Students of Color Perspectives: My Mini Hair Journey

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Hi! I’m Naomie Shembo and I will be one of your first-year bloggers for Students of Color Perspectives. I blog about what it’s like the be #Black@Brown, in order to give some insight on what it is like to be a student of color here!

So as a freshman, when I thought of coming to Brown and living in dorms (hall bathrooms ftw), I was always super into the idea of living around the people who would become my close friends (knock on wood). But, as a woman of color with chemically relaxed hair, I worried about how the heck I would keep my hairstyle in check while I was in college. Back at home, I would commit my Sundays to washing and conditioning my hair. It didn’t take me long to realize that such a huge time commitment would not be realistic in college.

More after the jump!

I’m from the South (Charlotte, NC) so having straight hair was always sort of a big deal to me. I wanted to present like the white girls did, probably as a result of the racist attitudes that people who wore their black hair natural faced. So, all through high school I would straighten my hair every day (which is super damaging, would not recommend), because I didn’t want to judged for my natural hair texture.

The first day I let my hair air dry when I came to Brown, instead of judge-y stares from my non-POC friends, what I got was genuine interest in how and why I chose to style my hair the way I did. No one was judging me for choosing not to straighten my hair, because no one was connecting my hair style to my value as a person. It was, and is, really liberating to be around a group of people who were not connecting my skin color to my hair.

So this semester, I have only straightened my hair once, and it was because I wanted it to do it, not because I felt like I had to. I am happy that I chose a school where I did not have to present as one race or another, because feeling like I had to alter my physical appearance in order to be better treated was exhausting.

Hair experiences are extremely personal journeys, but it can be beneficial to be around people who let you/support you through that journey without passing any judgements, racial or otherwise.

Until next week,

Naomie Shembo

I am always here if you have any questions or just want to learn more about Brown! Just email me at naomie_shembo@brown.edu and I will get back to you ASAP.

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