Monday, October 19, 2009

Because Sometimes Love Just isn't Enough

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.



The Gori Wife said...

I think Love Isn't Enough is an interesting metaphor for the woman's story. I think it's honorable that she wants to instill in her child a love for her natural self, rather that forever trying to change her hair into something it isn't, but just wanting that to be true Isn't Enough, and the kind of research you talked about is really key to bridging these kinds of gaps.

Will check out the link, thanks.

Chai said...

great show! The woman caller you mentioned did sound needy and sort of in want of some sympathy dealing with her daughter's hair...but really I had none. Truly sounded as if she hadn't done her homework, learning the proper care of a little girl with a different texture hair than hers. This whole...'shake n go' routine that she probably adopted as a young girl just shouldn't apply to her own daughter...for obvious reasons.

LT said...

The Gori Wife,

Just checked out your blog. Wow! Love it. Thanks for visiting the Meltingpot and for sharing.

Thanks! And yeah, I pretty much felt the same way. (sigh) My work is still not done.

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Thank you so much for this article, Lori. It's important to talk about, and being a mixed child raised by parents who had no idea what to do with my hair myself, my heart goes out to what that child is going through.

Being raised by people who don't take the time to care for our hair can make a child grow up deeply ashamed of her hair. Even when our hair is beautiful, if we are walking around with mats while everyone we are surrounded by has long, flowing, comb-able hair that is easier to care for, it can make us feel like something is inherently wrong with us.

It's disturbing that the mom felt that her girl walking around with matted hair was good enough, and that not learning how to properly care for her daughter's unique hair showed love. I feel it shows more love to learn to take care of curls like ours, even when that means it takes more time to do it properly.

Heather said...

Oh, thank you for this post and every single sentence in it. LOVE IT! Thank you. This is so affirming for me right now-- in a moment when I need some affirmation. Thank you! (P.S. we just never know what power our posts might have -- THANK YOU FOR BLOGGING!)

JBH said...

Yes. Love isn't enough.

Great post about hair. I would love to hear what you think about Chris Rock's new movie (thought of you when I saw the preview this week).

Glad that "Anti-Racist Parent" changed their name to "Love Isn't Enough" - makes me feel included as an adult adoptee who felt very loved, but had a lot to learn as well.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, though no always, It seems that these biracial couples with WW/BM have these girls with frizzy hair, (because the daughter has the dads hair texture). what white women need to do may be hard but ask black women how to do their childs hair WHEN THE'RE PREGNANT. i think the woman was too afraid of the black women to ask because the sistas would be jealous. Also the dad could take the girl in and they could show him.