I shouldn’t be catered to
Maintaining your natural hair when traveling abroad shouldn’t be an endless struggle. When I packed up my apartment in Washington, D.C. and set out on a 12 month journey across the globe, I knew I might have to do a little extra searching to find products for my hair. But I knew it wouldn’t be impossible.
It’s been three months now of doing my hair in braids and twists, washing and deep conditioning my tresses with questionable products. At first I was indignant.
Why should I have to trek across the city to find products that catered to my coils? Why should I have to spend a fortune on kanekalon hair (the cheapest of all the hair) to install a protective style?
This was in Lisbon, Portugal and Split, Croatia where I was able to find what I needed. When I arrived in Prague, the city that I was most confident would have more options for me, I hit a wall.
I had two options, travel an hour by public transit to Little Hanoi and look for synthetic hair in the maze of warehouse-like shops, or venture across the river to a random woman’s home and hope she had what I needed stocked in her cabinets.
This was the hardest I’d had to look for products. At first I was frustrated, but then a realization dawned on me.
THERE ARE NO BLACK PEOPLE IN PRAGUE.
In the United States, where there are so many of us, of course it was unacceptable that major beauty companies did not cater to our hair needs until recently.
But in Prague, where I barely need two hands to count the number of Black people I’ve seen, it genuinely does not make sense for any of these stores to have products for 4C hair. I should be lucky a woman even set up a small business in her home.
For the first time, I unpacked the American privilege I had that convinced me countries with demographics so different to my own home should somehow still make it reasonably easy to buy products only I want.
It doesn’t work that way. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop wearing my hair naturally or rocking the latest braids. It just means I won’t grumble, “White people…” when it proves to be a little harder than I expected.