Guest Post: I'm Thinking About My Hair
When I read this post I was very impressed and inspired! Since it was in Swedish I asked Valerie if I could translate it and publish it here in English so all my non-Swedish speaking readers could take a part of it. If you do understand Swedish and haven't read posts on Rummet you are missing out, so head over there right now!
Thank Valerie for letting my translate and share this post!
Guest post by Valerie Kyeyune Backström from the blog Rummet (read the original post in Swedish here)
Was out about a week ago, was wearing my hair in a high pony tail on my head, the hair was rippling over my head in it's own halo. You couldn't see the hair tie, the hair looked like it was down. Stretched my hair is almost to the small of my back. Now it was on top, around my head.
I was out with friends.
The later the evening became the more people were trying to touch my hair. Partly faceless people that suddenly grab at it as I pass, but also those that at least have the decency to address me first. I have kinda developed a sixth sense. That little boy saw dead people, I can sense when someone is about to grope my hair. Is this what they call division of resources? I know exactly when the conversation is about to go from normal to uncomfortable, I know exactly which looks get suck on me and in that moment contemplate how they most appropriately can get their paws on my hair; one hand, two hands, to say something first or to just do it?
I've learnt to duck, to move like a slippery cat to avoid getting petted; I've learnt to swerve, turn and twist my body to avoid it, to slow down or speed up my step. To avert conversations when they suddenly reach dangerous territories.
It's not that fucking fun.
Because what this teaches me is that the more I am myself the less I get left alone. And now I don't mean "to be myself" speaking of alternative youth who need to express their unique personality with a jacked with metal studs, crazy clown shoes or flared ripped up pants, I mean myself as in how I was created.
I was thinking about an article I read in connection to the Modern Museum's literature festival some months ago. Have been looking for it online but can't find it. Anyways, they wrote about Taiye Selasi and her appearance. The writer was thorough to point out "her huge hair."
Taiye Selasi who is one of our times newly discovered stars, she has had fucking TONI MORRISON as a mentor, and still Swedish media (Note: this was a big newspaper and not KP [KP= kamprat posten and is a Swedish magazine for pre-teens and teens]) has the need to comment her "huge hair."
A few days ago there was a lecture with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at The Gothenburg Film Festival. Camila later told about their obsession with Adichie's hair; during the lecture they wrote this on their Fb-event site "Dear audience, Chimamanda has landed! With a fantastic hair do - and some fear of the cold... So let's keep the heat up tonight! See you at 19!”
I'm thinking about my hair, about other people's hair; how it sparks so many emotions. I'm thinking about my hair, other's, people's reactions.
It is as I'd though non-black people* think that we walk around with this hair to tempt them.
Kind of like I had them in mind that night when I went out, before I got ready. Like you have you hair to draw attention to you, just like punk rockers and emo-kids with their styles, as if it's an invitation.
As if you asked for it.
(Don't wear your hair big if you think it's annoying, wear it in a bun, straighten it, relax it.)
At the same time non-black people pat themselves on the back and say "Why doesn't Michelle Obama wear her hair natural?" "Why do all black man keep their hair cut short?" "It's so wonderful with an Afro!? Why don't you wear your hair out!?" "Yuck, I really don't understand how people can perm their hair with all those dangerous chemicals, it's totally insane!"
The less I do with my hair the more attention it seems to get; the more people feel a need to approach me, pull, tug, jank at it.
Or they come up with those gross compliments that give me the chills (hey again little boy from Sixth Sense, at least we share this!). These compliments are there to fill an important function for the person giving the compliment; namely showing they are not prejudice/racist according to their own logic -> 1. a prejudice/racist person would think/thinks an Afro is ugly, but because s/he 2. Thinks that an Afro is beautiful s/he isn't racist/prejudice!
These compliments can be recognized by the fact that they are wrapped in some kind of self righteousness based in the fact that the person giving the compliment feels so FUCKING UNPREJUDICED and CLEVER that finds beauty where most people find something ugly. Yes, it's almost a bit edgy, really avant-garde! Where most people find something ugly this person finds a beautiful cubic abstract beauty that most people pass by!
Once more I think of Taiye Selasi, about her hair. Where others, one of them a well known newspaper, saw "huge hair," something deviant and exceptional, something that needs to be noted and paid attention to, commented, I saw... Something normal? I didn't see anything huge, I saw regular hair. Regular, normal, normally big hair, hair that looked almost like mine.
I'm thinking about representation. The newspapers aren't written for me, people like me aren't the demographic, that's clear in a detail like this one. The writer points out the hair, it's width, because the writer thinks that her/his readers think that Selasi's hair is so huge that they also will choke on their morning coffee, that they can find comfort in the writer pointing out the abnormal.
The writer is not thinking about me. I'm happy to see my hair represented, to see a genius, a successful, respected woman with similar hair to mine. The same with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And that joy I carry with me until I read the comments their existence is framed by.
That's when I realize it doesn't matter what I do, who I am - even if I'm incredibly successful; hell - have Toni Morrison as a mentor - I would still not escape all this shit.
*Yes, I'm looking at you, all non-black racialised people! You don't have your backs clear!