a person or animal that is markedly unusual or deformed
Whether their called relaxers, perms, straighteners, or even creamy crack, one thing is certain. Chemical straighteners in the black community are here to stay. Some of the most famous African American women in today's society use chemical relaxers. From Tyra Banks, to Halle Berry, to Oprah Winfrey, even Michelle Obama.
When a black woman walks into a room with her hair chemically straightened she is considered well groomed, professional, and even docile to her peers. As one comedian, Paul Mooney, jokes, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed.” “If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.”
In my own life, I have observed that when a woman walks into a room with natural hair, one question is always asked by many people in the black community. This question asked of me repeatedly is, "What made you go natural?"
Well my problem with such questions is this: Why are relaxers the norm and why is natural hair the radical? I chemically straightened my hair for years and years and no one ever asked me once why I decided to put foreign, harmful, chemicals on my head. Chemicals that not only irritated and burned my scalp, but even made my hair fall out in clumps. What sense does that make?
Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) based and Calcium Hydroxide based are the two main types of relaxers sold in drugstores today. That's right-Sodium Hydroxide- the same stuff used to make liquid Drano Drain Cleaner.
Many African American get their first relaxer way before they are able to make the decision for themselves. On an episode of the Tyra Banks show entitled, "What is Good Hair,?" women proudly boasted about relaxing (and putting weave in) their little girl's hair because it is "easier to manage that way." It does not matter that the child is only eight years old (the youngest being three), and that the process could damage her hair permanently in the long term.
Another segment of the show where Tyra interviews young black girls about their hair, one child says that her hair in its natural hair is "low class and ugly." I think its really interesting to see how relaxing a child's hair can mentally affect them, as well as how much kids really pick up on negative attitudes towards themselves. It's easy to see how many African American women get caught in a non stop cycle of a self-hating mentality and a unhealthy dependence on chemical straighteners.
While I do not think Tyra Banks is necessarily the most reliable source of information when it comes to a lot of issues, she really hit the nail on the head in portraying the most common attitudes towards African American hair in its natural state.
Now I don't people reading this to think I am a Natural Hair Nazi (my take on this article coming soon...), I just think its important for people to realize that the decision to use these chemicals on one's hair, especially the hair of a child, is a bigger issue than people make it seem.
I am tired of people thinking that it is "no big deal" to relax African American hair. There are many risks, dangers, and disadvantages to relaxing ones hair to make it "easier to manage, more professional looking, and more convenient to one's lifestyle," like many women state.
I guess the cliche saying is true for many African American women, who truly believe that the only way to attain their definition of 'beauty' is through pain. Pain physically and most importantly, pain mentally.