Dear Black Women Giving Me Hair Advice about My African Daughter: Please Stop
I thought this was an intriguing post over on Patheos about the perils and joys of mixed-culture adoption. Who knew there was this issue—partly political too—out there for adoptive parents?
The lady at the mall was right. One day, Naomi will be a beautiful black woman, and I want her to have pride in her hair and feel comfortable in various styles. And if that’s going to happen, it means I have to learn a great deal about her hair… and fast! I’ve done so many experiments on Naomi’s hair — some hits and some misses — that it’s a part of our weekly routine. (I compare it to breastfeeding. I wasn’t able to nurse Naomi, since I missed out on her infancy. But there’s something special about the hours time spent doing hair — it’s our bonding time, the thing we do together that no one else in our family can do…. though her older sister Camille is getting really good at braids!) Sometimes, between hair styles, her hair looks this like this:
And this is where the problems occur. See, there’s a difference between what white women like on black children and what black women like on black children. White women like this hairstyle very much. But when black women see Naomi in public with an afro, they really disapprove. No matter how many braids I’ve done, I get approached if I dare take them out and walk around in public with her.
When I tell people about how much free advice we get from African American women, white people are incredulous. After all, little girls on advertisements and on television have their hair in afros. What’s the big deal? Well, as far as I can tell, there’s a lot going on, socially, politically, and culturally. On Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care website, there’s a great article called, “The Politics of Free Hair” which is well worth a read. Rory writes about how many people give her unsolicited advice when she takes her daughter out in public with an afro. You really wouldn’t believe how frequently it happens. Rory says it happens every single time she takes her daughter out in public when her hair is natural. I’d agree — sometimes several different people in one shopping excursion.
Yesterday, I was at Target in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and I braced myself. I was in a week of “natural hair” because I was trying to avoid “part fatigue.” The following conversation actually happened ...
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