With today's images, I was floored when I came across this book...
Before even beginning to comment about the title of the book, I must comment about the lovely drawing. This child clearly has African American features and appears happy! Fabulous!
Having black hair separates girls from many activities that others take for granted. Unless the hair is "permed," (as in chemically straightened, not chemically curled) getting it wet is a severe no-no. So activities like sports and swimming pose a hazard because it makes it more difficult to comb the hair, and young girls are discouraged from and less likely to engage in activities for fear of "sweating out their hair."
Hair is often worn in braids as not to cause tangles, and this is a style that will last a number of days. In recent commentary about the daughters of our new inaugurated President, some lamented that his daughters looked better without braids. Perhaps they are speaking from an eurocentric point of view and describing what they are accustomed to seeing, however, from an afrocentric point of view, braids are the norm. They do not represent a militant stance, and adding beads to the braids was quite popular for decoration as depicted above.
Recently at the Sundance Film Festival, Chris Rock unveiled his documentary, "Good Hair." He states his new documentary, was spurred by his daughter Lola's question why she doesn't have "good hair." This took him on a journey through salons and businesses to attempt to find an answer. In the process, he spoke to people in salons/barbershops, celebrities, and learned how black hair affects self esteem, the pocketbook, relationships and about the bustling hair industry, leaving him with the belief that what is most important is inside than on top of his daughter's head.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the first woman millionaire was Madame C.J. Walker who developed a line of beauty and hair products for black women.
Speaking with other people of color who live in towns (or neighborhoods) where they are the minority, attempting to find a needle in a haystack would be easier than finding ethnic hair and beauty supplies. It creates a feeling of not belonging, being left out, anger, frustration, and for some wishing their hair was like the majority population.
Those with chemically straightened hair often have difficulty as all salons cannot accommodate black hair, something many goodhearted friends don't know, when they give recommendations. Chemically straightening requires frequent visits to the salon (every 4 to 6 weeks) as new hair will not be straightened (analogous to someone who dyes their hair, new growth will be their natural color). It may not sound like a large imposition, but it limits choice. Having to travel out of town for a salon can become prohibitive. Reflexively, one must also ask if there is a stylist that can accommodate black hair prior to making an appointment; hopefully the answer is yes...the funniest answer yet has been, "I can try..." Umm, thanks, but no thanks.
As in other countries, hair in this country can be a political subject. While few women wear afros, those who do are thought of as oppositional, militant, masculine and ready to "buck" the system. We look at them with suspect and wonder about their sexual orientation, and if they will be loyal. Men readily express desire for women with longer hair. Woe to woman who cannot grow her own it herself. There is always extensions, but there is the worry that something about herself is deficient. Certainly we remember the person in school who chronically had a "bad hair day." Perhaps we are that person?
Unlike the commercials towards the mainstream that make it look easy, dyeing black hair is not a job for the novice. Sarah Jessica Parker or Andie MacDowell may be able to boast a new hair color, but many will settle for covering grey hair. Certainly there are those who bleach their hair blond, but it often doesn't match skin tone. In the summer a bottle of Sun-In could be sprayed on our hair with very little effect. Lemon juice anyone?
Hair is a crucial consideration of one's beauty. Thinking our reaction to hearing someone has/had cancer...after what kind, how are they, chemotherapy, did they lose their hair? Robin Roberts of ABC recently lost her hair in her breast fight; and was able to do so gracefully, shaving it herself. Sadly though, she spoke of women fearing further treatment due to loss of hair.
Growing up, my parents attempted to dampen the comparisons and differences in hair length and texture. When asked if one had "good hair," the response was, "If you have hair, that's good!" Of course it was later learned that it wasn't the mainstream belief, but it satisfied us as children.
Encouraging people to be themselves and authentic isdifficult, but not impossible. Limiting contrary and derogatory influences to self-esteems that are developing can do much to secure self esteems. Having a variety of influences and witholding prejudgment helps both us, and without knowing it, could also be helping others.