Thursday, November 15, 2012

HairTroversy: It's Time to Bury "Good" Hair

By Tenisha Mercer

T-shirt spoofs on the term "good" hair
Although more women of color are embracing their natural hair, I think it's time to hold a funeral procession for the term "good hair" as it relates to hair texture.  It's a term that just won't go away, and I wish it would. We just need to bury "good hair" and pray that it won't resurrect itself.

Not to get all political, but "good" hair has had a long shelf life in the Black community and usually is related to how straight a person's hair texture is. The wording and meaning is clear: "Good" hair is straight hair; "bad" hair is kinky, "coarse" or highly textured hair.  The straighter (i.e. closer to Caucasian hair, the better. The thicker (i.e. closer to African hair, the worse).

And for generations, folks have used the term like a weapon. Having so-called "bad" hair wasn't ideal; "good" or straight hair was the ultimate standard for many.  If we couldn't press our hair to get it, we got perms to try our best to achieve it.

We carried that "good" hair mess like it was a badge of honor: Playground and schoolyard fights happene because of it; family members wielded it to crush self esteems of those who didn't have good hair, and put family members who had "good" hair on a hair pedestal.

We All Have "Good" Hair

Maybe I thought that with the growing amount of women going natural, that we'd stop using the term. But I've heard the words used a few times in conversation over the past few months, usually  usually when someone is referring to their own hair as in, "I got that good hair." Or something like that. I'm not the one to chastise folks on how they choose to categorize their hair. It's their hair, who cares?

But I swear, the next time I hear "good" and "hair" mentioned in a sentence, I'm going to go off! Every time it catches me by surprise, as in "I know she didn't just say "good hair." I liken it to hearing a racial slur or something that's racially offensive: You hear it and you may or may not know how to react.

For naturals, I'd say that "good" hair is a slur: It totally wipes out all of our efforts to appreciate our natural kinks and curls, no matter their texture. I'm done ignoring the word.  Let's define our  hair by our own terms -- we ALL have "good" hair.

Obviously, if it's 2012 and we're still having this discussion, the old "good" hair is something that continues, and we haven't gotten over it.

My Response

Next time, these two words come up, my response will be this:

"What did you say? Good hair. My great grandmother used to say that. Good hair is healthy hair. It doesn't mean texture. ALL healthy hair is good hair."

What do you think when you hear the term "good hair"?

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