So! On Monday, all around the Twitterverse (am I lame for saying that?) a couple of people whom I follow were up in arms. Ms. Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) pretty much went in. I also saw conversations from Ms. Afrobella (@afrobella) and countless other people out there discussing some pretty serious stuff. Then I went over to Facebook, and wouldn’t you know it? I saw it there as well! What was the kerfuffle all about? Natural Hair. But not just natural hair–it was about some negative comments made by a black woman about African American hair. You can (if you haven’t already) watch the scene here: Sheryl Underwood and Heidi Klum on the Talk.
Yeah, I know! I know! African American women are often up-in-arms about our hair. And whether you use “creamy crack” or no, hair is still a very serious business. To people who aren’t deeply engaged in conversations about something so seemingly superficial, the question arises: What’s the big deal?
I used to be that person. I used to tell people all of the time that my hair was just…hair. And that hair was only as important as you made it.
Then I had a daughter who, at 3 months old, lost all of her hair. She was diagnosed with alopecia areata. She had no hair on any part of her body–no eyebrows, no eyelashes, none of the fuzzy hair all over her body that babies have. She looked like (and please, please excuse me) a cancer patient. And people actually came up to me and asked to pray for her healing and recovery. This happened three other times, and even now that she is almost 8 with a full head of hair, hair is still a huge deal for her. She grew up pretending that it didn’t matter when it did. She grew up with me pretending that it didn’t matter so that she could feel better about herself and not be self-conscious. It didn’t work.
And then my baby girl, Ashleigh, has what the kinky chicks call “4c-z” hair. If you don’t know what that means, you need to look it up. To me, her hair is beautiful and healthy and thick and luxurious–but to my family, even before she realized what they were saying, her hair was “nappy”. Nappy! And so even though she’s only 5 year old, I am trying to work her out of having a complex about the “type” of hair she has. I have to explain to her that having straight hair is not important–it does not determine how pretty you are. Having healthy, versatile hair is important, and being your best self makes you beautiful.
Between the two of them, I realized that they had developed negative views of who they were. Everybody that they watched on t.v.–from A.N.T. Farm to That’s So Raven to The Chipmunks and everything in between–had long silky “white girl” hair…even the non-white girls. Add to that the comments made by family members about “hair grade” and my own dependency on relaxers to manage my hair, and you have two little girls already getting the wrong idea about what is acceptable as beautiful.
So I made some changes. After allowing the “texturizer” to grow out of Ashleigh’s hair (another post about boundaries and grandparents for another day), I begin to look for positive reinforcement for my children. I started a Pinterest Board that featured all kinds of beautiful natural hair-styles–I even found a picture of Wakema Hollis, a supermodel who looks kind of like (and has hair like) Haleigh.
And I began to transition.
This summer, I chopped my hair off and am now sporting the most fabulous of curly TWA’s. My daughters think it’s cute; shoot they think I’m cute! And they have begun to appreciate their own special hair. And I have learned self love sometimes starts with appreciating the most reviled parts of ourselves.
This isn’t at all a social commentary on the scale of The Root or Huffington Post or the Franschesca Ramsey’s of the world–far from it. But it is my way of saying to you as a parent: YES! It does matter what people say about hair. There are too many forces out there crushing our children with hatred. It is a truly scary thing to see that hatred turned inward.
I will never tell my two little girls that they can’t wear weaves or even get a perm once they are older. Those are personal choices. But I will make sure that they do it because it’s what they want to do–and not because they don’t feel beautiful without it.