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Black people have some issues

05 Jun 2005

Now brothers and sisters, when we were born, we were all brought into this miserable world with a head full of kinky hair. Some is more curly or straight than others and that is a given, whether you are biracial or whatnot. I have some pretty dysfunctional memories as a youth of my dear white mother and father, chasing me with an afro pick around our house and me screaming in pain as Mommy attempted to rake through my nappy ‘fro to put some pink and yellow barrettes in the front. This wasn’t to show people how cute I was at five. It was to distinguish that I was actually a girl!

So at thirty-something and after years of hair relaxers, braided extensions and this horrific weave I had put on a couple of months ago because I was speaking at a conference, I decided to go natural. I asked her to cornrow the front, and to pick out the rest. So now I have an AFRO! I absolutely love that I can actually scratch my head without wondering if my extensions are going to loosen.

But here is where the problem begins. When I was in the shop and my hairdresser was trimming my hair, I heard comments from the other black female customers, such as ‘she think she’s a Zulu?’ and, ‘ guess she can’t afford another hairdo.’ Even my hairdresser looked mildly disgusted, like the forty-something woman with long relaxed tresses who smirked at me when I left the salon. Oh, and the model-type girl who had what looked like a horses’ tail weaved into her scalp.

Now, I’ve never ‘fit in’ to the black community in Toronto. I don’t know exactly why, but whatever it is, I am somewhat over it - you have to be, otherwise you would go insane. What bothered me about this incident is that I couldn’t understand why there was so much hostility. This is my natural hair, for chrissakes!

Everyone has the choice to wear their hair the way they want, period, so I am not going to judge. Last summer, I met one of the coolest and most beautiful black chicks at a summit I was moderating at the Harbourfront Center about alternative black music. She is the president of the Black Rock Coalition in New York and had the left side of her head completely shaved bald, and had pulled the rest of her shoulder - length hair into a pigtail, jutting out on the right side of her head. She exuded so much confidence and had such a unique style, I wanted to emulate her from head to toe. Now, I’m not a stalker or anything like that, but there was something about her appearance that really got to me.

To be unique in this world is a challenge. Especially being black, where people don’t give you the time of day unless they want to insult you. I am really fed up with it, not because I am extremely sensitive and mentally fragile, but because it is a colossal waste of time. Instead of knocking a peg out of another black person, shouldn’t we be building up coalitions to help out the disenfranchised portions of our community? shouldn’t sisters be complimenting each other instead of backbiting?

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