“What do you mean when you say ‘good hair’?” I was speaking informally to a few women and uttered the “GH” which completely shut down the conversation. It wasn’t my intention, but I learned why it was problematic to use this language and what I was trying to get across was “loose curl pattern.” Even though my intention was not offend, I had offended and I needed to own that.
I use that story from March 2015 to preface the documentary I want to recommend is called “Good Hair.” I saw it during Harvard Black Alumni Weekend in 2009 when the film had come out (in the Science Center surrounded by a sea of black alums).
The film is funny and informative. It, of course, requires a cultural competence and context that makes the nuance of the movie pop. What stood out for me was that the majority of $9 billion dollar black hair industry is NOT anywhere close to majority owned. It forces you to think about who has what to gain from this industry. While the women in the film are black American, the politics of hair expand across the African/black diaspora. Even if you’re not black, it’s still an interesting film.
Disclaimer: I am not a black woman, I don’t have the answers, I can’t answer a lot of the questions you might have. But you could very well ask your actual black friend (as in someone you know very well and with whom you talk about things other than just race issues) not your co-workers or passersby. It won’t go well unless you actually are this person’s friend (see story above). But “Hey, I saw this movie called “Good Hair.” Have you seen or heard of it? My Facebook friend told me about it but he said he couldn’t’ answer my questions” is a great place for you to start a convo… Also if your friend is from somewhere outside of (black) America, that may just generally be confused by some of the terminology and the context might be different.
Oh and naturally I have to mention Madam CJ Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire. She earned her wealth by developing and marketing beauty and hair products for black women. She was also an activist and philanthropist.
Part of a 28-day series of reflections, stories and feelings for Black History Month 2017. Read all parts (here).