Thursday, July 30, 2009

More on Hair

Top from L to R: Jessica, Marika, Brittani
Bottom: Me, Carmen, Jackee

First off, let me say that I LOVE my friends!
I met each of these girls during different stages of life--Brittani and I have known each other since kindergarten, Carmen and I have been best friends since middle school, Jessica and Marika and I were friends in high school, and Jackee and I met in high school but didn't really become friends until college. Last night some of us were hanging out at my house and the topic of hair came up. It was really interesting to hear what everyone had to say. The girls gave me permission to share some of it here.

The conversation started because we were joking around about what our dream guy would look like. Marika and Jessica both mentioned that they wanted to marry either a white or a light-skinned guy and one of their reasons was that they wanted their kids to have "good hair".
Right away Brittani went off about how she hates that term. Her mom is a hair stylist and whenever someone walks into her shop saying that, she quickly corrects them and says there is NO SUCH THING as "good hair". No one outright says that someone has "bad hair" but the implication is there when nobody is saying that you have "good hair". Brittani said she wants to marry a dark-skinned man and have children with "beautiful, thick, nappy hair". She said that when she hears other black girls wanting to have mixed children with long hair, it sounds like a form of self-hatred since that's not what their hair looks like. Her comments seemed to strike a chord with Jessica because she started telling us about how growing up she always felt like the "dark skinned girl that nobody liked" because guys always fell for the biracial girls. It made sense why she hopes to have mixed children someday--she doesn't want her kids to have the same hurtful experiences she did as a young girl.
They then went on to talk about how they felt judged no matter how they did their hair growing up.
People would always run up to touch Jessica's hair and ask if it was real because she had naturally long hair and people aren't used to seeing that on black girls. In school some girls would be mean to her because they were jealous of the length of her hair.
They also talked about the comments people would make when they got extensions or weave. I definitely remember being in school and hearing kids tell girls their hair was "unbe-weave-able" and then laughing hysterically.
Brittani said she would get made fun of when she was little and still had her hair in braids (because her Mom wanted to avoid chemicals as long as possible) while everyone else was getting perms.
At the same time I know that some women who decide to keep their hair natural all of their life judge girls who get perms, saying that they are 'selling-out' or trying to look white.
It seems to be a catch 22...
What I absolutely LOVED about this conversation was that it showed two sides to the story. It was clear that Jessica and Marika had been hurt by the negative perceptions of their hair and skin-tone over the years and that it is still something that affects them today. Yet Brittani seemed to handle things differently. She definitely heard the hurtful comments when she was growing up, but it was obvious that her Mom had instilled so much pride into her that she was able to handle the negativity a lot better. She was raised to believe that her hair was beautiful exactly the way it is and to have pride in the way she looks. She spoke with so much confidence during this whole conversation that the other girls really seemed to listen and soak up what she was saying. She stressed the importance of seeing the beauty in ALL types of hair and not creating a hierarchy of 'good' and 'bad' hair. That's the type of self-worth I hope my little sisters grow up with. Because it's not just about hair. It's about self-esteem and being proud of who you are and where you came from. I think I might suggest to Janaya that she starts hanging out with Brittani at her Mom's hair salon :)

I figured that since I put up a picture of us in sweats I should probably put a cute one up too--Carmen is missing though...


Mark and Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing that discussion! You guys are a gorgeous group!!!


Andrea H. said...

Great post Kelsey. Especially because it gives adoptive families that are all white an inside of what is going on. Everything your friends said made total sense and what a great conversation to put it out there. That is why us as parents have to stay educated on hair and never disrespect our kids' hair thinking they have white hair having them run around like bush, as my MIL gently says. My MIL beat in my head the minute I got married to better take care of my kids' hair and never humiliate them re: their hair. We white people are so blessed because all we have to do is wash and run with it especially the ones with straight hair. So I hope some people take this post to heart that don't take care of their girls' hair the right way.

Signe said...

Thanks Kelsey, and thank your friends too, for allowing you to share their thoughts. Hair is a touchy subject even for white girls, but more important for our African daughters.

It was also very encouraging to hear how important it is for Mom's to build up their girls and know that they are beautiful no matter what their hair texture is.

momteacherfriend said...

One thing you did not mention was exclusion. One of my neighborhood girls can not go swimming because her mother will not allow her to get her hair wet. Her brothers however have short hair and are allowed to get their hair wet.

Also, I know you have a passion for diversity and equality. I read this interesting article and thought you may want to read it as well.

Anonymous said...

Hey... girls not loving their hair is been around since EVE...

If your hair is curly you want it straight.

If your hair is straight you want it curly.

WE, women are never satisfied with our hair... this is not a race, color... it's a gender!

Mark and Sarah said...

Hey! I was just looking through my blog reader and realized we haven't heard from you in a long time!! I hope all is well--missing your thoughts!

KelseyChristine said...

Thanks for the comment Sarah!
All is well, don't worry :)
School is just keeping me VERY busy this year. Hopefully I can post something soon though!

sarah bess said...

Here's another Sarah casting her vote for an update!