Below is a written piece I created for the feminist platform, “The Opal Club”.
Hi. Nice to meet you, my name is Jasmine Banks.
We can both be honest here and see that it’s clear that we were paired merely by an out-of-date gendered nature, but I am hoping that we can make a genuine connection built around consciousness instead of just mere pleasantries.
My hair plays a pivotal role into who I am as a woman. Yes, I recognize that hair and physical attributes shouldn’t be the foundational building block of identity, but for just a second or two, allow my hair to tell an all too real truth as to what makes me, me.
My hand will not shake you quite as much as the visual touch of my curls. I have learned to be okay with that. My black pigmented curls coiled around sunlight on a warm day are mesmerizing- yet highly misunderstood at the same time. The misunderstandings blend and create a synthetic identifier for me. Here are my truths in an effort to retract the conjured up label.
Like clock-work, my strands are consistently stimulated by the intertwining chemistry of my Italian, French, and Black genes. These strands have been gawked at, murmured about, and even touched without permission.
I know, I know, I am not saying you specifically, but in my experience, people are quick to define and twist my locks to meet their narrow-minded expectations. Immediate suggestions and advice are thrown my way in an attempt to help a “sista” out. Suggestions that, when unveiled, are more like a multitude of dry and brittle attempts to condition me.
Intense eyes and interestingly enough, confident proclamations of, “I don’t see color” and “Women’s rights are human rights!” are hysterically mimicked like the unveiling of the latest snapchat filter. Historically, and today, it has largely been women of color, queer and lesbian women, non-Christian women, poor women, sex workers, and women with disabilities whose lived experiences have been outright excluded from the attention and gains of mainstream feminism.
Yet, instead of asserting my frizz, in fear of being labeled as untameably Black, I have allowed products to seep through and cover my layers. For far too long, I hid my shine and volume behind mass produced tools solely designed to force me to conform and straighten up. Heat, chemicals, and tears all married together as the extreme vow in hopes of being endorsed to enter a club that I for years was wracking my brain trying to decipher the passcode for. One knock, three knocks, scrambled letters, a numeral or two, when all I needed to do was wear your mask.
To clarify, my hair is craving nutrients that will activate growth and strength, not the dual purpose spray you all have miserably failed in bottling as solidarity. Why is it that your voice and activism take a pause when your personal experience doesn’t directly match up to an intersectional cause? I’ve had enough!
The minutes, hours, and days I spent obsessing and frequently altering my mane is an internally oppressive pool that I no longer desire to wade in. Instead, I am more than down to escape the heat and dwell in the coolness under my crown; a crown uniquely provided to me and freely worn for all to see. I must admit, more times than not, I have had to defend my unapologetic tresses, but I appreciate you taking the time to listen and not make ignorant guesses.
My hope is that the next time around, we will both openly share, and truly get to the root of each other’s hair.