“I miss my hairdresser!”
This was my thought as I pulled out my shampoo and conditioner. So many aspects of my life have changed in response to the Coronavirus.
As I washed my hair, I thought about the fact that there are so many things that we do differently, and so many new things that we do – all because of this Coronavirus.
News reports indicate that hair coloring sales are exploding, right along with nail and grooming kits.
While I am sure that many folks are tackling their hair at home, black women have always had to wrestle with theirs…dominant culture infuses doubt and shame when any outward aspect of our appearance doesn’t compliment theirs.
And so, we spend way too much time pouring over magazines and hair care products that aren’t made with us in mind to make ourselves seem more palatable, more “presentable”, and more agreeable.
To connect with or work with or be with.
While others may be able to maneuver and shape and color and “correct” their hair, many others (me) find ourselves struggling – wrestling – to navigate the unfamiliar: black hair.
Hairdressers and barbers serving the black community have a way of taming our hair, of helping us celebrate our hair…of helping us see that there is something to celebrate in our hair. And now, I am left to grapple with my hair – and my insecurities – all on my own…all because of this Coronavirus.
Working my fingers through my natural kinky curls to detangle each hair section, I thought about how many new things we have all learned to do for ourselves…and how many businesses are suffering/will suffer.
Considering the disparities in small business loans awards between white small businesses and minority owned businesses, this isn’t just about maneuvering my thick hair on my own “in the meantime”… this Coronavirus is just new paint on an age-old “NO COLOREDS ALLOWED” sign that continues to SHUT.US.OUT.
UGHH This Coronavirus.
This Coronavirus has my arms so tired. Tired of twisting and turning to straighten and gloss and detangle and sheen. My arms are tired of finding new ways to be me, to be black in America. I am tired of holding up my head and my heart.
As I rinsed my hair thoroughly, I thought about the Scripture in Exodus 17 which highlights the battle between the Amalekites and the Israelites. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites would be triumphant. Every time he put them down, they would begin to lose the battle.
Seeing that Moses just couldn’t hold his arms up much longer, Aaron (prophet) and Hur (Moses’ companion) literally held up his arms for him.
Who is lifting up the black community?
I am so tired of this battle. Are those who say they are supporting us holding us up to truly liberate us, or holding up our arms to keep us in bondage?
“Hands up, don’t shoot!”
“What are you following me for?” – Trayvon Martin.
“I can’t breathe!” – Eric Garner.
Say her name. Sandra Bland
You’ve got it wrong. Breonna Taylor.
As I massaged a moisturizer into my scalp, I prayed for my hairdresser and all of the other business owners whose arms are also tired. I prayed for them as they face the uphill and “ain’t no way” journeys in coming months, even after this is all over. This Coronavirus.
As I used my wide-tooth comb to section my hair into plats, I thought about how we are all consumed by this Coronavirus. It is shaping and taking over our entire lives. Every time we turn on the television or radio, every time we step outside, every time we enter a store – this Coronavirus is everywhere.
Just like the weather, this Coronavirus has effectively become the prefacing “small talk” of every conversation. It literally undergirds every single thing we do. There is no escaping it – who can deny the destruction that it causes and the lives that it changes?
As I blow dried each hair section, I stopped short, with my hands frozen in mid-air.
This Coronavirus – this ugly, bold, deadly thing that encroaches upon all in its path – is no different than oppression. It is just wearing hoods of a different size.
People who are marginalized are also consumed by this sweeping disease –
…every time we turn on the television or radio…
…every time we step outside…
…every time we enter a store…
Dealing with the effects of oppression is also the undergird of every conversation for its victims. The hushed and passive-aggressive tones of it are also embedded in the microagressions of small talk – even in the midst of this Coronavirus. Oppression has also destroyed (and continues to destroy) lives and businesses.
Oppression kills people and kills dreams too. It, too, is a daily discussion –
…how to prepare for it…
…how to navigate it…
…how to respond to it…
…how to fight it…
As I brushed my hair and twisted it into a bun, I pondered all of the minoritized communities who have no access to Coronavirus/COVID-19 testing in America. I thought about the indigenous villages who do not have access to the running water they need to protect themselves from this Coronavirus.
Pinning my hair in place, I thought about all of those who are living in poverty who do not have the privilege – it is indeed privilege – to social distance or to not work.
This well-oiled outdated colonial machine continues to play “keep away”, ensuring that only the palatable have what they need to survive.
After all, the palatable are the only ones who are meant to survive.
I prayed for us all. Oh, the diseases of this world!
Bobby pinning stray hairs to hold them in place and smoothing my edges, I remembered this Scripture about healing disease, when Jesus “called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1).
Thank God for all of the medical teams and scientists on the front lines who are battling this Coronavirus head-on!
Thank God for all of the freedom fighters and activists who are battling the disease of oppression head-on! Thank God for those who question and challenge the decisions of the greedy, racist wolves who are masked as caring sheep!
As I put away my shampoo, my conditioner, my combs and my hairdryer, my eyes welled up. Exhausted, empty, and finished, I turned off the light and thought to myself:
We have all been equipped by God with the power of the Holy Spirit to heal this broken, broken world. If only all people were as united to fight the disease of shiny oppression as they are to find a vaccine for this shiny Coronavirus.