When it comes to hair, I am incredibly self-aware. Nowadays, I don't have any hair on my head, but back in the day, I was known to rock a high top fade. In some ways, I don't pine for the days of hair and roses. Having a shaved head has helped me avoid something that was very difficult for me in my youth. I constantly had to deal with the novelty my hair was for my white friends and classmates. People very often touched my hair, which was usually meticulously combed. Asking me questions about it. Making awful, inappropriate jokes. Let's just say I showed remarkable restraint. As an adult, I looked for opportunities to educate. During my years as an English teacher, I taught a short story that focused on a young Mexican boy's quest for a hair cut in his small Texas town. This boy was told by the white barber that his hair was too greasy, so the barber wouldn't cut his hair. My class began to develop an understanding of how hair and culture are connected. I was hoping that future generations would be more sensitive when it came to this topic.
I remind you that my daughter is multiracial. I am beginning to notice how often people make comments about my daughter's hair. The novelty is back, and so are those old feelings. "I wish I had her hair." "Look at those curls." No one is being malicious or attempting disrespect. However, I feel the need to write this and explain that many people of color like me still cringe when hair comes up as a subject, especially when it's a white person bringing it up. Hair is such a loaded topic. For example, The issues that came up around Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas and her hair. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/gabby-douglas-hair-debate_n_1756835.html
Then, there was this not that long ago.
You might wonder what can you say to compliment my daughter's hair. I'm not going to tell folks what to say. I also don't want people to shy away from sharing compliments. However, I think it makes sense to at least consider why you want to comment on her hair.
Look, being sensitive and aware is hard work. Trust me. I feel these traits must be a requirement to be a part of my daughter's life. In addition, I am hoping people who might have made comments will read this and consider this and my concerns going forward. Membership in my daughter's village requires an appreciation of the experiences of people and their culture. So, I challenge folks to not shy away from diversity-themed conversations. We just want her village to be broad, beautiful, thoughtful, and inclusive. And for folks to not just notice my daughter's hair, but to also see the entire girl.