Why Does the Way I Wear My Crown Bother You? By Niandra Dennis

Simple Natural Hair Styles https://www.pinterest.com/pin/740138520003373730/

We will continue our series highlighting the voices of young diverse authors. Our next piece is an essay by Niandra Dennis celebrating the beauty and diversity of Black hair. Niandra is a senior at Northern Kentucky University, majoring in nursing. She works in the healthcare industry in Kentucky.

By Niandra Dennis

In 2006, singer India Arie released the song “I am not my hair” a soulful song which, described different types of hair and some of the effects that it had on little Black girls. It quickly became a song that empowered some Black women to find confidence in their hair, and its natural form. A Black woman’s hair is in many aspects the crown that she wears. It is a representation of self. It allows a woman to be different, to stand out, make a statement. Black women’s hair is unique. Just as the beautiful brown skin comes in different shades, the hair comes in a wonderful variety of textures. It comes in loose curls, tight curls, hair that defies gravity, hair that lays flat, or hair that can twist and lock. A Black woman’s hair is the definition of diversity. We are not our hair, but our hair is who we are.


Example of twist hairstyle.
By Sekai Natural Gallery


Natural hair, or hair that has not been chemically altered is on the rise. Young Black women of the twenty-first century now wear their hair in the same way their mothers and grandmothers did in the 1960’s. It is not uncommon to see a young Black girl with an afro, or a puffed out natural ponytail. Hair culture has changed from Black women wearing straight permed hair to women sporting the hair texture they were born with. In some cases, Black women with permed or processed hair are now the minority. While permed hair is not looked at as taboo, it is no longer the popular choice. Black women have found a way to have the best of both worlds. On Monday, a Black woman may wear her natural afro or braids to work or school, and on Friday straighten it out with a flat iron. Black women have taken the derogatory word “nappy hair” and changed the narrative to “kinky”, or “tight curls.” The term “dreadlocks” was also changed to just “locks,” as there is nothing dreadful about the hair of black people.

In 2016, Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky came under fire when the dress code stated that locks, twists, and hair jewelry was inappropriate and against the school dress code. The dress code stated that “students coming to school with these hairstyles wouldn’t be allowed into classrooms until their attire is corrected… We feel that a student’s academic success is directly correlated to appropriate attire and appearance.” (Kentucky High School to Change Racist Hair Policy, 2016). The policy at Butler Traditional quickly caused outrage in the community of Louisville, with many people taking to social media in disgust. The term used by protesters was “natural hair discrimination”, as the policy targeted African American natural hair styles. Through media attention and parental support, the policy was changed to be more culturally friendly toward Black students and their hair. One can ask many questions related to school policy. What exactly is appropriate? Straight managed hair? Hair that is represented on television? Traditional public schools often have strict uniform policies. However, hindering Black students from receiving an education as a result of wearing their hair in its natural state is absolutely absurd. After all that has been fought for –freedom, women’s rights, the right to vote– who would think that a school in an urban area would have such a racist policy. High school students had to fight for their right to confidently wear hair styles that made them feel empowered.

People who are threatened by the natural state of our hair must understand that a Black woman’s hair is her crown. We have self-made crowns that defy gravity and reach toward the sky; crowns that allow African American women to be the queens they are destined to be. We will not be sorry that our crown bothers you. Our hair is who we are. It is who we will be.  

References
“Kentucky High School to Change Racist Hair Policy.” (2016, August 4). The Cut.
https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/kentucky-butler-traditional-high-school-dress-code-suspends-racist-hair-policy.html

10 Comments

  1. This article is very interesting. We are all born with different textures and traits to our hair that allows us to style and express ourselves in many different ways. Having that right to choose how someone wants to wear their hair especially because of their heritage and background shouldn’t be a topic for debate.

  2. I think this is a very interesting article. I have never understood why a hairstyle has become so political. I think it is crazy that it makes more sense to people to cause an uproar and disruption over a hairstyle instead of accepting it. We cannot change the hair texture we are born with, and causing people to feel self conscious over their hair is rude and belittling.

  3. I have always loved African American womans hair. It is so beautiful, and you can really tell a lot about who they are as well as where they come from. I have never found it distracting or disrespectful. I also love when woman of any culture shows their diverseness as well as their personality through an expression like hair.

  4. I do feel that a woman’s hair is her crown. Especially a woman of color. It is so unique and beautiful. I personally think that the many ways that black girls style their hair is amazing. I love the bead work that some women are able to do with their hair. I think the school should be ashamed for putting in their dress code that hair jewelry, twists, etc. was inappropriate.

  5. I thought this was an extremely interesting and empowering article. I feel like a school should not be able to dictate how someone expresses themselves with their hair. I don’t think students would be distracted by a hairstyle if teachers simply did not draw attention to it. Hair can be a big part of someone’s self-esteem and should not be limited to certain styles.

  6. This is a wonderful article. This has been a topic that has come up in social media a lot in the past year. This also lead a new charge in the realm of having any other hair that is not considered mainstream or “straight managed hair.” There was even a song “Having colored hair doesn’t make you unprofessional.” This is amazing movement and it needs to continue!

  7. I loved reading this article. It points out that African American hair styles have changed. I also like that the article added that natural hair styles are coming back into popularity. I can’t understand why there are administrations that want to change how African American students wear their hair. It is not affecting their education. Young children should be able to express themselves in different ways and that includes hairstyles. Not every parents is going to want to chemically alter their child’s hair just for them to go to a school that wants students to look the same or have a certain view of hair styles. This also goes for women finding employment as well. There are been stories about women being turned away from jobs just because they are rocking their natural hair or have locks and braids. It is cruel to push someone away for something as simple as hair.

  8. I really like this article. I’ve seen statistics of women not being hired in the professional industry because of their hair. Some children are unable to attend school if they have dreadlocks. I remember a story of a boy that had to cut his hair, or the school cut his hair because his dreadlocks were not apart of the uniform policy. It leaves me baffled as to how a person may be judged for the natural state of their hair.

  9. I like how this article shows how over time the perspective of how African American women hair has changed. I also see the trend that a lot of people who want to wear their hair naturally don’t because they do not think it will be acceptable in a society that seeks to alter the identity of African American identity.

  10. I never understood the uproar about the natural state of our hair, I mean it’s our hair we can’t control what we were born with. Especially when it comes to schools, why are you worried about my hair when we are here to learn? I get that it can sometimes be distracting because it might be new to people of different cultures but that doesn’t mean that our hair is inappropriate just because it doesn’t look like other cultures hair.I love our hair and how unique it is and how we can do so many things with our hair like afros, locs, braids, and how there are so many different varieties of our hair texture. I also loved what they said in the article about our crowns, it says “ We have self-made crowns that defy gravity and reach toward the sky; crowns that allow African American women to be the queens they are destined to be. “

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