Biracial Hair Journey: My journey and how it affected my identity

by - 4:56:00 PM

Hey y'all!
I wish I had some little joke or something like I normally do to kinda break the ice for this post. Unfortunately, this is a serious post so the jokes may be in short supply.
Today I am going to share with you my biracial hair journey and the affects it had on my identity including my hair trauma story.
I just want to say this post has taken me years to write... face... and accept. So I apologize now if it is extremely long, boring or not your cup of tea.
So let's dive in!
If you don't know by now ( which you hopefully do), I am biracial. My mother is white and my father is black. Growing up I only knew my white side. My father was not in my life and I only really have faint memories of his mother whom I called my "black grandma". I was never really around black culture or people (maybe a few) until I went to elementary school. 
And that's where my journey with my identity and hair trauma began.
When I was younger, my hair was long, thick and curly. If we had hair type identifiers back then like we do today.. I honestly would't even know what mine was. I just know I had a lot. I remember thinking I looked like Curly Sue and how it would bounce when I would run. 
All of my early memories of my hair have really disappeared because I experienced hair trauma. For those of you reading, you may not know what hair trauma is so let me explain it the best way I can. Trauma means a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Hair trauma is when you have an experience dealing with your hair that has caused distress or a disturbing experience. I truly believe those early memories of my childhood were suppressed because of my hair trauma.
THE TRAUMA:
My hair trauma happened when I was very young. Roughly between the ages of 4 and 6. As I mentioned earlier, my hair was very long and thick. One day after my white grandmother washed and curled my hair into ringlets (which she did do often) she proceeded to cut all of it off. My hair went from my lower back to about 2-3". I remember looking in the mirror and feeling confused.. hurt.. sad and many other things. Mostly, I felt lost. I didn't know why she cut it. I didn't know why it didn't look like hers or my moms after she cut it. After my traumatic cut, I remember the name calling. My brother would call me names, people thought I was a boy and little kids would make fun of me as well. The day to day shame I felt really was buried under smiles and attempts at acting like everything was okay. Being so young and traumatized was something that would take decades to fully face.

As I went into Kindergarten with my mini fro, I remember seeing a girl my age (who later became my best friend) who had the most beautiful hair! She would have braids, twists, pony tails, clips... you name it. I was immediately infatuated with her hair. I wanted my hair to look like hers. I would bother her almost every day. Asking her about her hair, touching her hair (I now know that was a big no no lol). She may never know just how much I wanted her hair.
As my elementary years progressed my mini fro slowly began to turn into a mini frollet (fro + mullet). I remember wetting my hair trying to brush my it down into a swoop... I would always end up extremely disappointed as soon as it dried lol. It would never stay the way I wanted it to. My hair was too short for a ponytail so I went through a pretty intense headband phase. I remember I wore one so much that it started to cause sores in the back of my ears. It was the only way I knew how to make my hair look somewhat presentable. My mom would even take me to Fantastic Sams and have my hair thinned out which did absolutely nothing.
that's me in the purple hat

