After six years of living in New York and one expired Missouri driver’s license, this morning I decided to transfer my license over to New York City. Which meant I had to go to the DMV. Which meant a trip down Harlem’s legendary, famous and infamous 125th street. I was walking from West and East. And in that nearly 30 minute journey you can truly see the diversity of Black people. There are the African woman offering to braid your hair, the Afro-Latinos who still surprise me when they start speaking in Spanish. There are the teen, native New Yorkers who are always speaking about nothing of importance with the utmost seriousness. The Caribbean immigrants coming out of the few health food stores. And then there are the Black Israelites, also known as the Hotep dudes.
I walked past all of these people but it was the Hotep man who spoke to me…or at me this morning.
“Who has more fun, blondes or Black women?”
For those of you who don’t know what I look like, over two years ago, I dyed my locs blonde. So, he was clearly speaking to me. But I was walking so fast, I was out of earshot by the time I would have been ready with a response. But the question, and more importantly, the implication behind it, lingered in my mind. I didn’t stop to engage with him so I don’t know the true intention of his comment but obviously it was said to elicit some type of reaction. And I wondered if he was trying to suggest that having blonde locs was somehow contrary to being Black; after all, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be Black and blonde.
In all honesty, this is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment about blonde being “un-Black.” Those who didn’t celebrate the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, took the “Becky with the good hair line” and ran with it. I saw several social media comments and even a meme or two that questioned the line, coming from Beyoncé, when she wears blonde wigs and weaves. The suggestion was that Beyoncé coveted that good hair so much, she’s worn it for years. So, it was a bit hypocritical for her to be mad at another woman who was born with that hair. [Faux] Deep.
Truth be told, when I contemplated coloring my hair, it took me a while before I was comfortable with even saying I wanted blonde. To me, the color I selected was more like gold but seeing as my hair is not metallic, it really was blonde. For a good minute, I wondered what my decision said about me. Was I falling into some type of subconscious desire to be a White girl?
It wasn’t until my mother sent me this image that I was able to make peace with the decision.
It wasn’t just the picture but also the Black, American Black people in the comment section who shared pictures of their Blonde-haired babies, relatives or selves, that helped solidify my decision, assuring that it wasn’t rooted in some Eurocentric worship. Blonde hair looks great on Black skin. And no one will every mistake the texture of my locs with a White woman’s hair. It’s drastically different. In fact, the blonde color makes the undeniably African texture of my hair even more apparent.
People tend to forget that the human race began in Africa. So all types of genetic diversity can ultimately be traced back to the continent, even the mutations.
But more importantly, we have to stop finding ways to separate ourselves as Black people. Ultimately the color, texture or style of someone’s hair doesn’t necessarily speak to their thoughts and priorities as a person. And even if it did, trying to have a discussion about it, as a stranger on the street might not be the best venue.