How Hair Affects African American Girls' Self-Esteem

Taking a cue from Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair, today's Tyra examined how black women — including little girls — feel about their hair, and the (at times painful) lengths they go to alter it.

I have no idea what it's like to have hair that's considered difficult to manage (aside from flatness), but it was easy to empathize with the little girls on this show because, as women, most of us are subjected to the idea that we're not measuring up to certain standards of beauty, whatever they may be. And while I could understand Tyra's outrage over a mother who chemically relaxes her 3-year-old daughter's hair, TyTy's stance on the hair issue was confusing, since she's just about the weaviest person on the planet; in fact, she regularly gives white women weaves on America's Next Top Model.

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The question of the nappy hair offense is, I think, dependent on your experience. I have often had people (of the white persuasion) call my hair nappy despite the fact that my hair is not "nappy" at all. Even when my hair is straightend flat against my head its still been referred to as "nappy". As if that is the default desription of a black persons hair. I have also had "nappy" hurled at me in a tone that was clearly unfriendly. It was also used with a certain "those blacks" tone by my black family so that my exprience dictates that "nappy" is an offensive term.

Also, another issue I have had with my hair has been the weird desire by people to want to touch it to see what it feels like or strange "compliments" that have left me feeling uncomfortable or just angry and this happens wether its straight or (very rarely) natural. I feel like an experiment every time some white person reaches for my hair and hurls a gazillion questions about the texture and feel and asking how do I get it straight. I take it in stride though by swatting their hands and calmly answering their questions.