I got sucked into the vortex of conservative blogging this week, and I didn’t even mean to.
It started when someone who I went to high school with posted a link to this article about a white woman and her adoptive daughter and their hair dilemma. It’s an old article, but it has seemed to come to the attention of a Black hair blog and anyway, it ended up on my Facebook feed. So I had to read it because my friend’s reaction, while muted, was still classic.
Now, I went in with a little bit of sympathy. I’m a Black woman who has always, ALWAYS struggled with my hair. We started relaxing my hair as SOON as I was able to FORCEFULLY ask for it. I’m “tender headed,” according to the old and the wise. Translation: My head hurts when you even THINK about putting a comb to it. I would cry as soon as my mom reached for that thing. I’d beg for the brush like a French revolutionary begged for bread. Fast forward through the “chemical years” and it was just as bad. Relaxer every 4 weeks, barely wrapping it at night, hot damn mess during the day… catastrophe. Went to college and started doing my OWN relaxers…lordy…. resulting in a few close-cropped looks that weren’t that fly because I basically killed my hair.
Long story short, in 2008 when I was done with graduate school and I was a little big angry about the White-centric nature of The North, I looked at my hair and decided that it was time. I was getting married, I was starting a new chapter, and I was done with chemicals. I so chopped it off. “Big chop” as us naturalistas call it. It was gone. And I rocked the Caesar for a good 2 years. Loved it. But wanted to grow it out…so when Ursa Major was born, I started with the 2 strand twists. And once Ursa Minor showed up, I was like “let’s make this permanent.” So I’m Loc’d and gorgeous and I’m never looking back. That’s 28 years of hair journey.
Now I’ve got two beautiful sons who have hair that is their father’s texture and color, but with the most beautiful curls. Not even a little bit of kink. Tight, beautiful coils that make me just want to cry. The kind that women would just kill for. They are beautiful. And they are hard to take care of. So whenever I see anyone, the first thing I get asked is “what are you going to do with that hair?”
There is something about motherhood. I feel like the baby hair is sacred. They were both born with full heads of hair. Ursa Minor, like Ursa Major before him, has grown a gorgeous head of hair that is wild and crazy and beautiful. I refuse to cut his hair until his first birthday, no matter how wild it gets. We didn’t cut Ursa Major’s hair until well after his first birthday, mostly out of protest because everyone had something to say about it. I’m his mother, I get to choose when his hair is cut. Even as recently as this weekend, my own damn mother (IN FRONT OF MY IN-LAWS! ROAR!) was like “Oh my God, [Kay], what are you going to do with that child’s hair?”
So I went into the aforementioned article with a whole lot of sympathy. Everybody’s got something to say. Especially about us Brown people and our hair.
As the author was recounting her experiences of going to various venues and getting comments from Black women about her child’s hair (which she admitted didn’t look very good, but she was trying), I was like “yup, had that happen. Yup, that’s happened to me. Aww, you cried in front of other people? That’s a bit much.” Then I got to this paragraph:
“Even if you’re black, it doesn’t give you the right or authority to give white parents’ rude advice by critiquing a black child’s hair. It certainly puts us in an awkward situation, because it means many interactions we have with African Americans we casually meet in public deal with our families’ inadequacies. The message you send to our daughters — intentionally or not — is that they would be better off if only they had black parents.”
Whoa. Let’s take a step back for a moment.
There are so many things wrong with this statement, even though I know that this statement, much like the strike of a rattle snake, comes from a very tightly coiled defensive position. Not only is motherhood about judgement, but Brown motherhood is certainly about judgement. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from allies, friends, acquaintances, family, strangers and enemies alike. There is no part of your life, as a mother of a child of color, that isn’t about judgement. Because if you aren’t judging yourself, you best be damned sure that someone is doing it for you. And if you are a White Woman who chooses to raise children of color, well then you are subject to the same issues as the rest of us, and that includes acute, prolific, unabashed and unrestricted judgement from all corners, classes and races.
So here is this woman, who is patting herself on the back for adopting a child from Africa (and telling herself she’s not racist for doing so, and, if you read the rest of her blog, she’s happy to tell you about how Liberals, especially Liberals of color are a bit racist for calling her racist… even though she could easily have found a child-of-color here in the United States to adopt…I’m just saying), who is ill-prepared for the judgement that comes from motherhood. She adopted a Black girl and didn’t know anything about the politics of Black hair. She didn’t understand that the images of “beautiful” in this country are laced with the following guidelines: Long, Straight, Blonde (for color du jour). How did you decide to take a child out of her context (yes, she wasn’t healthy, she was in a place that would not have allowed her to reach her fullest potential), and put her in a significantly different context without any study of the socio/political situation that you were going to plop her in to? The author then gets all huffy about being a White Republican raising a Black child and tells us to get over it. I have absolutely no problem with your political views. I have a huge problem with your bubble. If you are going to choose to step outside of yourself to adopt a child who is completely different from the context of the entirety of your life and culture, you need to study up. It’s like walking into a final exam without having studied a lick for the entire semester.
And then being mad when outsiders speak to you?
I need you to soldier up, friend.
Listen, motherhood isn’t easy. Womanhood, for that matter, isn’t easy. If you weren’t ready, you shouldn’t have ventured. If you think that being a mother to that beautiful little girl is hard now, wait until she starts asking those real questions. The ones about oppression. The ones about the restrictions of freedom for some and not others. The ones about beauty and why some are featured and some are not. This woman has got 99 problems and a cashier at Target ain’t a one.
And here is the other problem with all of this. The isolationism: Blogging on a conservative blogging site. Linking to a conservative blog that is specifically tailored to Natural hair. Deciding that, though she has, literally, opened up her world to the world, she needs to keep her opinions and the raising of this child in a tight and ever shrinking conservative bubble. And that’s too bad, because she has so much that she could learn.