Banning Weaves Won't Lead to Self-Esteem

She Matters: A pastor's attempt to help women be themselves distracts from the real issues.

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(The Root) -- A Waco, Texas, pastor made headlines yesterday when AmericanPreachers.com published a story about the minister banning weaves among the female leaders in his church.

"Our black women are getting weaves trying to be something and someone they are not," the Rev. A.J. Aamir told American Preachers. "Be real with yourself is all I'm saying."

The pastor, who acknowledges that he cannot legally ban women with weaves from his church, added that his congregation -- men and women -- is in dire economic straits. However, he only mentioned the women in his criticism. "I lead a church where our members are struggling financially. I mean really struggling. Yet, a 26-year-old mother in my church has a $300 weave on her head. No. I will not be quiet about this."

Aamir, of course, has been raked over the figurative coals for his commentary. As everyone knows, black women's hair is a sensitive issue, one that men -- that means you, Chris Rock, and you too, Rev. Aamir -- have a habit of speaking on while only looking at the surface. Allow me to dig a little deeper for them. 

I'm sure I'll receive the same venom as the pastor for saying this, but there's part of me that actually agrees with his opinion about weaves being, for some women, about trying to be something other than what they are -- and this is from someone who has worn weaves (and currently has waist-length braids).

I acknowledge that there are many reasons for a woman to wear faux hair, from a desire for style options to protection for her hair while working out to buying into a reigning standard of beauty that doesn't include black women to just wanting a break from doing her own hair every day (this is why I have braids). And I respect all of those reasons.

But black women have to admit that there is something odd about choosing to attach the hair of other races of women to their own hair (sew-in) or scalp (glue-in). In general, black women don't attach hair that mimics the natural texture of their own, and that says a lot about how some -- again, not all -- women feel about their actual hair. To be clear, what it says is: I find this other woman's hair more acceptable or better than my own. That is a problem that deserves addressing. But it's not solved by banning weaves in church.

I understand what the pastor is trying to do, but his backhanded way of trying to get women to embrace themselves without enhancements (and get their financial priorities straight) isn't helpful. Frankly, the logic is off. If the minister's belief is that weaves are a sign of low self-esteem, then attacking the weave doesn't solve the problem. Increasing a woman's self-esteem isn't achieved by cutting out a weave. A woman won't mysteriously gain the self-esteem of Iyanla Vanzant by wearing her own hair. The actual, well, root of the self-esteem issue has to be addressed.

I also believe Aamir has a decent gripe with the spending habits of some black women, too. Still, it's curious why he chose to berate women for their hair, instead of actually focusing on the problem of financial miseducation or poor priorities among his congregation. Educating his congregation -- men included, because most of the men lining up overnight to buy Air Jordans and spending money on rims have poor financial priorities, too -- would be more helpful than attacking women's hair. It's not like a woman will remove her weave and poof! suddenly she has the money-management skills of Suze Orman or Lynnette Khalfani-Cox.

There's undoubtedly good intention at the heart of Amir's suggestions. However, his misguided (and attention-grabbing) focus on black women's hair is distracting from underlying issues and a necessary discussion about more important topics.

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