Transcript:

Shauna: Hello, my name is Shauna Stewart and welcome back to the Magnolia On Mic podcast. I’ll be your host for today’s episode. But before we start the episode, I just want to address something. So we haven’t posted a Magnolia on mic episode for about a month now, and that’s because we have been trying to create something new with these future podcast episodes. We want to move away from the purely school-based episodes and try and do something more based, talk about things that pique our interest and that we want to share with a wider audience. There have also been more members added to the Magnolia on Mic team, so you’ll be hearing from voices other than just me, and we want to see how our listeners react to these new episodes. If you all like this format more or prefer the older format, we’re still going to continue to give you all information about the school and things you need to know. However, we wanted to expand the podcast to more than just that and be able to share our personal interests on the podcast and see if you all like it as well. So today’s episode is going to be the first of many moving in that direction, and we would appreciate it if you left us feedback on our Instagram and listen to the episodes on Spotify, like the episodes on Spotify. Yeah, so I guess without further ado, we’ll get into today’s episode.

Shauna: So today I wanted to talk about something that I’ve recently been learning a lot about and reflecting a lot about. So I personally identify as an African American woman and as such I have curly hair. So recently I’ve been learning a lot about how people with curly and coily hair deal with society’s perception of them, as well as how that reflects how they perceive themselves. And this is specifically talking about US society and how America treats people who happen to have curly or coily hair. And I personally think it’s less about the fact that they have curly hair and more about the fact that they’re African American or Black. And I think the argument that curly or coily hair is untamed or unprofessional is just another excuse that people use in order to try and control other people and regulate how they think people should present themselves in society.

Shauna: So as someone with curly hair myself, I didn’t really recognize how much of my identity and self-image is tied to my hair. So growing up I was around a lot of people who looked like me and also had curly and coilly hair, but it was a different pattern than mine. A lot of people that I grew up around had tighter curls while mine were looser, and I didn’t really see the difference between the two until I got a little bit older. I remember growing up I would always tell people that my hair was just naturally straight, which I’ve come to learn is not true. It was just more, I just had a looser curl than a lot of the people that I grew up around. And it wasn’t really that much of a problem until I got to high school. In high school there were a lot of people around me who would tell me that my hair was heat damaged and that’s why I didn’t have the same type of curls they did. Or they would tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that my hair is actually curly. I remember specifically I went to a friend’s pool party. They had like, we had like a water balloon fight in their front yard and one of my friends who was there like poured a bucket of water on my head and then afterwards when my hair kind of reverted to its more natural state that it gets when it’s wet, their response was, oh wow, your hair really is straight. And that kind of, that one event stuck with me for a really long time because I started to wonder why my hair didn’t look like theirs and why when my hair got wet it reacted differently than how theirs did. But I’ve come to learn that everyone has different hair types and every hair type is beautiful and it doesn’t really matter what your hair type is as long as you personally like it because there’s nothing you can really change about it. It’s the hair type you were born with.

Shauna: And it made me think back on how I’ve treated my hair. Like growing up, my mom a lot of times when I was younger would braid my hair or flat iron it. And if it wasn’t like in a style, she would tell me that my hair was messy and ugly whenever I would like wear it out or like if I, if it wasn’t in braids or like up in a ponytail or it wasn’t flat ironed to be straight, I would often get told that like my hair looked messy. And because I had looser curls than my mom, she didn’t really know how to deal with it. And it wasn’t until I got much older and I buzz cut my hair, like I cut all my hair off. And as it was growing back, that’s when I started to properly learn how to do my hair. And as my hair was growing, I was kind of growing with it and slowly learning how to take care of my hair and what kind of, what kinds of things I needed to do for me to be happy with the way my hair looked. And now my mom definitely doesn’t say the thing, the things about my hair being messy or ugly, but it’s just because I learned how to do it myself. And it does make me feel proud anytime she says my hair looks nice. So I guess that’s a good thing. 

Shauna: But I’ve also noticed that on social media, like the hashtag four C hair or hashtag curly hair have been trending more. And a lot of people are embracing having natural hair and teaching other people that have similar hair types how to style their hair. And for those listening who aren’t quite sure what I mean by natural hair, I am referring to hair that hasn’t been chemically straightened.

