Listen. I knew it was coming before I even wrote the first word of “Negro Hair: Texture Worship in the Natural Church and the Caucacity of Shea Moisture.” All the elders in my bones whispered to me well in advance. They said, “My child, the tragic mulattos will come for you.” And I laughed, and said, “Let. Them.”

I also know that some of y’all are already too far gone and too Becky-Adjacent to hear this.  We can call it “The Sunken Place” or cognitive dissonance or willful ignorance. Some of y’all refuse to even admit that colorism exists, that it is rooted in anti-Blackness, and that you benefit from it due to your proximity to whiteness. I know you do not want to hear this, but I will say it anyway: This is not about you, or your feelings. Now, let that sink in.

Take a moment and think about all the spaces where you see yourself represented in pop culture and media. And then realize that Black people with darker skin and/or kinkier hair have far less representation than you do.

Take inventory of your life and pinpoint all of the moments in which your Blackness has made you feel invisible, unwanted, and dehumanized. And then realize that these feelings are compounded for Black people with darker skin and/or kinkier hair.

This is not about one shade of Blackness being better than another, nor is it about one type of Black hair being better than another. Those are ideas rooted in white supremacy — ideas that were internalized by our ancestors and passed down through the centuries all the way to you and I. It is an ugly tradition and an ugly legacy that we do not have to pass down to coming generations.

This is not about how Black you are or are not. Blackness is not quantifiable. Though your skin may be lighter and/or your curls may be bigger and more defined, you are still Black. You may or may not have felt excluded from or denied racial unity from other Black people in your individual lives, and those experiences are valid, but that is not what this is about. That is another conversation entirely, and we can have it another time, but not today.

This is about how institutionalized anti-Blackness leaves Black people with darker skin and kinkier hair in a space where we experience the brunt of anti-Black racism because our Blackness is not as palatable to whiteness as lighter skin and looser, more defined curls. We have had this conversation time and time again, both about colorism and texturism. It is frustrating every time we have it because the response to it always reveals an inability to acknowledge privilege. The conversations always feel like talking to white people about #BlackLivesMatter, or talking to Black men about #SayHerName, or talking to white women about #BlackGirlMagic and #FlexinMyComplexion. When underrepresented identities become the focus of a specific conversation, those who have already had the most representation and visibility in previous conversations insist that they are being erased and ignored. It never fails.

If your hair is not “type 4,” the Natural Hair Movement, as it exists in this moment, already caters to you. You are already the most visible and the most celebrated. You can easily find yourself represented in it. You are not the ones who got left behind. We are. If you understand why the Natural Hair Movement was necessary in the first place and it helped you to embrace and love your curls more, if you have been following this Negro Hair series and understand the history of anti-Black hair practices, and if you understand that representation matters for you and the people who look like you, then you should be able to understand why the representation of Black people with darker skin and kinkier hair matters.

If you understand all of these things, but continually refuse to support the celebration of other forms of Blackness, then you are admitting to your selfishness. You are admitting that you do not care whether or not other Black people can find the same “hair love” that you did. You are admitting that you do not care whether or not other Black people are able to love themselves in the same way that you have been able to. And you are admitting that you do not care whether or not other Black people are represented in the celebration of natural hair, as long as you are able to see representations of yourself there. And to react with anger when others want the same consideration that you already have is nothing short of petulance and entitlement. Do better.

Given the current state of things, Roaring Gold and I are calling for a new movement.

“We need to talk about how the majority of the Natural Hair Movement is nothing more than texture worship masquerading as natural hair care. We need to throw this movement in the trash and start all over again.”

I wrote these words in my previous article and I meant them wholeheartedly. I and the brilliant creators at Roaring Gold hope that this conversation will be the catalyst to launching a new movement that centers and uplifts those who the Natural Hair Movement was initially created by and intended for, and eventually left behind.

When we discuss the kind of natural hair that the movement was created for, we typically refer to it as “type 4” hair. Before we embark on this large and admittedly daunting undertaking, I first want to discuss the inherent complicatedness and nuance in using this terminology. The classifying of hair types is necessary, in my opinion, for various reasons. It helps in determining which products will work best for specific hair types, which is a fact that is crucial to understanding the criticism of Shea Moisture’s antics. There are different categories of hair. That is a fact. Acknowledging the differences in our hair types is not inherently problematic, but the terminology that we use to describe these different types is significant.

Image Source: Sharee Miller of Coily and Cute
Image Source: Sharee Miller of Coily and Cute

The typing system that the majority of naturals adhere to and use to describe themselves places straight hair at the top as “type 1” and places the kinkiest hair at the bottom with “type 4.” Rather than these categories being viewed as a spectrum, this widely accepted form of hair typing instead resembles a caste system. That is where the complexity of this lies. While we want to purposefully and intentionally acknowledge the differences in our hair, we do not want to reify a hierarchical ideology which places Blackness at the bottom and whiteness at the top. We do not want to reify the very systems of anti-Blackness and white aesthetic worship that we are actively seeking to combat and dismantle.

That being said, the other terminologies that already exist to describe the most hated hair type are already being appropriated by others. There are already white, white-passing, and other non-Black individuals using terms like “kinky” and “nappy” to describe their tresses, both on and offline. Because, let’s just be honest here, these people cannot resist the urge to colonize and gentrify any parts of Blackness that they see as trendy. Blackness is ripe for the taking to these people. They don it as an accessory and there is undeniable privilege in being able to slip in and out of it. What we want for this new movement is to leave as little room as possible for this kind of appropriation to happen. I suppose that what I am proposing here is a sort of reclamation. Naming this as a “type 4” movement has the most potential for us to achieve our aim.

Let me make this very clear, here and now: This new movement that we are calling for is not about inclusion. This movement will not look like a celebration of every curl pattern. This is not an All Hair Matters movement. If you and your hair type are already amply represented in the current Natural Hair Movement, then this movement is not for you. If your hair cannot be classified as “type 4,” then this movement is not for you. In the same way that the original Natural Hair Movement was not supposed to be for non-Black people, this movement is not for non-“type 4” naturals. There will be “type 1-3” people coming from every corner of the internet to accuse Roaring Gold of divisiveness. I will get hateful comments and messages for writing about texturism and colorism and the intersections thereof, as per usual. Ask me if I care.

This movement is for and about the people that the Natural Hair Movement was supposed to be about, but were disposed of to make room for a more palatable Blackness and eventually for full-blown whiteness.

This movement is for and about the people with the type of hair that shrinks all the way up to our ears, like the way that this society demands that we shrink our Blackness for the comfort of others.

This movement is for and about the people with the type of hair that resembles the cotton that our ancestors were forced to labor over.

This movement is for and about cottony, kinky, nappy, unapologetically Black hair.


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Sherronda J. Brown is a native North Carolinian with an academic background in Media Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, and African American & African Diaspora Studies. She writes pop culture and media analysis, and is passionate about social justice, black feminisms, and zombies.

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