Thursday, June 7, 2012


So... I've been interested in black hair a lot lately.  Partly because one of my children has black hair, but also because a dear friend of mine lent me the movie Good Hair and it was really eye-opening for me.  And she was gracious enough to text back and forth with me as I watched it so I could ask her even more questions.  And then I watched the Daily Show recently and Michelle Obama was on there and all I could think about was that she had relaxed hair... then I spent a lot of time wondering if it was a weave (since I now know exactly what that is and where they come from).  And I even asked myself the question, "I wonder if Obama would have been elected if his wife had natural hair."  (There's a part in Good Hair where several high school girls are asked if they will need to relax their hair in order to get good jobs and they all answer resoundingly yes.)

I've never been one to do much to my hair. Honestly, I used to get a hair cut once every 18 months, cut off 10 inches to donate to Locks of Love and then start it all over again.  I did this for five years or so.  I had no idea that ignoring my hair was a luxury given to me by my race.

There's a quote in the movie that really struck me. One of the women who keeps her hair natural/curly said this:

"The idea of keeping my hair the texture that it grows out of my head is revolutionary."

And that's true.  There is so much pressure today for black women to have relaxed hair that women who choose not to are the ones considered different or revolutionary.  There's pressure on all women in this way. I even do it. If I'm going to a nice event or if I want to look pretty, I straighten my hair.

But God gave me wavy hair. And he gave some folks curly hair. And others straight.  Why do we do this to ourselves and to each other? It's like another form of oppression: you are not good enough the way you are, so you have to change yourself to be like someone else in order to be acceptable.  It makes me mad. And sad.

And on the flip side, you know what comment I get the most about Amani? That he has great hair.  What's funny is that I usually get that comment from white people.  And lots of white people want to touch his hair. I've heard of this from the adoption community before.  I don't know if people just have never had a chance to touch black hair and can't resist the opportunity or what, but my poor child's head has been patted by more strangers than I care to admit.  I usually try to move him away as quickly as possible.

So why is crazy-curly hair not okay on grown women, but an adorable asset for a little boy?

Our culture is weird.

And by the way, in case you haven't seen this video. I love it. It brings tears to my eyes (plus, the man who wrote it wrote it for his adopted daughter... from Ethiopia!)


  1. Adorable video - and yes, I remember when I worked in Tampa asking my co-workers about why what they called a 'perm' and what I called a 'perm' were so incredibly different. They were kind enough to explain a lot to me (1989)!!! I'm also guilty about wanting to touch Amani's hair - it's sooooo soft looking and beautiful....and he's little enough for me to get away with it!!! lots of love to all...auntie

  2. Great post! And, oh, there is just so much to say about hair, isn't there!

    Up until the last few years, I spent my life trying to get my stick straight hair to be anything but straight. Now, I have a daughter with very curly hair, which I love, but fear she'll wish was straight some day! Another thing I've noticed about hair politics is that white people seem to prefer my 3 year old Ethiopian daughter's hair to be free hair with just a headband or a couple small bows, but when I do the tiny braid styles or cornrows that are more traditional to her birth culture, some people seem more uncomfortable with it. It's also been interesting that nobody's ever had an opinion at all about how I fix my white daughter's hair!

  3. It really is amazing what an important role hair can play. But it doesn't always follow racial lines. I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "you have such pretty curls. Do you ever straighten it?" (Do people really think this is a complement???) My answer - No! I embrace my curls and pray that I am already empowering my daughter at 8 months to know that the beautiful curls growing out of her sweet little head are also a gift. And I am thankful that even though our skin tones are completely different shades, we have some similarity of our curls!

    As for the touching - it can be frustrating, but I just think it's because it's different and people are curious and we have the opportunity to teach. HOWEVER, one of the lessons to teach is personal space and it's not ok to just reach out and touch others without their permission. People cross this line a lot with children, but I think it's important that all children, especially those who are adopted, know that they have the right not to be touched (even if just on their hair) if they don't want to.

  4. I l-o-v-e this! I can see Joss singing this in a few years!! Everyone wants to touch her hair too! Thx for sharing!!


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