“Divided By Strands And Shades”

Divided by Strands and Shades by Saran P King


Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I have a dream speech on the 28th August 1963, “All men are created equal.” Before that time even until now, people have been quick to point out the differences in each other that further divide them rather than to see the similarities that bring them closer together. And our hair and skin is the same when it comes to being different in many ways.

Why are women and men so fascinated over hair textures and skin shades, their hair and other people’s hair, fake hair, coloured hair, natural and relaxed hair, short and long hair, light and not so light complextions. We spend millions of dollars getting our hair styled, cutting and trimming it, adding colour and just to maintain it the way it is. We pump thousands of dollars, in a lifetime, on beauty products and essentials in an attempt to enhance and sometimes change our natural features. In recent years there has been a surge in the natural hair community worldwide, women everywhere spend thousands of dollars every year on a variety of hair and skin products and accessories. It is certainly true that we can sometimes identify a certain ethnicity or group of persons from the way they carry their hair or from its very appearance or sometimes from the tone of ones skin. Although  we do not have any control with the hair and skin we were born with, we can agree that our hair and skin form a part of our heritage, telling many stories. It is a part of who we are, it forms a portion of us. But our hair and skin colour does not define us, it does not define our personality, it does not make us good or bad, but it is merely an accessory that compliments the person we are on the inside.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years, persons have asked me about my ethnicity simply because of the texture of my hair and the colour of my skin. If we were to take a journey into our past and take a glimpse into history, we were taught that our ancestors who originated from the African continent were born into slavery and many made the long treacherous voyage to the Caribbean on slave ships where they worked the sugar plantation and picked cotton among other things. To make a long story short, the plantation owners went with the female slaves and these women bore their children. If we want to be technical out race and where we came from, then we are all of a “mixed” culture and race and nothing is wrong with that. I am pretty sure that if we were to trace each of our family tree, we would find ancestors of European, Asian and of course African decent and who knows from where else.

While I was studying in University, I was given the title of ‘coloured’ by some of my African colleagues. Before that time I never heard of that term and I did not know the definition of being coloured. I was soon taught that according to them because of the colour of my skin and more importantly the texture of my hair, that I was of a mixed culture, and there is probably some truth to that. As far as I see I am Caribbean, I am Antiguan, a citizen of earth. My efforts to convince them that we were all cut from the same cloth were in vain. They adamantly stated that I could not be from the same bloodline because of my hair texture in particular and in part because of the tone of my skin. Back then I used to get very upset about the whole situation but now I simply smile because it is sad that people no longer take the time to get to know someone and are always quick to judge another person because of their physical appearance. You see we as Caribbean and black people are special and more so because of our hair. It would make this blog unbearable long if I were to explain in great details about the uniqueness of the curls, kinks and coils of our hair and of the numerous shades of skin colour that exists. Our hair is full of so many different textures on one head telling many stories with every twist and curl. We can choose to be curly or straight within hours if we so desire. The uniqueness of every shade of skin colour is equally diverse.

The point is not to convince you or even myself of who I am or where I came from because of that I am sure because I consider myself to be apart of the black race. The point I want to bring across is that I hope that we would not be quick to judge a person simply because of the colour of their skin or of the texture of their hair.

Matthew chapter 7 of the new revised standard version, verse 1 and 2 states “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream in 1963 for people of every class and creed to live in love and harmony. More than 50 years later and we are still divided by a single strand, by the shade of our skin and by the texture of our hair. In the words of Mr King himself “I have a dream that we will not be judged by the colour of our skin [and I would like to add the texture of our hair] but by the content of our character.”

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