A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to share a digital course (check it out here) I had labored over to a select few blog subscribers. There was one student in the course who stood out because she asked the most questions and always made her opinion known.
Our email interactions were interesting, but one email took the cake.
After a concern with a credit card charge that seemed to be a few cents more than advertised (which later was confirmed to be an exchange rate issue unrelated to what I charged) I was asked a question that shocked me.
The exact email:
Ok thank you. I’ll check with them. I’m very careful with my money. I only did it because I trusted u and ur work a lot. I still do, but I think ur hair yes is African, but I’m worried that u have European ancestry. I am sure there are other viewers thinking the same.
So may I pls ask you kindly to do a video maybe or tell me something that will clear that because if u have European ancestors, it means everything u say will only work for those with European ancestors like u.
Also, ur name is Italian. I know that African American people do not have African surnames, but I’d like to be sure u do not have Italian genes or Beccai genes …wherever the Beccai’s are from.
I hope u’ve understood my concern. If u have cleared this concern already, please kindly email me the link. I can see u are African looking. You could even fit in my family, really and I like u as a person. So even if u are Italian/Euro, I’ll watch ur videos.
You are very inspiring. And I wish u the best. Thank u.
Seems innocent enough, right? Yes, except that I felt like taking her by her shoulders and shaking some knowledge into her! I want to educate her and the masses of black women who have also asked these questions of their hair idol. As inspired as she is by my hair journey, I believe she and many others will struggle a long time to realize the beauty in their hair and attain the hair results they’re looking for if they don’t understand these 3 things below:
1. We’re all different.
No two heads of kinky afro-textured hair are the exact same- whether or not those two heads share the same genetic make-up.
The social construct of race dictates that the biggest difference between European and African hair types is that the former is usually straight and the latter is usually kinky, but these differences vary and really can’t be set in stone. What is 100% factual, however, is that differences in hair type — such as density, diameter and porosity — exist in all races and ethnicities. Meaning two white women with the same ethnicity may in fact have stark differences in their hair types. The same goes for black women. Those are the differences that, in my opinion, contribute to the varying results we get from products and techniques.
So, whether or not another black woman has European ancestry really doesn’t tell the whole story as to whether their hair care practices will help your own hair.
2. Worry about yourself.
I am baffled by how worried my subscriber is about my hair and ancestry. Something about that “worrying” comes across as misplaced and I realize that particular worry may stem from a lack of understanding of her own hair needs.
It’s ok to look up to someone for ideas on how to take care of your hair, but if your whole hair regimen is patterned around someone else’s regimen and hair type, with no clue as to what your own hair needs (or what your hair type is, etc.), you definitely should be worried about yourself.
If your hair idol decides to change a few things in their regimen (the same regimen that you have also been implementing) and then you decide to integrate their changes into your own regimen, you could run into issues if you don’t understand your own hair.
Any failure that ensues from you adopting their hair care practices shouldn’t be blamed on the person, because each one of us has the responsibility to get to know our hair. Worrying about your hair will take you much farther than worrying about someone else’s hair.
3. Black women without a drop of European ancestry can and do grow their hair to amazing lengths.
I thought this was something all of *us* knew by now. Even though my subscriber’s email doesn’t explicitly share anything concerning hair length, I have to wonder if she has questions about it and doesn’t know this truth, especially since my overseas visit during the holidays took me out of my bubble of knowledge and exposed me to people who didn’t know that women who are 100% black can and do grow their hair long.
You don’t have to look too hard to find this truth. There are many black women who can attest to the fact their hair as a child was able to reach long lengths (I can share my theories on why this is another time). There are also many women who don’t have any immediate European ancestry, and after learning what their hair needs and how to care for it were able to achieve long lengths.
One important thing to note about the afro-textured hair type is that it is scientifically proven to have a lower tensile strength making it more prone to breakage and damage (Syed, A.N., Kuhajda, A., Ayoub, H., Ahmad, K., and Frank, E., “African American Hair: Its Physical Properties and Differences Relative to Caucasian Hair” (1995)). This doesn’t mean one can’t retain length, however. Sure, not everyone can (or wants to) make it to hip bone length, but I have a feeling that many of us can at the very least reach shoulder length if we are healthy and intentional about understanding the nature of our hair and implementing what our hair needs to flourish.
Let’s stop attributing beautiful, long afro-textured hair to a heritage when, in my opinion, there are other more valuable factors that produce this outcome. Start embracing the fact that black is beautiful with or without European blood.
P.S. For the record my husband gave me my last name. 🙂
How do you think we as black women can dispel the myths portrayed by society about our hair and beauty?