h1

Chris Rock Knows ‘Good Hair’

January 15, 2009
chrisrockgoodhair

Don't forget the "kitchen".

Black women know that the “kitchen” refers to that area at the nape of the neck that sweats the most and causes non-relaxed hair to kink up. 

We’ve all seen those elaborate do’s.  Whether pressed, gelled, weaved (sewn-in or glued), pony-tailed, or braided we can’t help but stare in astonishment at the sistah who has no shame in wearing the most flamboyant of hairstyles.  Bonus points to her if her hair, outfit, and accessories are color-coordinated.  You’ve never seen neon- colored braids to match ones shoes or nails?  Yes, these individuals do exist…and Chris Rock wants to have a talk with them.

Rock’s documentary Good Hair is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend.  An analysis of African American hair culture, in Hair Rock, with the help of celebrities like Ice-T, Nia Long, and Kerry Washington explore how hairstyling and maintenance affect the social, emotional, and psychological core of Black women.  As reported by Sundance:

”When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, ‘Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?’ the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl’s head!”

In the Black community the term “good hair” is used to describe a texture that is neither kinky or coarse but rather wavy or straight.  During slavery slaves with good hair, likely mulatto (i.e. the “massah’s” offspring), were associated with being prettier, favorable, and often received better treatment than those who were not of mixed race.  They typically worked in or around the house rather than in the fields with the other slaves who tended to be darker in pigment.  These field worker women often wore scarves and handkerchiefs to manage their woolly manes.  The term is also attributed to African Americans with Native American or Hispanic ancestry. 

blackhair

Throughout the years as Black women became a significant part of the workforce they relied on straightening combs, texturizers, and the use of other chemicals to give their hair a look that emmulated their white counterparts.  Given the disproportionate images of white women in television and film, Black women too altered their coifs to mirror those flips and bobs made popular by their favorite celebrities .  Even Oprah, in the beginning of her journalism career, donned a wig to cover her kinks when she reported the news. 

If Good Hair is as thought-provoking as Chris Rock is comedic concerning the idiosyncrasies of Black life, it promises to be a hit.  Hopefully its release will open doors in Black households for honest conversation about what it means to celebrate natural beauty (yes, nappy hair is “good” too) and love oneself for who they are and the texture of hair that they were born with.  Though women with relaxed hair are susceptible to problems such as hair loss, burns, and scalp damage individuals relax their hair for multiple reasons.  It is critical however to  examine whether these reasons are rooted in underlying self-hate, false expectations,  or misconceptions about what it means to care for natural hair.

Embracing ones hair type is an individual journey.  I rocked a perm for 17 years before discovering that my nappy hair looked just as full and lustrous when straightened with a flat iron than when relaxed. 

On a cynical note, I’m hoping that this film will educate uninformed hair care “professionals” of other races about what Black women can and can’t do with their hair.  Just yesterday at my visit to a beauty supply store an Asian clerk, a little too eager to describe which products would be appropriate for my texture, told me that locking gel wouldn’t be useful on my hair because it was “relaxed”.   Yes, I thought.  After 27 years, I know so little about my own hair that I need you to tell me that permed hair and locking gel don’t mix.  After explaining that my hair was flat ironed, he looked at me like I had three heads and responded “Really?  Wow” with a tone somewhere between disbelief and awe. 

This begs the question of why there are so few Black-owned beauty supply stores in Black neighborhoods. Let me rephrase, why are there so many Asian-owned beauty supply stores in Black neighborhoods?  I’m sure Chris Rock will tackle those issues with a dose of humor that only he can.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: