I recently just had a presentation at school. As a hard working, professional, graduate student and employee, I just happen to show my acting supervisor a selfie of me from the engagement I had hours earlier that day before coming to work. Naoj is what we will call her for the sake of anonymity.
Noaj is a 55 year old Jamaican immigrant that came to the Americas when she was 13 in 1973. Noaj is a dark skinned, Black complexioned, female who wears dreads, who has disclosed the fact that she’s worn hair weaves before. Noaj has complimented the way I look several times since I’ve met her saying, “You look so gorgeous”, “well-put-together” and “so beautiful”. Naoj has complimented (with regard to my hair) that it is “so pretty” and “looks very neat”. She’s even asked, “Mynesha how do you get it to look so real?” This past Tuesday afternoon Naoj exclaimed, “You look like a pretty White girl!” after I showed her the above selfie I took after a mock trial seminar. She furthered expressed her position by saying that she just wants Black women to embrace their natural hair and seconds later said, “Maybe I’m too Jamaican”.
My initial thought with regard to her comment was that maybe you are in fact too- Jamaican (whatever that meant) and that some of us aren’t Jamaican at all! I was not born in Jamaica. I have never lived in Jamaica. I have never stepped foot on Jamaican soil, as I have never visited Jamaica. I have never been a part of Jamaican culture and I have never claimed to have been. I was born in America. I have lived in America all my life. I have been a part of American culture. And I have never claimed otherwise.
My latter thought was that maybe Naoj wanted to know why I wore bundles… and because of my personality and overt pro-minority mentality, she probably didn’t know how to ask. I’ll address the elephant in the room anyhow. I don’t wear bundles because I don’t embrace my natural hair. In fact the reason I buy bundles is to wear protective styles in order to maintain and protect my natural hair from chemical damage and harsh maintenance… and I look damn good doing it! I have been fortunate enough to have embraced several life-enriching experiences and I can’t help but think that it’s these diverse life experiences that have produced an open-mind, a headstrong perspective and knowledge of self. And likewise, it may very well be that Naoj’s life experiences have produced her skewed and narrow belief that bundles and makeup on pretty Black girls make them “pretty White girls”. My advice to Naoj would be to remain connected to her cultural heritage while respecting others’! Because there is simply no logic behind viewing an image of a pretty Black girl and exclaiming “You look like a pretty White girl”!
I spoke to my mentor Brother Muhammad and my father last night about how concerned I was with Naoj’s mental state and her false implications associated with her conceptualization of beauty. While admitting-ly disgusted by her apparent ignorance and obvious unconscious low-self-esteem, he spoke from his spiritual side. I’ll impart his wisdom here: Expectations lead to disappointment. Appreciation leads to happiness. Naoj, expect nothing (especially from Black Americans, as a Jamaican immigrant) but appreciate everything.
Naoj, you must be cognizant of the fact that your hasty generalizations and insulting narrow minded opinion could be offensive to some of the most iconic Black American female’s this world has ever seen. In saying that whenever a Black girl wears straight weave, she is trying “to be white” is ignorantly and insultingly saying that Serena William’s publication in the Sports Illustrated Spring 2016 magazine is her “trying to be white” because she has an installation of straight black weave in the image gracing the front page of the magazine’s cover. Understand that when you say a Black girl who wears straight weave, is “trying to be white” is ignorantly and insultingly saying that Michelle Obama’s hair the night of the 2015 State of the Union address was her “trying to be white” because she chose to press her hair that night. Understand that when you say a Black girl who wears straight weave, is “trying to be white” is ignorantly and insultingly saying that Tracie Ellis Ross wearing the straight bob wig she switched into on the night of the 2016 BET Black Girls Rock Awards Ceremony means she was “trying to be white”. Understand that after you viewed the above photo of me and said “I was trying to be white” was ignorantly and insultingly disregarded the melanin in my skin that sparkles in the rays of the sun and ignored my concentration of dark spots that glow in the dark.
My point is that stereotypes hurt. Words hurt. We have to choose them wisely. At the end of the day, we are all Black, no matter the style of our hair. We share a common history of enslavement, torture, rebellion, and racial degradation as generations before us fought for the equality African Americans deserve. Here we are in 2016, tearing each other down. We must stand united now more than ever as police brutality against African Americans is too high and the Anglo Saxon social expectations imposed on African Americans in this country perpetuates social and economic oppression. Let’s not add Black on Black oppression to that. I once heard, “Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue”. It’s a proverb from the African arsenal that suggests that African and Black immigrant’s social expectations of Black women born in America should cease, as it is not the best time to argue when Black people period, are amid a crisis in the world we live in today. The non-productive arguments are best left undiscussed.
Naoj expressed her gratitude to me yesterday for providing her a perspective that she has never been privy to and for informing her that beauty comes in all shapes, colors and hair textures! Since she’s acknowledged the fact that she is not cognizant of the weave world, which by the way is a booming industry not only in the Americas but also among islanders and immigrants like herself from places like Jamaica, and despite the fact that she has worn weave before, you all can expect a mini informative lecture to be posted soon, detailing the brands and origins of hair… which by the way, are not imported from any European countries, making any one who wears them not “trying to be white”.
Illogical fallacies and stereotypes contributes to racism, discrimination and prejudice in the world we live in today. As an individual who has openly expressed victimization of acts of racism and discrimination, you must be cognizant of that Naoj.
And in case you were wondering despite my daily pro-Black antics and thirst for African American history if I weren’t happy with being Black I’ll be happy to inform: “I can’t believe my good fortune. I am so grateful to be a Black woman. I would be jealous if I were anything else.” –Maya Angelou
Beautifully Brown… and Bundled
This piece was written & submitted to the blog by Miss Mynesha Spencer. If you’d like to contribute a piece of your work to the blog, please send us an email.