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There is more to being natural than having kinky hair

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"People who have relaxers are just stupid!" This divisive and hateful, not to mention ignorant statement was made on a popular African American hair blog. The blog will remain anonymous because the author of said blog was mortified at the foolish interjection left in the "comment" section of her otherwise educational and inspiring page. She gently but sternly reprimanded her reader and encouraged her to be less judgmental and to remove discrimination from her thought process although the author's page is solely dedicated to natural hair conversion and related subject matter.

The angry and intolerant message above is permeating throughout African American culture and is subtly causing division on a subject that really should be seen as a personal life choice, similar to eating choices or religion. So called "naturals" have made a business of putting down those who are still addicted to the "creamy crack".

But let us crack the code. Take a moment to consider a less judgmental view point. Open your mind and realize that being natural should not be used as the knife to cut your fellow sisters down.

Let's be realistic. The natural revolution is not a revolution at all. Every generation since the beginning of time has had natural sisters. As a matter fact ALL sisters were "natural", there was no other alternative. Sisters did not start getting un-natural until the likes of Madame CJ Walker created softening agents and other products to reduce hair breakage and promote hair growth through sulfur and until Garret A Morgan subsequently created the relaxer to bring "ease" and "manageability" to African American hair. The straightening craze was not an attempt to "look white" or "be more white". It was an "attempt" to improve hair health and improve appearances.

Mrs. Walker, by the way, was an innovator, philanthropist, an activist and a trail blazer marketing the permanent wave machine by Marjorie Joyner, used by both black and white. She has gone down in history as the first female self-made millionaire, inspiring women of color with the option to do with their hair (and their lives) as they so well pleased.

In the years since Madame Walker and Mr. Morgan's innovations, there has always been a sector of black consciousness that has sought to revolt against the the un-natural nature of "the evil relaxer". The 1970's was the quintessential time when people of color (who had enough hair to do so) picked out their fros and pumped their fists in black power. Kinky was a statement. "Nappy" meant you were "more real" than that other sister who "conformed" to the white societal norms and straightened her coily curls instead of embracing her natural.

The truth is, being natural is really nothing new. People have always worn unprocessed, non-chemically treated hair. Although there has always been those (both black and white) who have chosen to partake in chemically altering their coifs through perms, relaxers, keratin treatments, Jheri curls, wave nouveaus, hair coloring and so on. These days, however, there seems to be a heightened focus and exaggerated punctuation placed on "being natural". Terms like Naturals has become common vernacular to describe ladies who do not have relaxers. Like the word athlete describes a person with great physical prowess or like the word strong describes a person with exception physical strength a natural is a woman who chooses to embrace the super-natural power embodied through not owning a straightening comb. Great effort is made to stress the fact that natural is "better" and one is some how less than or selling out if she still partakes in the process of chemically relaxing.

This is slightly disingenuous for several reasons. For one, many so called naturals color their hair whether it is sprawled out free in an afro, curly or bound up in dread locs. Candy apple red and various shades of orange look lovely and exotic, but do not grow out of the scalp "naturally". Those colors exist only in a bottle in the form of a "chemical". So the question is asked, is being a natural only in reference to "no relaxer", but other forms of chemical treatment is acceptable?

Also, many "naturals" participate in protective hair styling, i.e., weaves when their tresses are not out embracing all it's natural-ness. Is hair weaving a "natural" art form? One may beg to differ, but yarn braids, micro braids, nubian braids and every other kind of purchased hair is not "natural" hair. It's someone else's hair.

Many folks who don't press or straighten their hair may not put harmful chemicals on their heads, but op to put harmful chemicals in their bodies by ingesting unhealthy foods and drink.

The point of it all is simply this, being natural is a good starting point for overall health. It is an awesome way to embark upon the long journey to perfected wellness of the mind and body. It is a powerful statement of black pride and self worth. Going natural can be empowering and freeing. It can even be potentially lighter on the pocket book since relaxers and regimented chemical treatments must be maintained at a heavy financial burden.

What natural is not, however, is a banner to stand behind to throw stones at others who have not made the leap yet. It is not an assault weapon. It is not a platform to measure less than and greater than. If you are a natural, that is great! If "she" is not a natural (yet) do not castigate her character because she is not.

On a final note, as much attention that is payed to seeking products to maintain the health of natural hair should be placed on maintaining relaxed hair. Face it, there are those who will always keep a relaxer. Having a relaxer does not make you neglectful. In many cases it requires more attention to detail to maintain a relaxer because of the fragile nature hair is in when it is chemically treated. But do not be deceived, there are many beautiful, healthy heads of relaxed hair to be found.

If you still relax your tresses for manageability or whatever YOUR reason is, you too need to be armed with a plan of action to care for your hair. Regimens should be outlined for your hair health too. And for Heaven's sake do not be made to feel bad by those naturals who feel it is their place to put you down because you "haven't gone natural yet." Going natural is not for everyone.

Take a look at the video for tips on how to keep your natural and your relaxed hair in the best condition you can from the inside out. Embrace who YOU are, love the hair YOU have and do not judge. Everyone's journey is different.

Also here are three articles that may guide you on your journey to going natural or help you maintain your still chemically treated tresses:

Protect your hair while swimming

Stimulate hair growth

Don't stunt your hair growth efforts

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