Shauna: So a lot of times people with more curlier, coily hair, they chemically straighten their hair in order for it to be seen by some as more professional or more well kept. For some people it’s easier for them to style their hair if it’s straight, but yeah, a lot of people have been moving away from that, especially considering it’s very damaging to your hair. It puts a lot of stress on your hair and it can lead to like scalp burns and hair loss and all of these like negative results. Some people still do it if they choose to, but I think more people are recognizing that if you do choose to do that to your hair, it should be because you want to, not because society expects you to have straight hair despite more people choosing to wear their hair in a natural style, it seems like there’s still a bit of a disconnect where some individuals, mostly white Americans see it as unkept and unprofessional. There’s cases of athletes being removed from games because of how their hair is styled, students being threatened with suspension from school and also people being told by their bosses to change their hair in order to fit a certain standard that these people have and how they think people should look. And normally these standards of how we think people should dress, whether that’s in a professional capacity or just like an everyday individual, a lot of it has to deal with like the standard of like white beauty or European beauty. And most people with curly and coily hair specifically African-Americans don’t fit that standard. We just don’t look like that and that’s okay.

Shauna: And so despite all of this, there’s still kind of pushback against just allowing people to look how they naturally look so much so that they had to introduce legislation to prevent people from being discriminated on the basis of their hair. And this bill is known as the Crown Act, and it’s not even US law because it’s been rejected by the Senate previously. It’s currently being re-reviewed by the Senate after passing in the house for a second time. And this law only applies in 18 US states currently because they signed it into state law. And what I thought was particularly interesting is the only southern state that has passed the Crown Act as state law is Virginia. And I think that’s crazy. As someone who is from a southern state, I’m from Georgia, the fact that when I go back home to visit my family, if I am out, let’s say at a store buying something, someone could choose to refuse me service because of how my hair is styled and or people could be denied housing or a job because the employer doesn’t like their hairstyle.

Shauna: Like I think that is crazy and people will find anything to discriminate against someone else. And you think that something as like, I guess natural as hair wouldn’t really be that much of a problem, but it is. And things that have traditionally been traditionally black hairstyles are now being called unprofessional and unkept. When they happen to be some of the like neatest and most precise hairstyles that one can have things such as like braids or locking your hair. And those hairstyles take time and effort and they’re so carefully done and they’re done with love. And you can spend hours braiding your hair sometimes up to eight hours and for someone to tell you that your hair is unprofessional when your hair has been like laid down. And it’s neat. And I, I just don’t see where the like messiness, the idea of messiness is coming from.

Shauna: And it seems like the idea that it’s messy is simply because it’s on a black person. So I, when I started like reading about the Crown Act, it really surprised me that this isn’t already like a national law, that there’s, people are still fighting in order to make this a law on the LA national level. And I found out about the Crown Act through this docu-series called The Hair Tales. And it featured several celebrities and prominent figures such as Chloe Bailey, Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Ellis Ross, and Representative Ayanna Presley. And they were talking about their hair and how their experiences with their hair have shaped their lives. And in the episode with the representative, she discussed the Crown Act. And I felt like again, that it was wild that there is, someone had to write a legislation to stop people from discriminating others on the basis of their hair.

Shauna: And it reminded me of something that one of my mentors in high school told me. And it was that black people are the only people created by laws, meaning there’s, there were laws to make us citizens, there were laws to give us the right to vote, give us civil rights, and now there has to be a law in order to allow us to wear the hair, our hair the way we want. No other people in the United States have to have written laws allowing them just to exist. And it’s quite sad because I know that my family lives in the US and I’m gonna go back and visit them and I’ll maybe even possibly live there in the future. And it’s quite sad that part of me doesn’t even wanna go back home because I just by existing and just by being a person, I have to deal with all of these things simply based on the way I look, also based on the way I talk.

Shauna: So there are a lot of pressures placed on African Americans and African American women in the United States and it’s quite sad because we’re people just like anybody else and we deserve rights just like anybody else. And it’s kind of one of those things that makes you think like just leave them alone. Like just let people do what they would like to do. No one’s hurting anyone, it’s literally hair. But there are definitely people in the US and people in power, the people making these decisions who are extremely racist, are extremely prejudiced against certain groups of people. And as long as they remain in power, they will continue to create laws and to block laws in order to keep certain groups of people marginalized and oppressed. And I think there’s definitely a lot of things that should be done in order to prevent this from happening, but the question is how to do them.Shauna: So yeah, I guess that was my little, that’s been my current, I guess, obsession. That’s been what’s been keeping me, I guess connected to the world outside of just school and studying. And this is something that I, I care about because it personally affects me and that I’m interested in. So I guess if any of our listeners have any further comments or questions about black hair, they can leave them on our Instagram. You could comment under the post where the podcast has been posted on Instagram. And we will further in further episodes, we want to pull our listeners to see what you guys would want us to talk about, what things you’re interested in and want to hear our takes on. Please let us know if there’s anything that you would like us to cover on the podcast and I will hopefully see you, see your responses and be able to respond. So thank you for listening to this week’s episode and I will see you guys in the next episode.