Article by Crystol McTaggart | Photography by Matt Hubbard | Owl Staff
“Don’t touch my hair” are four words famously sung by Solange Knowles in her song of the same name. This is a bold statement with one meaning: hair can be used to communicate a strong message.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, afros were a symbol of power and self-love. The afro hair also dominated the seventies disco scene and was displayed on shows such as Soul Train.
However, in recent decades, the natural kinkiness and curliness of African-American hair has faced scrutiny in professional situations. “In this culture, American culture and even abroad, black women have to work hard at embracing their natural beauty,” states Sharoll Williams-Love, Student Diversity Specialist and former advisor for the Natural Roots Club.
Williams-Love adds, “The ‘hair care’ industry is a prime example. We are taught from childhood that our natural hair has to be ‘fixed’ and that its natural state is ‘unmanageable.’ Consequently, there are products on the market that implore black women to straighten their hair.”
This expectation can be found in some professional environments where the natural hair styles of black women are not always welcomed.
For this reason, perms, extensions and straightened hair are often worn by people to conceal their natural hair and to conform to Western standards of beauty.
Tomozia Graves, a 19-year-old HCC student studying communications, has experienced this stigma herself. “My natural hair makes me feel like an outsider sometimes when it comes to business,” she says.
Outside of the professional world, however, progress is slowly being made in some institutions. Alynie Hudson, a 20-year-old nursing major with familial ties to the military, proudly states that “natural hair is now being accepted in the military.”
Hudson believes, “Stop trying to make it something it is not,” is reflected in the lyric “Don’t touch my hair.”
Graves compares times when people ask to touch her hair to when people say things like, “You speak so well for a black girl.” It is because of these prejudices that a stigma against black hair can exist.
I personally do not like when people touch my hair. I style my hair myself every morning in the bathroom mirror. Like many African-Americans, my hair takes time and effort, and our hair is central to our culture.
For other people of different ethnicities and races, there’s something about them that makes them feel special. The important thing is that everyone embraces their uniqueness. As the rest of the song by Solange Knowles goes, “Don’t touch my pride…They don’t understand what it means to me.”
Embracing natural hair is a beautiful way to love oneself.
Williams-Love agrees, “We should feel comfortable with the way it grows out of our scalp and not feel ashamed to rock it any way we want, whether that be an afro, half fro, half straight, half wave,” she says. “We are beautiful, our hair, nose, eyes, lips and hips!”