This morning I had the great pleasure of being a guest on the Philadelphia-based radio show, Radio Times. We were talking about the politics of Black hair in America, of course, in response to the film "Good Hair."
Radio Times host, Marty Moss-Coane asked me and Philadelphia Inquirer fashion columnist, Elizabeth Wellington thoughtful and provoking questions about the state of Black hair politics today and then she opened up the phone lines for callers to ask their questions. As expected, many people called in, not with questions, but stories of their own hair-raising experiences.
One caller however, is still hovering in my mind. She was a White woman with a biracial daughter. Her husband is Africa-American and she told us she wants her three-year old daughter to love her natural hair so she mostly lets her wear it in an "afro." She also admitted that she doesn't always comb it every day, and sometimes it is a little "matted." She then wanted to know what to do about her African-American in-laws who always had comments and unasked for suggestions about straightening the girl's hair.
My response to the woman was to encourage her to understand that her in-laws were probably concerned that the girl would be judged in this world unfairly if her hair doesn't appear neat and tidy. Now of course I cannot know everything that goes on in this woman's household or mind, especially after only a two-minute conversation on the radio, but a part of me cringed when the woman said she didn't always comb her daughter's hair, and sometimes it was kind of "matted."
What I really wanted to say to her was, "Why would you let your child out of the house with matted hair?" You wouldn't let your White child out of the house with rats nests. There is a difference between embracing your child's natural hair and not taking care of your daughter's hair. Leaving it alone to mat up is not celebrating her beauty. That being said, I don't blame this woman, I just think she needs to be taught some basic hair care skills for her daughter's unique hair, and she should probably read about the complicated history of Black hair so she understands just what her daughter is in for in this lifetime. Basically she has to realize that loving her daughter and her hair just isn't enough.
And that's my segue into announcing that Anti-Racist parent has changed their name to Love Isn't Enough:On Raising a Family in a Colorstruck World. You can read their first manifesto here and tell me what you think. Or better yet, tell them. I think it's a brave statement to project, because it's true love isn't enough to heal these ills. It takes work. Work that may makes us super uncomfortable, and that's where the love is helpful. Because if we really love our kids, we will push through the pain, so they don't have to.