"Thank God For My White Man"
by Hellena K Martindale


"Thank God for My White Man." I knew the title of my online post would cause controversy as soon as my fingers pranced across the keyboard. New members to the "Nappy Hair" group usually started out by sharing their journey of how and why they left the practice of straightening their hair. "Nappy Hair" is an online group of African Americans who come together to celebrate our natural "nappiness."

With Madame C J Walker's invention of the Pressing Comb in 1905, black women were able to come one step closer to the features that were considered a standard of beauty at that time, straight hair. Black women have gone to great lengths to maintain straight hair. It is no longer just a hairstyle; it is figuratively as well as literally a "hair permanent." Here is an example of what a black woman endures just to have straight hair:

You arrive on time for your 8 am Saturday morning appointment, only to be in line behind the woman that had the 7 am appointment (your beautician is still working on her 6 am client). You flip through a magazine, and you aren't upset because you've been doing this every since you can remember. Only when you were small, it was the hot pressing comb that you waited to have seer your natural textures, instead of the cream relaxer. Back then, you closed your eyes and hoped that the beautician had gotten a good night's sleep or that the phone wouldn't ring and make her hand slip again, like last week, when she burned your ear to a crisp brown that scabbed over in pain.

But, you're older now, and you have graduated to "perms", so you sit and wait for your turn. At about 9:15, you get your chance. You sit in her chair, and the way you know that she is about to do your "wig" and not massive brain surgery is because her only assistant is the cold foul smelling cream she scoops into her plastic covered hands. (You see she wears gloves because the instructions say the chemicals are harmful to skin, -but still black women apply it directly to their sensitive scalps!) She parts your hair and applies the creamy crack in sections directly to your "new growth." (New growth is the term used for the new natural hair that has grown in since your last trip to the "fixer.")

She finishes and lets the caustic alkaline sit about 10 minutes on your scalp or until you tell her that your head is "burning" (literally). She heads you over to the shampoo bowl, where she puts on a neutralizing shampoo and a deep conditioner to try to counter-act all of the damage that has just been done your hair. You spend about another two hours getting it blown dry (to make sure it's straight enough) and styled. You pay her the $50 (or so) and acknowledge your stand in appointment for next month. You finally, leave at about 11:45, and consider yourself lucky because you didn't spend all day in there.

I wanted to share my experience with the others in my group to show the irony that it took my husband who is six feet tall with brown hair, green eyes, oh yeah, and just happens to be white, to convince me that I was destroying my true beauty. When my husband told me if he had wanted a white woman, he would have married one, I realized how serious he was. It was his love and his devotion to making me understand my true beauty, that finally convinced me to go natural. And I, too, was like my other "sistas"; I didn't think a black woman could be beautiful unless her hair were straight.

Straight hair is all most of us have ever known. My eyes were red puffballs, from all the tears, everyday after I decided to take the step to wear my hair naturally. As I put in that post, I was frustrated with my husband and frustrated with my hair! But now it feels good to wear my hair the way God intended.

I no longer subject myself to the pain, the time and the money it takes to achieve an unnatural "look", and I am "happy to be nappy!"

Every six to eight weeks, my black "sistas" get up early, drop off the kids at their sister's, mother's or in-law's and make that faithful trek to their so-called "friend", their hairdresser. They subject themselves to pain, spend time and money to have their friend apply a relaxer. These are the reasons we natural black women call it "the creamy crack." It's not so much as we are addicted to the relaxer, it's just all we have ever known so this "addiction" seems normal. The beauty shops are crowded so we can get our "hair fixed." But, how can you fix something that's not broken? Anything God makes, in its naturalness, is beautiful. . . So I say, "Thank God for my white man!"


Please send us your comments, including the name of the work you are commenting on.

Don't want to miss out? Contact us and we'll send you an e-mail message announcing each new issue. (Be sure to see our Privacy Policy.)

Copyright © 1999-2006 by Amarillo Bay. All rights reserved.
Individual works are copyrighted by their authors.