The Trauma of Texturism

Hide Video Transcript

Video Transcript

KELLY WAIRIMU DAVIS: In this video, we'll take a more personal look at texturism. I have a strong connection to texturism as someone born with naturally Afro-textured hair and so does my sister Liz, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Kansas. My sister traveled to the WebMD office in Atlanta, and we discussed how texturism affected our self-concept without us even knowing it.
Some of my earliest, most traumatic experiences were surrounding hair and getting my hair done growing up. I just have so many different memories of mom taking me to this woman's basement to get our hair relaxed and just hating it. I have so many memories of my scalp getting burned, my scalp scabbing up in different areas. I don't even think I had the cognition that my hair texture was being changed.

And you're not only changing the texture, but you're sending the message that our natural hair is not beautiful or it's not good enough.

And I just-- I honestly can't emphasize enough how much like the Eurocentric standards of beauty influenced me and my hair and how I even chose to cut my hair. I remember there was a girl in-- that I admired her hair in college, and I wanted her to help me pick out a hair cut. And so I showed her all these pictures of different haircuts, and I was like, which one do you think would look best on me?

And I-- she was white, and I remember her saying to me, Liz, these are all white people. And don't you want to pick a hairstyle that's like representative of you and your skin color and your hair texture? And I was shook because it hadn't occurred to me to look for representation of my hair when I'm going to get my hair cut because my hair had always been straight.

I am holding myself, my hair, to a standard that's not actually of my culture. And it was at that point that I started to ask myself, what does my hair look like when it's not relaxed, when it's not straight? And I had no idea and no memories from childhood, but I started to notice hair in the Black community in a different way through like social media, through Tumblr, just different things I was looking at.

I saw these other Black girls on social media and online talk-- like discovering their curl patterns and talking about how they're caring for their hair. And I honestly wanted that for myself.

When you articulate it like this and just you speaking your experience--


It sounds so traumatic, and I feel as though, as Black women and Black people, it's like we don't-- when we're younger, we don't see those things as trauma. It's just normal.

When I think about the mental health effects of texturism, I mean, it comes up with my clients in the most subtle ways. I do have a lot of Black clients, and they'll say things like, I feel ugly. I don't like my skin. I don't like my hair.

I hate social media because everyone on there is so much more beautiful than me. And I'll ask them in session, like show me what you mean. And it's typically pictures of lighter skinned people, people with looser curl patterns or straight hair and like Eurocentric features that my clients may not have. And like that is an incredible, really painful place to sit in when someone is hurting and in pain because of who they are, and it's not them.

There's nothing wrong with them. There's nothing wrong with their features. There's nothing wrong with their hair. There's nothing wrong with their skin. There's something wrong with our system. There's something wrong with society that's privileging a Eurocentric standard of beauty.

KELLY WAIRIMU DAVIS: In the next video, we'll look at what's being done to tackle colorism and its counterparts. I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to visit a very special family that's doing just that.