White women still don’t belong in natural hair spaces

It’s been nearly five years since I wrote White Women Don’t Belong In Natural Hair Spaces. This post, unsurprisingly, received a lot of comments, many from white women tearfully sharing their own battles with their hair and telling me I’m racist for not wanting them in black hair care spaces.

Over the years, the comments have ranged from people completely agreeing with me, readers liking part of what I had to say and those who are so appalled that they feel the need to lecture me on why I’m wrong (I didn’t approve 90 percent of the comments because they were just so ridiculous). Here are a few samples:

” I am a white, Jewish woman with 4C hair. I was tortured for my hair texture until my early twenties, when I began straightening my hair, and I never hear a negative word about my appearance until two years ago, when I ditched the straightener and let my hair grow out. I don’t claim to know what it is like to be a black woman, but I do know what it is like to have kinky, “nappy” (as a black hairdresser once referred to my hair as) hair. I also know what it is like to be shunned for that natural hair. We may be in a severe minority, but white women with type 4 hair do exist.

Hm…I wonder if her “type 4 hair” shrinks down to an Afro after a day in the heat or when she sleeps in a bonnet. I’m talking about a real nappy Afro, one you wouldn’t dare tackle without a damn good conditioner, comb and water — the kind you need water to shake out and reshape; not that longish, frizzy hair some folks like to claim is an Afro when they are just sporting bed head or battling high humidity.

“While I understand where you’re coming from, I just can’t get on board with statements like this: “Curly-haired white women don’t know what it’s like to have your
boyfriend (or girlfriend) flat out say he (or she) prefers your hair to
be straight (because of that whole white Eurocentric beauty brainwashing
thing)” Black women aren’t the only ones who feel pressured to wear their hair straight. And yes, there in fact are curly haired white women who hear that from their significant others and family members.
However, I do think it’s important for Black women to have a space where they can share their stories and learn how to care for their hair in its natural state. I feel strongly about that because for years there was no such space. And yes, historically, Black women have been brainwashed to think their hair is ugly and unacceptable. And no, her journey isn’t the same, not at all, but I’m just looking at it from both sides. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised to see her feature on there the other day, because I was, and I just knew there would be backlash for it. This is one of the reasons I have an issue with the term “natural hair.” Because its true definition can apply to anyone really. Now if we’re talking about unprocessed, afro-textured hair, then that’s getting a little more specific, but I think it’s a little silly to say that Black women have sole ownership of the term “natural hair.” I’m torn really, because I understand where the backlash is coming from, but at the same time, I feel like its doing more harm than good. I personally don’t need to read a story about a White woman to “add credibility to our issues.” I agree with you there. But I don’t need to read a story about a Black woman to add credibility to my issues either. I don’t feel comfortable giving anyone that type of power to be honest. But that’s just me…”

LOL, sure, Jan.

My original post spells out why these above comments are part of the problem, so I won’t beat a dead horse. But I want to make one thing clear: white women still don’t belong in natural hair spaces. Your hair and your journey with embracing your curls and frizz isn’t the same as ours. White women do not carry the political, social and economic weight that black women have to balance when we decide to shun white supremacist views regulating our bodies and embrace our kinks and coils.

As I said before, you do not have to navigate ignorant comments and awkward stares from family and friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, coworkers, acquaintances and strangers about your hair texture. Of course, times have changed and natural hair is pretty common in many parts of the country. However, as we know, white supremacy is a hell of a drug, and anything that signifies blackness — including black hair in its natural state — is automatically labeled as The Other and antithetical to beauty (aka, whiteness).

Now, I’m not saying you can’t buy Shea Moisture or those other brands that charge you an arm and a leg for an 8-ounce jar. By all means, feel free to buy whatever you believe will work for you and your hair. But don’t assume the torture and name calling you went through because your friends and relatives hated your curly hair is the same thing as an oppressive system that bombards black women with messages that their hair, lips, hips and nose don’t measure up to the standard of beauty perpetuated by whiteness.