Sandra E. Garcia shown with her hair before (left) and after (right) the big chop.

Opinion: Embracing my “African” hair

So I did it.

I cut it all off.

I didn’t cry when all the hair was on the floor like I did when I cut it three years ago – and there was way more hair left on my head then – and I liked it! I felt good! I then sent my older sister a photo, she called me back immediately.

“You look like a holocaust victim, you look like someone kidnapped you and made you cut it all off,” she said.

My heart sank. I couldn’t believe my sister felt that, she tried to clean it up when she heard me begin to cry “but your eyes are big and pretty and they stand out!” It was too late, I was devastated. If this is my sister what will everyone else say?

I asked my boyfriend Edgar to meet me, he calls me, “where are you?” I tell him to look for the young man with the red hoodie. He spots me, he walks directly up to me and says “I like it,” I hug him and begin to explain my sister’s remarks, in tears. He calms me down.

I call my mom and she GOES OFF! “You are a professional and you need to look presentable! You took it too far! You look like a cancer patient! Everyone is putting in weaves to look better and you cut it all off!?” Guys, my mom loves me, I tried to remember that as she proceeded to tell me that I would get fired.

At this point I’m in tears again. My friends Tony, Sylvia, Yona and Matthew are calming me down, telling me I’m too smart to believe those comments and things of that nature. I walk into my grandfather’s room to grab the broom and he says with such a wide smile “I can’t wait to see it grow,” that calmed me down.  My brother sent me a simple text that read “I approve, don’t listen to mom,” that also made me feel better.

Regardless it was time to go to work, I got dressed, threw on a matte magenta lipstick to boost my spirits – yes that works sometimes – and headed out. I asked my boyfriend to take a photo to post on Instagram and posted it. I was ready to be torn apart based on what my mother and sister had to say but so far no negative remarks.

I walked into work and everyone stared at me. I was ok with it, I found it pretty funny. Finally the text messages started pouring in.

“Why did you cut it?”

“Why would you do that?”

“Did Edgar break up with you yet?”

“Are you going to Africa?”

“You are so gorgeous you don’t even need hair.”

“You look afro-centric.”

“I guess now you can wear weaves.”

“Do you want to look black?”

And of course, “What are you going to do now!?”

And I never snapped back once! Not once! (round of applause for my maturity guys!)

All the Sandra slander just made me feel like I did the right thing. I did what I wanted. My hair was not unhealthy, my former haircut was actually pretty awesome, I did this because I wanted to and these people have no power over my decisions or the way I feel. But the comments made me feel like my “friends” were so ignorant. I cut off all my hair so I have to be on my way to Africa? No hair means no boyfriend? I’m sorry but if you think that from a haircut a ten year old relationship would end I feel sorry for the hurt you’ve been put through. And if you believe that short hair is an attribute of only Africans Google Demi Moore, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman and that’s just a few.

The saddest part of all of this was that all of these people were Dominican. The African comment came from a light skin Dominican girl I went to high school with with hair down to there, so naturally she believes she isn’t black, she also believes she has no affiliation to Africa. I can’t get to all of her issues in this one article.

My mother’s comments came from a similar place. She is dark skinned with hair that isn’t bone straight and she lived the slander growing up in Santo Domingo. She assimilated to avoid said slander, and here is her youngest daughter flying head first into the hatred. She was appalled.

It all goes back to being realistic with who you are and where you come from. I am of African descent, so is everyone else, but it is more prevalent in me than quite a bunch of other people. I love that! I love my roots. Others, not so much.

I am over the moon that I decided to chop off all my relaxed hair because I can show my future children how beautiful they are naturally. I can leave behind all the self-hate my mother passed on to me. I am breaking the cycle that started so long ago, and I get to save a few bucks at the salon.

Love yourself.


Sandra E. Garcia was born to Dominican parents in Harlem and is a News Assistant for the Metro section at The New York Times. A recent graduate of Columbia University School of Journalism, she has written for Fox News Latino, Black Enterprise, DNAinfo, VIBE Magazine and VIBE Vixen. 

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