“There’s no such thing as a bad hair day.” and yet, our hair speaks volumes about us. How we wear it often tells how we embrace our identity.
Writers should always think about hair and headwraps and what it says about our character, not only what we want to say about our character, but a lot about how our character views themselves. For some races (race being an arbitrary construct), it makes more of a difference than most of us realize.
I first learned of this issue from the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference “Writers for Diversity” session by Eliana West. She has twelve rules for dealing with black hair. Among her rules: “Don’t touch, ask to touch, or comment about wanting to touch our hair. Don’t ask if our hair is real, don’t call it unprofessional, don’t suspend our children from school or fire us from our jobs for wearing our natural hair.”
Wait, whoa. Are those issues? I was shocked at my ignorance of an issue that clearly is very real.
I have a young black character who wears her hair in braids. I didn’t think about how her hair choice made such a statement about who she was, or that she would face discrimination based on her hair choice.
I suggest a Netflix romantic comedy called “Nappily Ever After” if you’re interested in how black hair choices make a difference in how one perceives themselves and how others perceive them.
For a visual presentation of Western vs. Natural Hair look at the wonderful before and after pictures at TeenVogue https://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/10-girls-on-embracing-curly-hair?
As to my character, her hair remains the same, but I have learned of depths of her character of which I was previously unaware. She is with me on this journey and she is teaching me about the world outside. A world of bias I thought only existed in the past.
Before next week, I suggest watching a wonderful Ted Talk by Dr. Myrtle Bell called “Diversity Hats” which explores all types of diversity and bias in the American culture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj9kIhp46-A