Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good (Black) Hair

Chris Rock has been promoting his new film, a documentary, entitled Good Hair. I saw him on Oprah, Good Morning America, and The View--just in the past three days. I believe the movie previews this week.

Oprah commented on her show that the white women in the audience and at-home viewers have no idea what she's talking about when referring to the difficulties, complexities, and energy that goes into a black woman's hair. Then she laughed along with Chris Rock.

She's wrong.

Many white women do "get it." I am friends with many women who are parenting black children. And my sweet husband, he gets it, too. He's often the one combing, detangling, and moisturzing our daughter's hair as she attempts to crawl away to a better adventure.

We strive every day, sometimes multiple times a day, to tame, style, and moisturize our children's hair. We search relentlessly for the best shampoos, conditioners, brushes, combs, barrettes, rubber bands, moisturizers, stylers, etc. We are squatted down in the aisles of beauty shops and departments stores and discount shops, looking odd as the only white woman in the store in the ethnic hair care section---which is always in the back corner and has the least amount of shelf-space.

We want our black children to have good hair because we know that we will be judged. We first attract attention because of the color and race difference between us and our children. We know that next comes a critical evaluation----a test. Our children's hair. If it looks good (moisturized, curls defined, properly braided), we will possibly pass the test. But if it looks bad, which is very easy to accomplish, we will fail. And I feel that often we are deemed as not good enough to parent these children if their hair looks bad.

I have been known to go to Wal-Mart or the grocery store in unattractive clothing---t-shirts, baggy capris, my gym shoes. My hair is usually in a messy ponytail or knot. I don't wear makeup on these days full of errands. I don't care what other people think about me. At least I didn't until we adopted a black child.

Every time we go somewhere outside of our home, my daughter's hair is combed, moisturized, and styled. Sometimes it's also accessorized with a bow or two puffs on top of her head. She almost always looks nice. Even if she's spent the day sticking half-chewed Cheerios to herself or trying to eat grass from the front yard. When we go out, she's cleaned up, dressed up, and yes, her hair is done.

I'm not sure why black women take such pride in their hair and why hair is so important. I'm not saying this critically. I'm stating my ignorance in this area of my daughter's culture.

All I know is that my child is black and to neglect this part of her racial culture would be some sort of damnable sin. So I take care of her hair, as best as I can, and I keep educating myself on how to improve.

Because for one of the first times in my life, I realize that appearances very much matter.


  1. what a great post, I totally agree with you. I'm very aware that I'm being judged on how well Lauren looks. I spend a lot of money on clothes and hair bows. I probably would do the same if she were white though since all the girl stuff is so cute. I dress my boys cute as well though. Sad that that is the way it is. I actually hate to see any childs hair raty, I do try the best I can though.

  2. I totally agree. I spend alot of time on my daughter's hair and overall appearance. First of all, it's because I love her, but secondly, I never want someone to tell me I'm not taking proper care of my daugther's hair.
    Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  3. I keep my son's hair relatively short, but it still can look dry even after moisturizing it, so I spritz it with a moisturizer right before walking out the door any time we go anyway. For some reaons, I don't want to be judged that I can't take care of my son. His skin tends to be extremely dry and I'm even more concerned about that. He's all lathered up ALL the time. I know of another interracial family who were confronted by a black woman in a store about their black son's dry skin. She came right out and told them they needed to put some lotion on the baby's skin. It was a funny story, but it made me think....
    I hate having to feel that I have to meet the approval of someone I *might* run into in public, but I want people to know, I guess, that I take care of my son because I love him.

    Anyway...I'm glad I'm not the only person slightly obsessed about making sure my son is neatly dressed and fully moisturized before leaving the house. ;-)


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