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As I settled comfortably into the movie theater with my popcorn, I anxiously awaited the previews for the documentary, The September Issue. My comfort quickly turned to shock and disappointment when the mostly white audience began dying laughing at the trailer for Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, which debuts on Oct. 9.

As the celebrities on the screen said things like, “oh no, don’t touch my weave” or “if you’re hair is nappy, the white folks ain’t happy,” the audience erupted in knee-slapping, tear-wiping laughter. I had a Dave Chappelle moment; a “the white folk shouldn’t be laughing this hard” moment. But I wasn’t just offended, I was hurt. All of a sudden I felt like the semi-packed theater found comedy in my lifelong struggle; the struggle that I and black women everywhere have with our hair. Sure, Rock’s documentary is supposed to be humorous, and my skin is thick enough for harmless jest, but something about white folks being so amused at such a sensitive part of my heritage felt almost diabolical.

I have Buckwheat-esque pictures from my childhood, bad memories of coloring gone wrong and more than my share of burn marks on my ears from curling irons. As they sat laughing, I had flashbacks to the countless hours I’ve spent trying to tame and “fix” my hair, all the times I had to wrap a plastic bag around my hair to protect its fleeting silkiness from surprise rain, and all the times I’ve slapped a man’s hand away from getting too close to my tracks.

I’ll never forget the way I felt in the sixth grade when a classmate thought it would be funny to snatch my hat off after I had taken my braids down the night before. It was by far one of my most humiliating days—everyone pointed and laughed at the apparent bird’s nest on my head. I’ve spent most of my college career sewing fresh tracks into my hair every other week, I experimented with Dominican blowouts, and I am now “going natural” and tinkering with the idea of cutting it off to a short ‘fro.

In retrospect, I can see how ridiculous I looked just one year ago as a weaved-up Beyoncé wannabe. And I must say it feels good to finally be free from that expensive habit. Even though I’m finally learning to embrace my roots, I couldn’t help but relive the pain of my attempted assimilation when the white folks got to laughin’.

—JADA SMITH

is an intern at The Root and senior journalism major at Howard University.