I really did not want to comment on the story about the young wrestler who was given the so-called choice to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match; but how can I not? Watching becky wield those scissors in the video was horrifying.
I’ve been wearing my hair natural since before it was popular to do so. Back when natural meant getting a press and curl. Back when I was told (by well-meaning folks who looked just like me) that no one would hire me with natural hair, braids, or dreads.
Back when there seemed to be a concerted mainstream effort to make Black People hate, doubt, and hide our natural selves: Tame your hair, lighten your skin, do everything to make white people feel comfortable with you.
Be inoffensively Black.
Hide in plain sight.
When you are bombarded with the notion that everything about you is wrong, how are you ever supposed to feel right? How do you ever grow to be comfortable in your own skin?
I’ve had dreadlocks (Sisterlocks) since 2001. They were long enough to reach my belly button. I decided this year to cut them down a bit; taking off several inches. This was a long and agonizing decision for me, because it’s not just hair. It’s deeply personal. And when Black People make personal decisions that go against what the mainstream (and sometimes family) are comfortable with it’s also political.
It’s been a joy to watch the natural hair revolution grow over the years. Now it’s not a statement, it’s just a styling option as it should be. Or so I thought.
Even if this young man who was forced to cut his hair is cool with it, it was unfair, ignorant, and racist to even put him in that situation. I’m a grown woman and cutting my hair (again just taking off several inches) was a difficult and considered decision that I made in the privacy of my own heart without outside public pressure.
Even with deciding early on to wear my hair the way I wished (this shouldn’t have been a thing but it was) there’s a tidal wave of other pressures that make it a day-to-day, moment-to-moment effort to be comfortable in my own skin.
And so they didn’t just cut this young man’s hair, they cut into his self-image, confidence, and agency on how he chooses to present his Black Self in the world. It will be interesting to see if he decides to grow his dreadlocks back. Or did the bastards win this one?
If you missed the story, here it is: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/12/21/buena-wrestler-cuts-hair-dreadlocks-new-jersey/
Leighann Lord is a veteran stand-up comedian, author, and podcaster.