees to give considerable attention as to their hair styles. Some will choose to wear their hair as they want, regardless to those around them; while others who may not be as self-assured, may choose to conform to “standards” of acceptable appearance.
Paul Mooney commented in the movie, “If your hair is relaxed, White people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, White people ain’t happy.”
Though students laughed, there was a sense of agreement during the discussion.
Hernandez, director of student activities and community outreach, coordinated the event. She says her inspiration for the event came from personal experiences.
“I know we as African American women spend a lot of time, money, and resources on our hair,” she chuckled. “It’s an interest I have… exploring the variety of different things we can do with our hair and how it shapes us and our world around us.”
Hernandez explained that many women profess, “I am not my hair,” but hair in the Black community is, in fact a part of African American identity and even self-esteem.
“To me, it’s just about a different look, it’s about being versatile,” she said. “I am who I am whether I have a weave or an Afro or curls. But there are some areas where people are struggling with their image of themselves and their culture.”