Wednesday, November 04, 2009

she got that good hair...

In the documentary Good Hair, co-writer/producer Chris Rock has a marvelous timely subject all to himself. The easy jokes we've all heard at comedy clubs about a black woman's hair being untouchable are brushed aside: Rock gets to the matter's center by asking men what it's like not to have the intimacy to touch a lover's hair. The numbers are surprising and overwhelming. African-Americans comprise only 12 percent of the national population, yet they purchase 80 percent of the country's hair care products. Rock likens this passion to an addiction, one he peruses with equal parts humor and seriousness. Although the documentary's presentation is cut from the well-worn Morgan Spurlock cloth, Rock's wit and cunning insight enlivens even the most mundane tableaus, including an over-reliance on talking-head interviews with such celebrities as Nia Long, Maya Angelou, Ice-T, the Rev. Al Sharpton and many others.

While the film's format is familiar, Rock benefits by delving into subject matter foreign to many viewers. Yes, Spike Lee once staged an inspired song-and-dance routine in School Daze, in which rival female African-American groups debated "Good or Bad Hair." But Rock goes much further, visiting beauty salons, barbershops and hair industry conventions to examine the economic and intimacy dilemmas wrought by black women's hair obsession. He spends much time researching the perils of traditional, common hair-straightening treatments and reveals the shocking expense of hair "relaxing" and extensions. He travels to India to track down the source for most African-American hair weaves. He even tosses in a bit of intrigue by following four teams vying to win the annual Bronner Bros. Hair Battle Royale in Atlanta.

In the documentary we are told that "you never touch a black woman's hair, or with women who happily hand over a thousand bucks (or more) for a complicated weave, all because hair is a vital component of how they view and assess themselves". "Our self-esteem is wrapped up in it,'' admits actress Tracie Thoms (who sticks with a natural curly look). "A woman's hair is her glory,'' adds Maya Angelou. And that trick of image and syntax has even working-class women spending a fortune on expensive weaves that can't be touched, fondled or wetted, or have sodium hydroxide rubbed into children's scalps to get them on "the creamy crack" -- relaxers -- pretty much from birth.

Most consumers are misled about the deleterious effects of hair weaves. After extended or prolonged usage of the hair-weave process (six mouths or better) most weave clients will experience a degeneration of their texture. Once the hairline fades or the hair texture thins, the client is more susceptible to continue wearing the weave to hide her imperfections and to maintain an image. Sadly, this is another form of bamboozlement that has plagued the black beauty industry for years. Black women have suffered through some of the worst product launches I’ve seen in the last 25 years. The No-lye and Gel relaxer kits, Rio products, permanent colors and high alkaline shampoos, etc. In some respect, the local beauty supply store has turned into a chemical waste dump.

Hair is a very tangible form of self expression, of how we feel about ourselves, and how we want to be perceived." Sharpton says in the film, we happily “comb our oppression” and spend thousands of dollars on anti-curling agents from hot combs to chemical relaxers—both of which could serve as a weapon if need be. Al Sharpton, who wouldn’t dare trade his own perm for anything or anyone at anytime, regardless of the weight of social acceptance. There is no parallel in human history where a people have been subjected to similar mutilation
of body mind and soul.

In 1933, Harvard trained Ph.D, Carter G. Woodson wrote his classic text, The Miseducation of the Negro in which he offered a critical historical analysis of the effects of a Eurocentric/hegemonic education on the minds of Black students informed both Black and White readers that “the Negro’s mind” had been brought under the control of his oppressor, and that when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. Dr. Woodson furthermore penned the following statement regarding Black student mis-education, “To handicap a student for life by teaching him that his Black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless, is the worst kind of lynching. It kills one’s aspirations and dooms him to vagabondage and crime.”

And, after all, in a country with standards so untrustworthy, a country that makes heroes of so many criminal mediocrities, a country unable to face why so many of the non-White are in prison, or on the needle, or standing, futureless, in the streets—it may very well be that both children, and their elders, have concluded that they have nothing whatever to learn from the people of a country that has managed to learn so little. I think history, media, politics, and everytyhing under the sun has influenced black culture and beliefs. Blacks are suffering from some poor self worth, values and beliefs these days. Some of us are doing anything to fit in to make life easier for ourselves, not realizing that if we hold what is true to us, we will prosper and grow.

1 comment:

Aron Ranen said...

Please take a moment to check out my documentary film BLACK HAIR

It is free at youtube. 6 parts including an update from London, England.

It explores the Korean Take-over of the Black Beauty Supply and Hair biz..

The current situation makes it hard to believe that Madame C.J. Walker once ran the whole thing.

I am not a hater, I am a motivator.

Plus I am a White guy who stumbled upon this, and felt it was so wrong I had to make a film about it.

self-funded film, made from the heart.

Can it be taken back?