“Give me a head of hair – long beautiful hair…”

“Give me a head of hair – long beautiful hair…”

Someone called in to the radio the other day and said the South African public’s sense of humour is no longer a laughing matter. I agree. We’re just too serious and just too politically correct. And just too bloody scared I think, lest our land gets taken away from us by force.
So, we tiptoe and walk on eggshells around everything, and everything always requires “immediate discussion”. If we’re not wasting time talking about an advert that needs to be pulled because it encourages xenophobia, then we must tell artists what body parts may or may not be painted on their canvases…and if all else fails, cheat or become corrupt in some way or another!

We watched an interesting, long, documentary in the week – about hair (black people’s hair in particular) and hair products, and relaxers, and weaves – and it spoke of things I hitherto suspected but really didn’t know the half of. Chris Rock hosted it – and this was one of the reasons we actually stayed on the channel as we “stumbled” upon it perchance. You know how it is; you channel hop, you find something vaguely interesting – sometimes you catch the programme about 20% or so into the it and you stay watching for a while before deciding to move to the next channel. This one stuck because Chris Rock made it so much fun.

At first I thought, strange topic for a doccy but as it turns out what I didn’t know about “ethnic” hair or “African America” hair is dangerous…It is a multi-billion dollar industry to begin with – second perhaps only to the porn industry!
I had no idea people attach so much significance and spend so much money on their hair. Goes to show, the world is certainly not as I am, but as it is!

Perms – that basically translate into what are known as “relaxers” or “cream crack” to straighten out “nappy” hair – hair that stand out too much like a bush – are the order of the day for nearly four out of five black women and up to three out of five black men. Seems they just don’t want hair that “cannot blow in the wind”. Or, as Chris rock so succinctly put it – “they wants (sic) to be white!”

Children as young as three are already taken to salons for their first relaxers. Their poor skulls and hair follicles have not even developed properly yet when black moms and dads decide their children are certainly not going to grow up with an afro as big as a full moon!
A relaxer, by the way, is a very strong chemical (the name escapes me) that burns into the skull to stop the follicle from doing its natural curly wurly thing.

This is ridiculous. And I always say, it is a sign of the times…while white women are trying to get their hair to curl – using curling thongs and what not – the black women are trying desperately to let their hair blow in the wind.

Straight people have black hair…black people have straight hair – that type of thing! It is ludicrous…ludi-Chris Rock…sorry, couldn’t resist.
He interviewed a few teens that were about job-market-entering age and asked them about the importance of appearances – who would they rather employ, the straight-haired person or the person with the afro? All of them agreed – the one whose hair can blow in the wind would get the job.

Then I thought of an incident that recently happened to me – just to check how I “live” the change I want to see in the world. I changed pharmacies from Claremont to Kenilworth recently since I moved to the latter suburb. I had a choice of taking my business to one of two pharmacies. The pharmacist who assisted me at the first pharmacy was a coloured female with “big” hair while the one at the second one was a white woman with straight hair (that blows in the wind). I am not going to reveal where I now get my monthly diabetes meds…

I will share another short anecdote though. When I was managing the Writing Centre at the then Peninsula Technikon (now CPUT) one of my first duties was to employ a team of consultants with Master’s Degrees in Literature from the University of the Western Cape…one of the interviewees was a woman who looked very much like a young Angela Davis. She turned out to be the best consultant by far, she still has her big hair and is, to this day, still one of my best friends.

rafiek@mweb.co.za