#TeamNatural is For Black Women… And That’s Okay: Why Exclusivity is NOT Racism

Courtesy of a website that ironically, has nothing to do with natural hair

One of the most dynamic things about the natural hair community is the unashamed celebration of the diversity and dopeness of our hair.
The sense of pride involved in making a conscious decision to embrace one’s God-given mane is an accomplishment worthy of accolade. I know, some of you may think “it’s just hair” — but for many Black women, the move to embrace natural hair borders on the revolutionary. In a global culture that still holds Eurocentric beauty as the standard Black women have to fight to be visible, to be represented, and to have our hair considered beautiful and professional.
Out of this uphill battle for validation and representation, hubs of self-support emerged in the natural hair community — from Fotiki and forums to YouTube, blogs, and dedicated social media accounts and groups (such as #TeamNatural, #NaturalHairDaily, and even brands like #CurlBox). When we couldn’t find products that catered specifically to our hair, brands like Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter, Camille Rose Naturals, Koils By Nature, Shea Moisture, and Eden BodyWorks emerged to meet our natural hair needs. Now in 2014, companies that couldn’t be bothered before are shelling out natural and curly hair products in an attempt to get our money diversify their product offerings. We’re “on trend” in the mainstream (even marginally so) because dollar signs never go out of style.
We created a community for ourselves, and now women of other races want in.
Should we even be bothered? Does the notion of embracing natural hair belong solely to women of the African Diaspora? Or is the idea of learning to accept and love one’s true texture a universal idea that we all can unite behind, regardless of ethnicity?
I personally believe in the exclusivity of the natural hair community. Not in a Mean Girls “you can’t sit with us” kind of way, but in the sense that the journey to self-love and seeing value in Blackness as beautiful is a struggle that no other woman of any other background can identify with. Period. We as Black women have been beaten into believing in the inferiority of our aesthetics for centuries, and that makes me very protective of any space that we utilize to affirm and build ourselves. The natural hair community (via blogs, Facebook groups, Instagram pages, etc.) is just that.
The fetishization obsession with Lupita Nyong’o means no more that we have arrived than the election of Barack Obama ushered in a “post-racial” society. Exclusivity does not equal racism, or reverse racism for that matter. Everything Black has been gentrified, appropriated, repackaged, and resold as popular culture. So when Black women consciously decide to cultivate a safe space to celebrate, support, and encourage each other, it is to be treated as just that. Guards up, and rightfully so. An affinity for the same hair products as a foundation for shared experience does not constitute a pass, and ignoring the privileged mindset that allows one to assume they’re owed access is the problem.
When women of other ethnicities — whether they are Asian-AmericanLatina-American or Native American — create communities around their experiences, there seems to be a tacit understanding that the space is reserved for them, and that’s okay. However, when Black women make the same demand, it is often seen as sinister, angry and, yes, racist.
This does not mean that there is no value in shared spaces with women of other backgrounds. There is power in the global presence of textured hair, and that is not to be discounted. It is estimated that over 60% of women around the world have wavy, kinky, curly, or coily hair. That matters. And the multi-racial communities that celebrate textured women regardless of race — like NaturallyCurly — also matter. But the way that matters is different, and carries a different valuation separate from the exclusively Black natural hair community. Both can exist, and both SHOULD exist.
At the end of the day, the beauty of this natural hair community is that we define it for ourselves. There are no hard and fast rules, and there is a certain freshness in that fluidity. So I pose the question to you: who gets to claim #TeamNatural?