Dysconsciousness is when I don’t know, but I think I do.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the Cowlitz, Columbia, Grand Ronde, and Siletz people as the stewards of the area where I live and thank them for their leadership. I also want to acknowledge the people who have cultivated me. I would not be here without my family – by birth and by love – and the wisdom and leadership of Jomo Greenidge, who transitioned to ancestor in December 2020, as well as countless people who have challenged, strengthened, guided, invited, and loved me to a more whole version of myself. I honor you all.
When I was a young child, I was misidentified by my classmates and excluded from group activities because they thought I was Native. At the time, my favorite way of wearing my hair was in two long braids, and the exclusion prompted the first time I wanted my hair gone. First, it was a bob haircut. In high school, it was a pixie haircut. As an adult, I still found myself wrestling with my hair.
On a fall evening in 2018, I was watching Nappily Ever After, and I watched a Black woman shave her head, and I thought, “If she can do it, so can I,” which is not the first time that Black women have led me to my healing. I paused the movie and told my husband, “I’m shaving my head”. He watched me walk into our bathroom, get out the clippers, and shave my hair off. He then, lovingly, helped me finish shaving the back of my head as my children watched wide-eyed, asking, “You ok, mom?”.
Shaving my head has been liberating because it’s helped me realize how my experience in childhood, coupled with my extremely low understanding of race, left me hating my hair as the thing that made me vulnerable to exclusion. My hair wasn’t the issue; racism was. It wasn’t my two long braids of black hair that was the problem, but rather the ideas within the white community of who belongs (and what they look like) and who doesn’t (and what they look like).
Part of my liberation journey as a white person means pulling forward those stories swimming in my head so that I can notice how inaccurate my understanding is. I continue to find points of dysconsciousness in the unhealed hurts I carry. Giving my hurts loving attention loosens the pain and brings reality into focus.
I’ve come to love my shaved head for many reasons, and I’m learning to let go of the belief that my hair is bad. I’m not ready to grow out my hair yet. I might not ever be. What I’m learning most intensely is to feel my liberation practice in my body. The prickles of hair that fall every time I move the clippers over my head remind me to keep looking at the well-worn paths inside of me where I think I know but don’t.
no one gets here alone, and I AM no different
The brilliant beings who have contributed to these ideas are Jomo Greenidge; Mrs. Wiseman's 2nd-grade class; Adam Brooks and Cee Marcelus; M, J, and A; Jody Rutherford; Glenn Singleton; Sarah Covington; and countless more.