Every so often (damn near everyday), I’ll read a news article that gets under my skin. Today, is no exception. A story of a beautiful young girl who is facing expulsion because her hair is considered a “distraction.” All I can do is take a deep breath and sigh.
My first instinct is to defiantly say, I will not apologize for my God-given natural hair and neither should Vanessa Van Dyke. She should not be made to feel as if the genetic hand she has been dealt is somehow wrong. She should not have to be effectively exiled because school administration can not address students who belittle her. She should not have to feel that her beauty is questionable because it does not meet societal standards.
I look at her and I root for her to stand strong. Then, I look at myself, and I have to acknowledge all the times I pull back my hair when I’m going to a “professional” conference. Not because I don’t think I look professional, but because I just want to avoid the stares and the questions that often come along with just being who I am. But if I’m completely honest with myself, it may be because I’ve been shamed into thinking that my appearance would be considered less than optimal…and years later, it still haunts me.
I wore the usual styles of childhood, but once I hit adolescence, the harsh chemicals began. I wanted the silky look (which I never really acquired) of my contemporaries. After 15 plus years, I had absolutely no idea of what grew out of my Own. Damn. Head. None.
Thankfully, that changed, and I became re-acquainted with the curls I’d forgotten I had…or more accurately, I never knew.
What I know now is that I am perfectly ok…scratch that. I’m perfect. Let’s stop there. All the girls and women who have felt shamed at one point or another are perfect. We are no less because of the arbitrary labels of unruly, unprofessional, bad, ugly or “distraction.”
Don’t touch a strand, Vanessa. The only distraction is the smoke screen effectively placing blame on you for being you. You are nothing less than perfect.