Last year I felt I had no option but to do the “big chop” on my daughter’s hair. I’d tried everything I could to make hair combing less torturous for her. But the big chop was something that gave me much worry and anxiety.
The Big Chop! In African American families, we don’t cut our hair.
So what is the “big chop” exactly? The term is used when a black woman decides to cut off all of her processed hair (usually permed hair) to become 100% natural. Also, it refers to when a woman chooses to chop all her hair off and start over with a TWA (Tiny or Teeny Weeny Afro). To sum it all up, it’s when you cut your hair very close to the scalp.
As an African American mom to several African American children, my worry was not unfounded. In African culture, you hair is your crown. And as much as our hair history has evolved over the years, I knew that if I did the “big chop” on my daughter, I wouldn’t hear the end of it from the family.
My hair is my story. It’s a part of me. It tells people who I am.
I remember my natural hair before the pressing comb and perms. I would sit on the floor between my mother’s legs as she braided my hair or gave me ponytails. My hair was thick. Extremely thick. And I had the nerve to be tender-headed. Back then, straight hair was in. Natural hair wasn’t what it is now. The straighter the better. Growing up, I would spend hours in the beauty shop or in a chair in front of the stove getting my hair pressed. You better not move or complain. The sound of your hair sizzling reminded you to remain still as the comb turned every coil and curl bone straight. But once it was done, I knew I was cute, and it was the first thing people noticed about me: all that pretty, straight, long hair.
Black hair is a story of survival. The Crown Act of 2022 proves how much our hair is a part of not only who we are, but why our hair is our history, our story. It’s our past, present, and the future. Our hair is a representation of survival. Yes, it’s that deep.
What other race is discriminated against because of their hair?
My daughter has long hair and growing up, it was inadvertently taught to me that you don’t cut off long hair. I can’t remember anyone telling me that, but it was implied. Hair somehow told people if you were good or bad; you better not leave the house without combing your hair, especially your children’s. This is how the world knew they were loved and well cared for…by their hair. All of these are lies, but you know each culture has its own ways.
All my girls have hair like me, and the youngest two are also tender-headed. The baby of the bunch also has sensory issues, and combing her thick hair was hard. I dreaded the process; it wasn’t a bonding moment. It was torture and painful for us both, and the only solution I came up with was the “big chop.” Here you can find some tips if you’re having a hard time cutting your child’s hair.
My worry came from what everyone would say. I didn’t want to hear the criticism and judgement, and that’s the honest truth. Would my baby no longer be cute? Would she be labeled as the bad child because she has short, tightly coiled hair? All these negative stereotypes started playing in my head, based on my experiences as a Black child growing up in Black America.
I also wanted that bonding experience I had growing up that I knew I could never get with her. I had to come to terms with the fact that combing her hair would never be what I shared with my mom as a child.
It got to a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to cut it all off. My baby was miserable. I had to ignore the pressures I created in my mind. People will talk. I knew in that moment I was doing what I thought was best for her. Whatever criticism came my way, I could handle it.