Thursday, October 30, 2008
This just in--Mommy's Hair looks like "Black Broccoli"
Black hair 101 isn't being taught in America's pre-schools apparently. Today I dropped my four-year old off at school, just like any other day. Except that last night I went to the hair salon and had my dredlocks pinned up in a crown-like arrangement on top of my head for an event I'm going to tonight. I thought I looked a bit like Cleopatra, or perhaps more like Frida Kahlo, but the (mostly White) children in my son's class didn't agree. (That's not me in the picture, but it's a close approximation of what my hair looks like right now.)
"You're hair looks different," one child announced when I entered the classroom. And I do admit, it's a big change from my usual unkempt free-flowing locks. "I don't like it," another girl said. "Change it back." And then it was like I was an open target. One girl shouted, "your hair looks gross." And then another little boy screwed up his face in concentration as he tried to tell me what my hair looked like. And then he got it. "Your hair looks like black broccoli." I had to laugh at that. Meanwhile the teachers were trying to tell the children to stop insulting my hair. And my poor son, started yelling at his classmates to stoop teasing his mommy. Wow! I've talked about hair issues ad nauseum but this situation caught me off guard.
In a flash I realized that these children were seeing something new and speaking from a place of honesty. (Except for the girl who said my hair was gross who is just a wise-ass in general with a lot of other serious problems.) So I told them I loved my hair, and I love broccoli. I told them I ate broccoli the night before and maybe that's why my hair looks like broccoli. And then I asked them what vegetable their own hair looked like. My son calmed down when he saw that I wasn't hurt by the comments, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. Even innocent little children (Mind you the two other Black kids in the class were looking horrified at the comments flying out of their classmates' mouths. Like they knew, even at age four, you don't talk about a Black woman's hair!) have the power to wound when it comes to Black hair.
So do you think I handled the situation the right way? Should I sign up to give a talk about Black hair to my son's class? Is this an issue about lack of exposure or if I were a White woman with a broccoli hair style, would I have been subjected to the same treatment? I don't know. What do you think?