Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's just hair... or not.

I've been thinking about this since I first read Will Smith's comments about his daughter's hair.  Now that mom Jada Pinkett-Smith's has weighed in, I'll share my thoughts as well.  Here's what I posted on a friend's fb page about it:

I'm almost entirely there. Almost. I encouraged my daughter to cut her hair shorter than it was because it took too much time to care for. She cut about 10 inches off. And she has learned to care for it a little more (long natural black hair can be a lot of work).If she wanted to shave her head, I'd grab the razor for her. Color it pink (blue, green, or black), and I'll drive her to the store and give her the money. But.... if she wanted to color her hair blond (from the dark brown that it is) or permanently straighten it... I'd have a problem. To me that would feel like she were killing (or suppressing) a little bit of the blackness that makes up a part of who she is. Yes, that is my insecurity, but she is a child. I have a responsibility to guide her, not just to let her do whatever she feels like doing.  
Just as she is required to eat vegetables and is prohibited from getting tattoos (at the moment), there are some limits to what I will allow her to do to her hair or body while she is still a child.

I figured no one would care one way or the other about my parenting style, but one woman wrote:

@ Brian- I get really insulted when people imply that straightening hair is suppressing or "killing" blackness. Am I somehow LESS black because I have long straight hair? No. I am not my hair. Also, you can't PERMANENTLY straighten hair.

To which I responded:

@  (commenter's name) - you aren't my daughter. I am not commenting on your hair. You may or may not agree with my reading of our society, but I see that there is enormous pressure on black girls to confirm to white ideals of beauty. My daughter is in an almost entirely white and asian school. She had expressed frustration with her hair when she was little. The one time we flat ironed it, I watched her avoid physical exertion to avoid sweating out her do (she's very athletic, and that almost made me cry). She's also very light, so one of the few things that identifies her as black is her kinky curly nappy happy hair. So what you do with your hair and why is your business. What my daughter does with her hair when she is out of my house, spending her own money and her own time, is her business. But while she lives in my house and spends my money, I am going to teach her that she is perfect, just as she was made. And that includes her big curly kinky nappy mop of difficult frustrating wonderful hair. Hopefully when she is grown, she'll rejoice in it. If not, I'll love her just the same.

I wasn't trying to offend or cast aspersions on anyone else's personal or parenting choices.  That said, I have to parent my kids.  That means making choices, sometimes for them.  What do you think?