My great grandmother missed slavery by 5 years. Her mother, my great great grandmother was 27 years old when slavery ended. (This is on my father's side.) When I think about it, I am not that far removed from slavery. My grandmother, whose mother was the first family member born into freedom was raised by her mother who had been a slave. And I am certain, that she like her mother, thought like slaves. Her relationship to the white power structure was servile, her worldview was largely influenced by Christianity, which I have pointed out is anti-Afrikan, and her conception or standard of beauty was based on slavery. They believed in such things as good hair, meaning hair that showed you had some white blood in you. They felt that a lighter skin was more beautiful than darker skin. How do I know this, because this is what I heard growing up. My great grandmother whose name appeared to have been derived from Ibo, was named Warrie. She and her husband, Luther, had 8 children, two of which went to college. My grandmother was less fortunate. She attended high school met and married my grandfather, who also received a high school education. He was a poor farmer, who occasionally sharecropped. My aunts and uncles attended school for part of the year, but once they were needed in the fields, they left. Most of my folks finished high school but my father dropped out. I would imagine that what I have described in typical of most Afrikan Americans families.
My father grew up eating “soul food,” that what it has come to be called but it was actually the diet of slaves, upgrade a little bit. Cornbread and panbread (a sort of roti-like bread) were staples. He (and his children, me and my brothers and sisters (nine in total) when we sent our summers down south), ate panbread, pork sausage, and molasses, which was sopped with the panbread for breakfast. A typical supper, might have been Lima Beans, with biscuit and salt pork. A Sunday dinner might consist of collard greens seasoned with pork fat of some kind, stewed chicken, stewed potatoes, and flour dumplings. The older folks would drink the fluid from the collards, which they called “pot liquor,” and was said to be really good for you.
People rarely went to the doctor. Most conditions were treated with herbs at home. One that I remember and that use to really blow my mind was the treatment for mumps. They use to fry an egg, put some drops of turpentine on it, then put it in a cloth diaper and tie it around a person jaw over the top of their head. I use to wonder, how did they know to do that. I remember also, that when a baby had hiccups, they had all kind of remedies, such as scaring the baby, putting a penny or a small piece of brown paper bag in the middle of the baby's forehead.
Pardon my digression. Back to the hair story. I remember once my father teased me saying he had good hair and that I hadn't inherited his hair texture. Once my father remarked about a woman I was seeing: “How can you kiss that 'Black sucker,' she's to dark for me.” He then laughed at me as he shook his head, as if saying, that somehow missed the lesson or mark. No, this hair thing is deeper than folk want to admit.
I idea that something was wrong with coiled or kinky hair did not originate among Afrikan people. People jealous of us, people that often felt their hair inadequate, projected their insecurity on to us. Once they conquered us, it was easy to make the idea that we had bad hair stick. And probably even easier to make us believe that dark skin was inherently bad or inferior. Both these physical marks, had psychological and religious implications, especially when the image of the son of God, Jesus is with white skin and straight sandy blond hair. Afrikan people grew up in a world where it was tacitly understood that Black skin and woolly hair were marks of inferiority.
So when a Black celebrity complains about natural hair, or a school district or place of work has rules or policies that ban wearing naturally coiled or kinky hair styles, don't be surprised or upset. That fool will verbalize an unspoken “truth,” forgetting it was to remain unspoken especially in the post-racial world we live in. And the reaction to this utterance will differ depending on which socioeconomic class addresses it. They will either be a nod of agreement or a faint challenge to the inane utterance. Among other races you will never hear them said a disparaging word about our hair or skin color publicly—but it is tacitly understood; or maybe it is universally understood, that Afrikan people have bad hair because it is not straight, like other races. Of course this is not true but it is the reality of being a powerless people who do no even believe in themselves, especially the beauty they possess. White supremacy would have it no other way!