Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well Meaning AAWomen and Hair


I am pissed. I was bored today and looking at every blog I could find. I should have been working but I was blog watching instead. So, to what pissed me off. WELL MEANING BLACK WOMEN!!!! I have come to hate that term. I find it used often on blogs where there is a white family who has adopted a black child and it's usually in reference to hair discussions.

At first, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I'm not one to allow ppl in my business so I could understand the sentiment. But then it was repeated on so many blogs that it started to sound to me more like the women were saying "this black B had the nerve to walk up to me and talk to me about my kid's hair". Some of these ppl have no problem with white folks coming up to them and asking them about their adoption but hair discussions are oh so offensive!!!!

Then I started to calm down and think maybe they don't know. They have read hair books, learned to corn roll, and combed a five year old black girls hair so they think they know. THEY HAVE NO IDEA!!! They have no clue what it means to walk thru this country and have your attributes continually and not always subtlely put down. They have no idea what it means to have black hair. I mean it's oh so cute to braid and all that, but what about when that girl is 13 and her haird doesn't do what the white girls in class can do? They don't know that braids that are cute at 4 are just some baby mess at 12. They have no idea what it takes to figure out what to do with the hair once it's out of braids and everything you try doesn't look right.

They have no idea that it took hundreds of years for us to learn what works for our hair and how to find value in our own beauty when society at large tells you that you and your hair are ugly. They don't know about the sistas in the test kitchens mastering the conk and sacrificing plugs of hair. They don't know that as a teenager there will be kids who think it's the nastiest thing they have ever heard when you tell them you wash your hair once a week. They have never seen products that you have relied on and loved fail you, and then you can't find replacements. They don't know that the hair that has been on top of your head your whole like can change and you have to fight to get it back. They don't know that this happens for natural and relaxed sistas.

Or maye this is my own ignorance? Do white women have such extensive hair issues? Do they struggle like me and I don't know it? They talk about washing their own hair (which is something I haven't done in years) and I think wow I wish my hair was that easy to manage. But maybe they have a different set of hair stuff going on that I don't know about. Are htey like me and have to wear a scarf every night? Do they talk with their friends about when you let a new man see you in your scarf?

But more than all of that,they don't know that hair is something that black women discuss. They are being offered an entry into that world becuase a sista sees a baby sista and talks to her mom about her hair. They don't know that we do that all the time with each other. I have approached and been approached about who does my hair. I have seen a sista at the mall with a style and shine that I want to rock and I've asked what she uses. I have had others offer suggestions when they saw my hair line receding or my ends all split off. We have walked this path and discuss it freely. Of course everyone has an opinion that you may not agree with, but that's life. You can take it or leave it. My own hair dresser lectures me about going natural and I ignore her once a week as she talks and blow drys my relaxed hair.

My goddaughter and her mom were in the store and a black woman came up to them and suggested a shining product to her for baby. My friend, who is black, just chatted for a minute and went on about her business. No one thought anything of it. Our hair has ups and downs and we look to each other for assistance. Some we take and some we ignore.

Like the majority of women I know, i have had a standing appt at the hair dresser every week since i got my first job. Yes, it's that serious. I know sistas who won't pay a bill before they cancel that hair appt. India Arie had ot make a song saying she released being defined by her hair. She didn't do so because it was a catchy tune, she did it because hair is a big deal for black women.

So the next time you dismiss that "well meaning AA" when she talks to you about your child's hair you may want to reconsider. Doing a few braids ain't nothing like wearing the mane day in and day out. Don't get it twisted.

Okay that's my rant. I'm such an even tempered person, but that mess was a little too much for me today.

Maybe I'll have more perspective tomorrow. Maybe I'm just being hyper sensitive tonight.

What do you think blog world? Am I upset for nothing? Is "well meaning AA" woman respectful or wack?


Drea said...

I agree. One thing Oprah said a long time ago was a sista can be fat, but we draw the line at bald.

No matter relaxed or natural, we do take hair care seriously. Yes, it's just that important.

Beth said...

Thank you for your insight. You have given me an idea of what could be ahead

meg said...

thanks for a white girl w/ crazy hair issues (i too know the looks you get when you say you only wash your hair four times a month!) i'm actually looking forward to the "well meaning AA lady" giving me insights on how to care for and protect my daughter's hair.
(like when you posted on our group about issues beads can cause...i appreciate that insight!)

thanks for sharing this post! :)

Jamie said...

I am glad I came across your post. I completely agree. We have a great deal of baggage about our hair and that is something that should be considered when others adopt transracially.

My husband and I are considering adoption (domestic vs. international) and I haven't seen many blogs by women of color detailing their experience. I appreciate your story and hope to learn a lot from it.

Tami said...


Aimee said...

I am catchign up on blogs a bit late, but I wanted to comment. As a white woman with a black child, I sooooo appreciate when any AA woman gives me advice on my daughter's hair. I now understand that this is a huge part of AA culture. I want to know how to take care of it and style it help her to love it. I would never be able to do that without the help of AA friends and strangers who approach me with a tip. I welcome it.

Karen said...

I cannot imagine what is wrong with a white woman who would resent the advice of a black woman on dealing with black hair! Some people just have a complex, I guess. Great post.

Kimberley said...

I think that as a white mother of an AA daughter you get so many opinions that contradict each other that it is hard to decipher what is the "right" thing to do. So we seek advice from trusted AA friends and try to find what works for our child's hair.

Susan O said...

Thank you for this post. I'm adopting (single from hopefully Ethiopia), and the hair thing is something I've worried about. I have enough AA friends to know that hair is a big deal, but that's it. Since I live in a predominantly AA neighborhood, I know my child will have mostly AA classmates. I don't want her to be the only girl whose hair looks like she doesn't have a mama!

I've actually been wondering whether or not it would be considered tacky or inappropriate to just ask my friends or students for advice. I'm hoping folks just offer it up. ...because I'm going to need it!

Amber said...

This was a good topic to bring up. As a white woman contemplating an adoption from Ethiopia, the hair care is definitely something that I am concerned with, especially because I am one of those people that does not have to spend too much time thinking about or doing much with my own hair or my bio daughter's hair. I have seen some interesting things with white parents of black children. I mostly see white women thinking that they need to do a really good job all by themselves with their black children's hair and skin and feel very defensive if a black woman comments on their child's hair. They feel as though they failed to do a good job and now they are being judged by the black community as unfit to parent their child. I know a white mother of a AA boy that lied and said she was black in order to join an online community focusing on dreadlocks so that she could get info she needed for caring for her son's hair. I also know that when I am going around town with my AA friends, it is interesting to see how most will feel free to talk hair with total strangers and exchange info freely. It is almost like an opening line that strikes up new friendships. I have never seen it not be a very friendly exchange. I can say that this would not likely happen between white women. Most white women do not talk to strangers about hair and will only mention how a friend's hair looks if it is drastically different and would be rude not to notice. I think that white women with black children need to learn that it is okay for "well meaning AA ladies" to approach them with suggestions. Apparently, most of the time it is meant to be a friendly conversation starter or something that would be done whether the mother is white or black. I think that more mothers need to be aware of this as some just see it as disapproval or a "you aren't good enough or aren't doing it right" slam. A helpful suggestion does not automatically mean that "OMG, you need help", but I'd imagine that there are a lot of us that really do need help, know we need help, and just get bent about it. I wish you well with your adoption. Hope it is as swift as possible. Thanks for your perspective!

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