When some social media users went crazy over Michelle Obama’s hair during her recent appearance on Jeopardy, India Arie’s 2007 Grammy Award-nominated single “I Am Not My Hair” immediately sprung to mind.
In the song, Arie defies dystopian views of Black women’s hair with the refrain: “I am not my hair; I am not this skin; I am not your expectations no no; I am not my hair; I am not this skin; I am a soul that lives within.”
A lot of commenters, mostly non-Blacks, thought Michelle Obama shaved her head – yes, as in bald – just because she had her hair pulled back tightly into a bun. The 51-year-old First Lady appeared under harsh lights in a taped spot for the popular game show to ask contestants about healthy cooking.
Some viewers took the liberty of commenting on Mrs. Obama’s appearance on Twitter:
I seen Michelle Obama bald yesterday and immediately died laughing. She look so much jaker now.
— King Cameo (@nudiebooty_ronj) March 26, 2015
I’ll be damned if the nearly bald Michelle Obama doesn’t look like Dennis Rodman.
— Ecklebob Chiselfritz (@RotNScoundrel) March 26, 2015
— Jessica Jeanz (@JessicaJeanz) March 26, 2015
The comments reminded some Black women about our own hair traumas, precipitated by comments from Blacks and Whites alike. While discussing this story with some of my NewsOne colleagues, one pointed out how other Black girls in high school would put down those with short hair by calling them “bald.” As a result, she said, “everyone who could grow long hair had an obsession with length, because nothing was worse than being ‘bald.’”
Another colleague noted how people get confused when she alternates between an afro and wearing her hair straight. We were all amazed that people still do not understand that Black hair can be voluminously coiled in a fro one day and as flat as Olivia Pope’s hair the next.
But Black women’s hair has long been the subject of intense scrutiny and offensive comments, which was highlighted in the film Good Hair. The 2009 comedy documentary produced by Chris Rock explored the travails Black women endure to obtain straightened hair, including spending hundreds of dollars on relaxers and weaves.
The issue was tackled again by Gabrielle Union’s character on BET’s popular series, Being Mary Jane. In a scene during a recent episode, Mary Jane, a television journalist, had taken down her weave in anticipation of an appointment with her stylist, who canceled at the last-minute. Unwilling to show up for work sporting an afro, she begged her niece with whom she was quarreling to do her hair, saying she was too insecure to show up natural. Mary Jane’s niece helped her out.
Whether fictional or in real life like the First Lady, what Black woman hasn’t endured comments about her hair? Sound off in the comments.
Meanwhile, press on and sing “I Am Not My Hair:”
Is that India.Arie? What happened to her hair? Ha ha ha ha ha
Dat dad a dat da [4x] Dad a ooh
Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen and I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
At fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and went all natural
February two thousand and two
I went on and did
What I had to do
Because it was time to change my life
To become the women that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlocks all gone
I looked in the mirror
For the first time and saw that HEY….
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN