Being Acceptable to Myself, Naturally Free (By Gmelyn Grant)

The other night I was watching my guilty pleasure, "The Real Housewives" a franchise on Bravo network. The newest franchise, "Real Housewives of Potomac", was on. As a Maryland resident, I was particularly interested in this franchise since Potomac is located in Maryland just outside of Washington, DC. The first episode was full of the "shade" that is expected of a RH show. These self proclaimed wealthy ladies whether it's old money or new money, what’s the difference anyway, were so full of "shade" that I needed sunglasses. I was totally here for Gizelle Bryant, who grew up in Potomac and was now living there again after divorcing her high profile pastor husband. I liked her because she seemed to be the most down to earth cast member whom seemed to not allow status to interfere with how she treated others. The next episode, though, left all kinds of questions in my head about how these women view themselves as black women in America. Not black women in Potomac, but black women in America. Now, I would not question someone's blackness or lack thereof (Rachel Dolezal) but it gives pause when their blackness is criticized or questioned as not being black enough.

In the second episode a new cast member was introduced named Ashley. Who is of mixed race, and with a head full of beautiful, curly natural hair flowing in all of it's curly goodness. While watching, as a natural girl myself, I kept thinking how beautiful her hair was. Then, in one of the candid interviews, Gizelle makes a comment about Ashley’s hair. Something along the lines of “when I look at Ashley all I see is hair,” and referring to Ashley’s hair as a “big bush.”

Although I’m here for Gizelle, those comments absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. Not to mention, this particular episode was full of enough racial comments to discuss for a lifetime. But the hair comments kept playing over and over in my head. I began to think of how we as black women are so quick to criticize other black women on the basis of hair. It has always been difficult for me to understand why the black community has so many hang ups about hair. I remember when I was a teenager and I would grow my hair just to cut it off again. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I recall my grandmother being extremely upset and hurt when I chopped my hair aka Toni Braxton style. I have tried to return to my natural curls three times before deciding to never put relaxers in my hair again in 2010, after the birth of my second daughter. Each time I chose to “go natural” I was greeted with unsavory comments. In 2000 I had a TWA. My mother was getting remarried and she told me that I couldn’t be in her wedding with a TWA, my reply, I will get a weave. She said that wouldn’t work either, and I felt forced to perm my hair to please my mother. Perming of the hair was thought of to be more acceptable to the mainstream. The relaxer would give us more of a European look.
Some still feel as if straight hair is more acceptable. But it begs the question to whom is it more acceptable? Are we looking to be accepted by the mainstream, our African American community or ourselves?

When I decided to give up the creamy crack to never return in 2010, I transitioned by gradually growing out my relaxed hair. I received so many negative comments at the time, one friend said I looked like a young Michael Jackson, I was often asked if I got caught in the rain, and if I was really wearing my hair that way. Well in my opinion Jackson 5 Michael Jackson was cute when, if I did get caught in the rain my hair would just be curly, and yes I was really wearing my hair this way all day every day. I finally decided that I wanted to be acceptable to me and only me. That’s part of the beauty of being a black woman in America. We have so many choices for our hair. Our hair is our glory and adds to our #BlackGirlMagic. We have to stop judging one another on the basis of hair. It’s self choice. I can rock my natural or a weave and I will still see myself as the baddest woman in the building. The only one who was made or broken by their hair was Sampson.

Gmelyn Grant 

Gmelyn Grant