Why Knot?: White Moms Giving Black Hair Care Tips

April 15, 2014  |  

A few years back Wanda Sykes did a stand-up bit explaining why she went with a white sperm donor instead of a black one to conceive her two children with her wife, who’s white.

“What if we have a little bi-racial girl? I can’t leave that girls hair up to this white lady! I can’t do that to her…. I couldn’t leave my baby’s hair in this white lady’s hands! She would f–k her hair up! You ever see those bi-racial kids and the white mother just has no idea what to do with the hair so the hair’s just all matted up, never been combed, and lint and car keys and Q-tips all in their s–t?!”

At the time, I thought it was funny…damn funny. My daughter was only one-year-old then and had a head full of curls that didn’t need too much maintenance, so I couldn’t relate personally. I knew exactly what she was talking about though. As my daughter’s hair grew longer…and longer, that bit became less, “OMG, that’s hilarious,” and more, “OMG, that’s my life.” Because every time I send my daughter to her father and his family, I’m leaving my baby’s hair in white people’s hands. And yes, there have been times when they have f–k’d her hair up!

My white husband — now ex-husband — never really understood the whole hair thing. I mean, he knew that I always ducked and dodged raindrops, sometimes slept sitting up, and avoided pools like the plague, but he didn’t really “get” why. To him, it was just hair. I was just being superficial. To me…IT WAS MY HAIR, my crown, and often the difference between a good and bad day.

With our three boys it wasn’t something that we had to deal with outside of my gripes about the seven products in the entire hair care section at every store and the total lack of black salons in our less than diverse (read: all white) community.

With my daughter though, it’s increasingly becoming an issue, especially after we split. I cringe every time he sends me a picture of the kids on outings with him–my little girl’s hair looking a hot mess, a hot mess held back with a crooked headband that doesn’t even match her outfit.

It’s not like I haven’t worked on the whole hair care thing with him and his mother but somehow I’m just not getting through. Somehow, they still don’t get that my daughter doesn’t get tangles, she gets naps….and big ones. Naps that that small sliver of black hair care products at the store can’t handle.

If I felt like I was making a big deal out of nothing (which I can admittedly sometimes do), I would drop it. BUT IT’S HER HAIR! And at five-years-old, she’s already thrown her share of tantrums before school because she didn’t like the way her hair was done– and that’s with me doing it. So I can imagine how she feels every time she’s out with her dad’s family and has to walk around looking like a troll doll with a bad perm. Actually, I don’t have to imagine it. I can see it on her face in the pictures. To them, it’s fine. Me, however, I worry about what other people think when they see her looking like that; what she thinks of herself.

So what do I do? Suggest to my ex and his mother that they do what Wanda Sykes said and “drive through the hood and stick her head out the window” for someone to do it?

I don’t think I’m asking for too much. Mostly, I just want them to understand, to “get it.” Could they?

Right now, I’m a little optimistic– just a little. Because thankfully, there are a few white moms giving black hair care tips out there because they do “get it.” They REALLY get it. They’re not hair stylists, they’re regular moms who’ve adopted black or bi-racial children and have taken the time to not only learn all the ins and outs of black hair care — particularly for kids — but to teach it to other moms. Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care and Hair-raising Adventures are blogs of culturally-sensitive women who understand not only the impact that hair has on a little girl, but that black hair doesn’t need to be “fixed,” it’s beautiful…but it does have to be done.

With any luck (and an email with the links to these blogs), I’m hopeful that one day soon my ex and his family will understand, and they’ll take the time to learn. In the meantime, I’ll keep working with my daughter to teach her how to do her own hair so we can avoid those awkward, hot mess photos in the future.

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