The power of Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair”
2016 has been the year of unabashed #blackgirlmagic. Black girls and women of all ages have been taking the helm in areas such as politics and social activism, going to the front lines to battle issues such as police brutality and women’s rights. We’ve also been taking the culture, arts and music world by storm through our creation of stories that celebrate our culture and beauty in ways we’ve never seen before.
But, as we’ve been celebrating and sharing our magic, we’ve also been battling the long-standing cultural and beauty standards that seek to diminish it.
At the beginning of the year, it was all about the Kardashian’s “boxer braids,” which black women quickly pointed out were “cornrows,” a hairstyle that has been part of black culture for countless centuries. Next, there was a rush of YouTube tutorials and other videos that showed white women attempting to achieve natural hairstyles, such as afros — being praised for the “unique” texture of their hair.
More recently, Marc Jacobs came under fire for using faux-locs without giving just due to the Caribbean and African cultures it comes from. And to add insult to injury, he accused black women of participating in cultural appropriation when we straighten our hair. But, that’s not all — the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that employers can discriminate against employees and would-be employees for wearing dreadlocks.
Then comes along Solange, who so beautifully addressed our collective and individual pain in “A Seat At The Table.” I will admit I haven’t listened to the whole album, but that’s because I’ve become entranced by “Don’t Touch My Hair,” an ode to black women and our hair.
As she softly sang: “You know this hair is my shit / Rode the ride, I gave it time/ But this here is mine,” I thought about the days sitting on the floor as my mom slowly twisted my hair into neat, little parcels complete with rainbow-colored rubberbands.
When I got older, I’d sit in front of the stove, watching my mom grab the hot comb as I prayed she wouldn’t burn my neck as she got my “kitchen.” And I thought about my high school days sitting in the hair salon, having my hair permed and dealing with the burns and sores from when I forgot not to scratch my scalp beforehand.
I also thought about when I decided to chop it all off and release myself from standards that said my hair should be straight and long, and even self-imposed standards that told me I wouldn’t be pretty without my hair.
This is just a snippet of my journey, but I know many black women have gone through the same things. Our journeys to self-love and acceptance don’t look the same — some of us end up rocking bald heads, others rock afros and braids, others sport long, flowing hair and others love to switch it up real quick with a fierce wig.
As Solange says: “Don’t touch my hair / When it’s the feelings I wear / Don’t touch my soul / When it’s the rhythm I know / Don’t touch my crown/ They say the vision I’ve found / Don’t touch what’s there / When it’s the feelings I wear.”
Whatever your rhythm is, whatever your crown looks like, whatever vision you’ve created — love it and love it fiercely, protect it and protect it fiercely, especially when the world is trying to tell you otherwise.
Let your hair be a silent rebellion.