Just another 'Black girl and her hair' post*

© Lorna Simpson, "Wigs"

*Author's note: Slightly rambling, Angry Black Woman post ahead; proceed with caution

I was walking around the Petworth/"14th Street Heights" neighborhood on Saturday, enjoying the weather, taking photos, looking for the right light, what have you. I pass by two old Black men (I would say they looked about 60-ish) on the sidewalk. Blame my Midwestern roots, my time at Howard, my belief in, I don't know, common courtesy but I smiled at one of the men and said "Hi, how you doing?"

He smiled back at me.

"I'll pay for you to get your hair done."

I was nonplussed, didn't really understand what he meant. "What?"

He pointed to the beauty salon I was walking past, and then to my hair, my black coils, kinks, and spirals. "If you go in there right now I'll pay for you to get it done." I looked inside, saw a hair stylist in deep concentration as she straightened another woman's hair.

I stared at him, more out of disbelief than anything. Still hoping he couldn't possibly mean what I knew he meant. He was still smiling but the smile hadn't reached his eyes.

"Very funny," I gritted through my teeth before turning and walking away, trying my best to ignore his laughter, his friend's taunting comments, "What's that, a natural? You in school or something?"

I wish I had said a thousand other things. Something just as vicious and needlessly cruel, if only so he would understand how it feels to be humiliated by a stranger. If only so he could understand how much more it hurts when the attacker is someone who's brown like you.

I know this is something I shouldn't dwell on. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing. But I will say this: as a Black woman, it gets damn tiresome having to justify yourself and your existence on a daily basis. It's even more tiresome and more hurtful when you have to do that with other Black people. In 2009, nearly a decade into the 21st century, is the idea of a woman wearing her hair the way she chooses really that offensive? To the point where people feel a need to be jackasses and make snide comments about it? I don't know what I expected though. I learned a while ago that every brother isn't your brother and every sister isn't your sister. Doesn't mean that shit isn't hurtful though.

Anyway, I look forward to the next time I leave my house with the nerve to be me. Maybe someone will whip out a paper bag and tell me I'm too black so I'd "better get back."

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