Around 4th grade, my hair finally became long enough to put into a ponytail. My mom attempted my first relaxer but she was so afraid my hair would fall out she pretty much washed it out immediately. So, it did nothing! She then attempted to straighten it with a curling iron. Once again it did nothing. So from there, I upgraded from headbands to ponytails and hats. Since I couldn't wear hats at school, my hair was pulled back with a scrunchy. But any time I left the house.. on the cap went! I felt like a hat could hide my insecurities and frizzy hair. In the 90's, there wasn't YouTube or Facebook. If you wanted to try a new hairstyle, you copied the magazines. So naturally my mom didn't think to look there because you couldn't just pick them up in the stores we went to. Unless it was the grocery store... I would pick up hair magazines and thumb through them as she would shop. Seeing those hairstyles and new products I knew I HAD to get them. The first product my mom bought after my attempted relaxer was Pink Lotion. My hair was soft, more manageable and it seemed to be on the right track. All of that confidence came to a screeching halt during spirit week that year. I wore my favorite hat to school on hat day... my hair was in a pony tail and I felt good. However, that day we had a substitute that we all knew. She was an older black lady who was never shy to tell us how she felt. For the most part, we all enjoyed having her in our class. I remember it was after lunch and we were listening to her read the class book aloud when all of a sudden she stopped, looked up at me and said " your mom needs to do something with your hair" in front of the whole class. Of course being immature 4th graders they all burst out laughing uncontrollably. I couldn't hold the tears any more so they just began to fall. I never felt like the kids were in the wrong.. they were kids. However it did take me a very long time to forgive and get over the treatment of that teacher. After all she did humiliate me in front of my peers. I figured she would have seen my struggle and offered to help as opposed to scrutinize. 
After that, all the trauma from my haircut began to trickle back into my day to day.
When I reached middle school my hair was much longer. Frizzy. But longer. I began to experiment with my hair. I tried to mimic my Hispanic friends hairstyles since I couldn't braid. That didn't work. I tried wearing my hair like my cousins.. that didn't work. I was back to square one with trying to figure out what to do with my hair. After 6th grade pictures came out, my mom had no choice but to reach out for help. I finally was going to a salon where they knew how to do my hair. After what seemed like all day, I left looking and feeling like a new person! My hair was straight! I mean as straight as a board. It was bumped and swooped and pressed to no end. I felt like Aaliyah when I got up from that chair! 
The next day, was photo retake day. Still not sure what to do with my new hair, I once again mimicked my Hispanic friends hair.. my hair went from snatched to... ummm what in the world?! Throughout middle school I still struggled to do my hair. I didn't have the right tools to straighten it and I didn't really have enough knowledge on products to keep it styled. Thankfully I made more best friends that would help me a long. One would braid my hair and give me little tips on wrapping my hair. 
after my first perm
trying to find hairstyles I could do

Even though my progress with my hair was improving, my confidence was still shaken. Could I pull these off? Do I look good with braids? Even as I moved into high school I struggled with my hair. I would wash it too often, dye it to harshly and apply too much heat. I didn't know how to properly nourish my hair and I was stripping it of all it's nutrients when I would use products that were meant for white/thin hair. My hair had become so damaged that it began to break off. Around 11th grade my hair had broken so much, it went from the middle of my back to right above my shoulders. 
After that whole journey with my hair, I slowly began to find my identity in this world. I knew I was mixed but because I didn't KNOW my whole makeup, I struggled. All I knew was my white side. Yes, most of my friends were black.. but not having that connection at a young age on top of my hair trauma made it a challenge. 
me and one of my closest guy friends from HS
HS struggling to wear it natural. All my hair broke off from dying it.
Around 10th grade I decided I wanted to go to an HBCU. I wanted to fully immerse my self in black culture 24/7. I made the effort to go to the local Juneteenth celebration each year, the Black Expos and watch as many black films (age appropriate of course) as I could. I needed to explore the other side of me that made me me.
Experiencing a hair trauma at such a young age really gave me the push I needed to connect with my blackness. Not knowing why or how my hair was so different only made me want to learn more. As an adult, I now have full confidence in my hair. I can rock a bob, long styles, dyed, up do's, braids, my natural curls or a blow out. My hair journey was a long and tough process that has caused many insecurities throughout my life. I can honestly say that this trauma helped shape me into the woman I am today.
So... now that we have made it to the end, thank you for reading my story. Thank you for taking the time to understand what I went through. I hope you can understand that there is such a thing as a hair trauma, especially for young black girls.
Have you ever experienced anything traumatic as a child? Have you been able to overcome it? What did you do? Let me know in the comments below.
Check out my YouTube video where I open up even more.


before my hair started to grow.

  
 

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1 comments

  1. Wow. I’m so sorry you experienced this. I am a light skinned black woman and while my story is not as traumatic I can relate. Kudos to you for overcoming. ❤️

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