The Big Chop: Finding My Identity as an Ethnic Proud Woman
Culture defines it as a major haircut; cutting off dead damaged ends from heat, chemical, and dye treatments. In black culture, it's the release of our true identity.
Don't believe me... Here's a side by side comparison of me with straight relaxed hair and my curly fro.
From a young age, my mother started relaxing my hair, for manageability. What she didn't realize was that she'll be taking away my true ethnic identity; one that I didn't come to realize until an adult.
Because it was my norm, I continued to relax and straighten my hair. My hair was always sleek, neat, and kept. Conforming to white cultural standards. And I was convinced that my naturally curly hair was not accepted by popular culture.
Since the colonization of the Dominican Republic, the natives of the island were expected to conform to colonizers standards. So the expectations have been passed down for generations. Little colored girls with coily curls and kinks were exposed to lye creams and hot combs at a young age. And discouraged from wearing their beautiful distinct textures. As we wash the lye from our strands, so are our identity and origins.
By college, I started realizing that there were black and ethnic females embracing their natural texture. That was my first exposure to the natural movement. I was curious at that point, but hesitant to take the first steps.
And then my family's hair texture started changing. My cousins and aunts started transitioning and embracing their textures. I was still reluctant for a few more years until one of my aunts approached me one day. With the relaxer kit in hand, she told me to stop relaxing my hair and start embracing my natural God-made texture. Convinced I would be able to handle this new challenge, I "big chopped" May 12th 2017; 5 days before my 28th birthday.
At this point in my life, I was starting to become more independent. I had just moved out of my parent's house to a new state in the west. I've had to learn how to do things for myself for the first time. And caring for my relaxed hair was proving to be a major task.
I've had days where I've regretted the decision because I felt like my hair isn't tamed enough or doesn't represent me as a professional well-tamed woman. And on those same days, I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself "this is me, and I can't change who I am." I'm beautiful in my skin, body, and mind. And there's no cream, heat, or person's opinion that can change me.
The Big Chop represents this big haircut that cuts off the dead damaged ends. But it's bigger than just a chop. It's a self-affirmation that no matter what big changes going on in our lives, we are who we are and we should be proud of our ethnicity, culture, and self-being. My big chop has taught me to embrace my Dominican roots, but it also goes further back to my African roots. It's about embracing and wearing your ancestry. And finally, it shows self-confidence. So fully embrace and love every part of you because the only way this world will accept you is if you accept every single part of yourself.