That said, my motivation has been renewed over a topic that resurfaces in the black community seemingly ever 24 hours...
A few recent stories have sparked me into blogging action; (1) Chris Rock's upcoming documentary called Good Hair, (2) Curly Nikki's article on natural women's "Superiority Complex" and (3) Tyra Bank's recent announcement of going "au natural" for season 5 of the Tyra Show.
Whew! Where to begin, where to begin? Well before I begin, I'd implore my readers to watch the following clip.
Crazy, huh? I have no idea who wrote this documentary or when it came out (I stumbled on it via Clutch Magazine) but the main thing that struck me throughout that clip was the narrators comment at the end, saying "They were the "darkies"...which resembled the Africans loved only by their Jesus."
Hmm...once again I'm stuck about where to begin. Such a comment is tantalizing to me because over a year ago, before I became a Christian, I got into an argument with my very devout, Christian best friend who had accused me of idolizing my hair. You may wonder what being Christian has to do with anything, but the biblical definition of idolatry is a lot different than the secular one, so I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that my opinion on the topic will be rooted in the Christian perspective, though the issue has religious and non-religious appeal.
It's no doubt that when black women decide to go natural, more often than not they describe it as a pretty intense experience. What starts off as maybe a quest for a healthy head of hair or maybe just a quest to save the money flying out of their pocketbooks every 8 weeks for a regular touch-up, generally ends in a self-discovery of sorts, centered around personal ideals of beauty and their perceptions of beauty in the Black community as a whole. Fired up with new opinions about beauty in the black community, new Naturals are often accused of being condescending and judgmental to their non-natural sisters.
I joke all the time that once you go natural, it's mandatory that you have to start shopping at Whole Foods, wear puka shells, bathe in patchouli, and make statements about "becoming one with the universe". I can't tell you how many times someone has assumed me to be a vegan and/or a Black Nationalist just because I have a 'fro. The truth in my jest; however, lies at the fact that "going natural" more often than not hits the transitioner spiritually, regardless of their reasons for deciding to go natural in the first place. I personally went natural almost 6 years ago just because I wanted my long hair back after the perm broke it all off, but about 3-4 years into it, I found myself getting into heated arguments with people about how my natural hair "brought me closer to God".
I look back now and go, "Boy I was trippin' !" but the crux is that the newly natural find a new identity in their natural hair. As shown by the video, hair to African-Americans is such a deep rooted subject that finding a new identity in one's natural, African-American hair can lead to an all over transformation—not just with the hair, but with mind, body, and soul.
The "soul" part is the nucleus for this post today. The above video suggested that the blacks who revered a European aesthetic and subsequently discriminated against their "natural" brethren were further from the Christian doctrine than those blacks who praised God for loving them just as the were. One of the commenters on the Curly Nikki post asking whether or not natural women have a superiority complex states:
Some black women tell themselves they relax their hair so it will be easier for them to manage (I know I did). But, I say they relax their hair because they are ashamed of who they are and what God created. Natural hair is not hard to maintain when you know what you are doing. In addition, if God wanted a black woman to have [straight] hair, God would have created her that way.
As someone now on the other side of the spiritual fence, I see that my friend was totally right about me idolizing my hair. I went way overboard in my devotion to my natural hair and the excessive desiring of things to further glorify my hair while simultaneously making little to no regard for the God who gave me my curly locks. The question now is: is it possible for natural hair to bring you closer to God, as several outspoken naturals suggest? Are we even justified in seeing hair as a spiritual thing?
Contrary to my own past beliefs, I do not believe that going natural can or will bring you closer to God. I know that statement will be obvious to some and utter blasphemy to others, but the Bible clearly states that our communion with God has everything to do the faith in Him, repentance, and prayer, and nothing to do with how closely we fashion ourselves to our original "God-given" state, which is where I erred before. Believing that "being natural" in any regard (no perm, no makeup, no deodorant, whatever) gets you some sort of special communion with God, I feel, is wrong because most of the things we consider "being natural" are superficial, we just attribute spirituality to them.
That said, I think going natural, or anything that causes you to abandon a previous lifestyle for a greater goal can be a great experience to draw on when getting closer to God. Getting closer to God, no matter what your religion, requires discipline, dedication, and an overall abandonment of the way you lived life before your quest. When you find friends ridiculing you for your belief in God or for choosing not to live a certain way anymore as a result of God working in your life, it can be a very lonely, humiliating ordeal. Sometimes it helps if you went through something on a (much) smaller scale that parallels (but is not equal to) your spiritual journey to refer to when the road gets rough. In a way, this is what I think most naturals really mean when they say that going natural helped them grow spiritually—not that going natural makes them closer to God per se, but that the experience brought so much ridicule and alienation before it became rewarding that they had something to look back on when hit with the inevitable tribulations one goes through when they seek God. Going natural, of course, is only one example of an experience that can parallel one's spiritual growth; dedication to a sport, marriage, getting through med school, etc, are all things that, on a much, much smaller scale, can be great reminders that "there's light at the end of the tunnel" when facing the hardships of spiritual growth. Doing any of those things, however, can't replace the journey of growing closer to God, in my opinion.
Since I plan to document my hair goals as well as my spiritual goals (when appropriate) on this blog, I felt the supposed spirituality behind natural hair would be a fitting topic, especially in light of all talk about black hair circulating the media recently. What do you readers think? Are naturals who claim deeper spirituality because of their hair justified in their claims? Does hair have anything to do with one's spirituality or "true self"? Share your comments below.