When I was in high school, on my first round of loc’d hair, I noticed that Black but particularly non-Black (i.e White people) had this faulty perception of natural Black hair, especially loc’d hair, that it was somehow synonymous with uncleanliness. Their ignorance would especially come through whenever they spoke about the iconic prophet Bob Marley. One White classmate claimed that he had over seven hundred different species of insects in his hair upon death.
At the time I was not knowledgeable enough about Bob Marley to give an educated rebuttal, but what I failed to realize in my 16-year-old mind, was that her statement encompassed a belief that people with loc’d hair do not wash their hair.
It wasn’t long before I became a target of her ignorance. One day on the bus this same individual leaned behind me on the school bus and recoiled and cuffed her hand over her mouth, claiming that my freshly washed and maintained dreadlocks “stank.” Naturally…I WENT OFF.
I’m not sure if she mistook the fragrance of the menthol shampoo for the “smell of filth” or what but I most definitely checked her and went off on her ass. My classmates had to suggest that I “calm down.”
In hindsight, I know that it was societal stigma mixed with ignorance, fascination, and pure ignorance that created the entire exchange. It’s so funny how choosing to film myself washing my hair brought that whole memory back up so strongly.
I think that Black hair, whether natural, dreaded, braided, or whatever is a source of mysticism and mystery for a lot of people who are not of African dissent and have no exposure to African-textured hair. Hopefully this video can facilitate open discussion and education.
Also, I couldn’t get a thumbnail from my video on there so I just took an image from Google and credited the photographer. Hope that’s chill!