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.
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.