I thought I was giving a compliment several years ago when I received not a thank you in return but a lecture. I learned that good isn’t always, well good…I told one of my friends her hair looked good that day. She quickly let me know that there is not such thing as good or bad hair and I needed to find new vocabulary.
As a woman who has rather distinctly unruly hair and I have more bad hair days than not, I was unaware of the implications of the term “good”. I long for good hair days when I don’t have that distinct halo effect from my slightly coarse but frizzy hair. Anyone who really knows me knows that I wear a scarf almost every day, not because I am so fashionable, but it keeps my crazy hair somewhat in place. At one point in time the girls whom I served in ministry asked me when I walked in that day what had happened, waved their hands over their heads and said “I thought you were supposed to have ‘good’ hair”? So much for any thoughts of beauty let alone basic self esteem that day!
What I learned was that there was a long standing conversation in the African American community regarding the desire to have “good” hair and “good” hair was seen as mainstream white hair- straight and lighter in hue. The corollary was of course that dark, curly hair was bad. That the very way God had created these girls and women was somehow less than the ideal. This was a message sent subtly through media and the world and at times not so subtly by those close to them.
I began having this conversation with my friend Kim who is a hairdresser. It just so happens that she is opening her very own shoppe. She’s been doing hair for a long time and was blessed with one owner passing everything on to her…chairs, supplies, client list and all. She wants it to be a place where women come to be blessed and reminded of how beautiful they are and can be. Her niche is “natural hair” though she can do weaves and extensions, she loves working with hair as God created it.
We talked of Theology and Hair, of being created in God’s image and being told by the world you needed to straighten, lighten or make hair look other than natural in some way. For some time now there has been a move back to natural and even that brings a theological and political conversation.
Thanks to former student and now friend M.H. for pointing me to Melissa Harris Perry as she offers some great insight into this conversation with a panel of women.
For those of us who care about ministry, ministry to all, we have to know that there are things we just don’t know. This is a great way to catch a glimpse into this conversation and another way to talk about Imago Dei.
p.s. I am acutely aware that I am the last person who should be writing this post…but as the conversation keeps coming up in my world I wanted to at least put the conversation out there.