My new Taki’s Magazine column starts:
Opinion journalism in the respectable outlets has increasingly come to be dominated during the Great Awokening of the past half-dozen years by young Women of Color with soft major degrees who take whatever topic is in the news—global pandemic, Ukrainegate impeachment, a tribal elder being smirked at—and relate it to how society must learn to idolize more the beauty of women such as, to take a random example, themselves.
And just to validate my perception yet again, the New York Times opinion page today features:
Lockdown Taught Me to Care for My Natural Hair
After years of ignoring and being ashamed of my hair, the coronavirus pandemic is forcin g me to reassess our relationship.
By Maya Phillips
Ms. Phillips is the 2020-21 Times Arts critic fellow.
May 27, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET
… My entitled white-centric suburban upbringing, in a home where my black parents barely mentioned race except to occasionally cast casual aspersions against other “black folks,” had a profound effect on me: I saw whiteness as a familiar comfort and blackness as enigmatic and foreign, something to be ashamed of. So when I arrived at my predominantly white college, away from home and my salon, I didn’t know where to find a new space for myself, or for my hair.
It was mostly weariness that curbed my relaxer treatments. I hated the scalp burns, which formed irritating scabs, and the panic I felt when I began to feel my roots.
But my natural hair made me uneasy. When I looked at myself, so uncertain in my brown skin, I wondered how I should think of myself. How much of my blackness was defined by the stubborn fact of my hair? I studied it, made a class of it, researching articles and videos featuring women more versed in their hair, whose blackness was not just their hair but their whole selves and who showed no fear in that.
… On those days I was able to quiet the internalized self-hatred which sprung from white-dictated beauty standards, I imagined that my hair — comfortable and confident in its nakedness, cropped up in tiny pops of tight curls — spoke itself loud and lively. A head of hair that is sprightly, enthusiastic and undoubtedly alive: That is me.
I had forgotten this. But the coronavirus has forced me to consider my hair again….
Yet for all of the things my hair is, it is not actually unfathomable, or a mystery, or the woods, or any other metaphor I use to avoid saying that in my hair I see my blackness, and in this America, that sight sometimes makes me afraid. Right now, of course, there are bigger things to fear, and there are countless black women at this very moment washing and combing, twisting and locking, braiding and curling and deep-conditioning their hair, with a plastic cap or satin wrap crowning their head. It’s not necessarily effortless, but it is an act of acknowledgment and care.
When the pandemic dies and stores and shops start to reopen, I’ll return to my salon to get my normal cut and will feel refreshed and familiar. Until then, I’m trying every day, washing and combing and conditioning, each act so terribly small and yet monumental.