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That was an funny,real,informative, excellent essay. I really enjoyed it. The school district I work for has white women who have adopted African American children and some have biological bi-racial children. I will encourage them to check out the essay and to share their thoughts and questions. This portion of the essay I believe is the most powerful: "White people, like my friend, usually assume that my whiteness protects my child. It's a dangerous assumption. My daughter cannot escape racism just because she is my child. I don't want to send my daughter out into the fray without the visible respect of her mother." Take care. Tell the kiddos and husband I said hello. If I have time before the Halloween season I'd love to come and help decorate the house and chase the kids.love,Jamie :)
I love this essay. I agree that this section is quite striking: "I don't want to send my daughter out into the fray without the visible respect of her mother."Lovely job, Dawn!
The hair works so beautifully as a metaphor for the complexities and adjustments of an interracial adoption. I love when Dawn explains that she doesn't knit or crochet or do anything very adeptly with her hands, and yet she has mastered this. And takes so much pride in it. That's love for you.rock on, DF.
What a psycho. Most black women do not do their child's hair daily.DF sounds like someone who wants to be a martyr and recognized because she saved some poor black child.
Thanks everyone for the good thoughts! And I hate to answer psycho but did want to respond to the hair every day thing -- depends on the texture of the hair.
WOW. Dawn you hit a point that I think we have all felt. My daughter is bi-racial and has the "poofy" hair texture. It's extremly hard to manage. After a year and a half I finally found a hair dresser willing to take us in who is also bi-racial and knows what she is looking at. It's funny how the color of your skin really defines you. Seems sad to me sometimes. But when we take out the whole racism judgements that we tend to all lean towards out of the picture, we can all open our eyes to the culture we all have and hold dear too. When ever I would just let Alexandra's hair just be free and down my white friends would actually comment "how could you let her out of the house like that" or "you need to do something with that hair" and then my black friends would say just let it go, sometimes it needs to breathe. My white children do not leave the house without having thier hair brushed, but their hair gets messy anyway. I felt with my 3 year old if I couldn't do her hair I wasn't a fit mother. Black people would tell me one thing and white another. I even let an African American hair dresser put braids in her hair at one point. I will admit she was beautiful with them in, however, my daughter is not just black and she's not just white. Her hair couldn't hold braids as it wasn't strong enough. She ended up loosing several chunks of hair. I was sadden and frightened that I would never know how to handle her beautiful hair. I have now found what I need. The right oils and conditioners. the right combs and pony tail holders. I will never be able to braid hair or do fancy things whether it be with my white children or my black children. But I do take time each day to create the best hair I can on all of them.
Like the first commenter, this grabbed me:"White people, like my friend, usually assume that my whiteness protects my child."That misconception is one that I think some adoptive parents share. Helping them to understand how important it will be to raise children who are able to claim their racial and ethnic identities comfortably, proudly is still, in my opinion, a huge challenge for the adoption community.
My daughter is nearly three and is AFrican American, raised by African American parents - so I'm in the hair game :). Mostly that is a happy thing for us. As an Af-Am mom, I was once approached by a white grandmother of an biracial child. I didn't know this initially, she was just commenting on how our kids looked - good comments. Then she confided about her granddaughter and her permed hair at age 7. That is so terrible to me - that her parents weren't able or didn't try to learn how to take care of her hair. So I really applaud Dawn for working so hard on this and realizing that her daughter will be judged by "black" hair standards and neatness expectations.As for Black mothers not doing their children's hair every day, I think that is mostly true (though stated cruelly above). The mothers I know work to do a style that has a cute look for a few days at least, as it is so time consuming to do it every day. However, if Dawn's daughter has "good hair" it responds differently - and her mother knows what to do and when to do it.
Wow, I thought I already understood from reading previous posts on your blog about this topic, but I had a definite epiphany moment reading this essay. I've read your blog for years now, leaving one or two comments, but I wanted to say thanks for telling your story. I have learned so much.
Great essay -- I will echo the other positive comments, with a "brava!" thanks.
I have four African American daughters and at times I find doind their hair to be quite a chore. It literally takes me 2 hours, as I spend a half hour per head. It was very refreshing to read your essay and I felt very much chastised. You are correct in your assessment of the opportunity for bonding. The other bloggers were correct as they alluded to the fact that hair care standards and expectations differ greatly between desperate ethnic communities. Neatness is expected and lack thereof is condemned within the African diaspora. It is the possible condemnation which makes some of us view the activity as a chore. Why can't I leave their hair look bad at times, if I just don't have the time, or if my child is just too sleepy to sit still for a half hour, or if we just have something better to do? Community expectations reverberates absolutely not and then I rebel with my sullen attitude.I too had an epiphany as I considered that I am leaving an idelible mark of the negative persuasion when I quibble while I am combing my children's hair just as my mom did to me. This has to stop. From henceforth, this can and will be a bonding experience.Thanks.
I have tears streaming down my face right now. This paragraph here: "When my white friends' daughters leave the house . . . is part of a racist legacy used to argue that African American parents didn't care for their children and that their children weren't worth the care." has moved me more than I can express in words. Beautiful, just beautiful. You make me want to go and want to try to write meaningfully and beautifully like that. I just don't know if I can... Anyway, a bit of the context for my tears: 1) I have become interested in Afro-Brazilian themed children's books in the past few years and have published two academic articles about them (in an academic African Children's literature magazine called Sankofa). This interest has led me to learn more and explore issues of race, and hair is one of them.2)One of the books I analyze in my dissertation (Nina Bonita by Ana Maria Machado) is a picture book that describes the black girl as having beautiful braids -- I have read some academic stuff about hair to discuss this book. 3) I have been following your discussions of textured hair (great word, BTW, I'm glad to learn it) in your blog and I was looking forward to reading your essay.I'm sure there are several more reasons, but I was also moved to tears because I thought of Kiri Davis' film as well as I read...Oh, and it was so lovely that Jamie commented! :) Gotta go read the other comments now.
I love Anecia's comment!!! It's so interesting to notice the different "epiphanies" that different readers are having while reading the essay. In her case what she realized is that she should have a more cheerful attitude towards something that I can imagine really must be quite a tedious task sometimes (particularly multiplied by four -- wow, I truly admire you Anecia!). I love to learn from all these different perspectives, what an enriching discussion!
Lovely piece, eloquent and right on target. I am African American with Native American on my Dad's side. But my spouse bi-racial (Italian + african american). Our 10 year old daughter has hair almost to her waist. It is very thick, dense and wavy. The night before she was born, the tech said look at that floating in the amniotic fluid. Thats hair!; she'll have every pore filled. And she did it was stunning when she emerged.It is African meets cherokee meets Italian. I do her hair every morning and while it takes a bit of time, it is a great ritual. She does look beautiful when I send her out into the world with her two puffy ponytails. I would nto have it any other way.
How wonderful. Always opening minds to new issues and angles. Thank you! I am new to Brain Child (my second issue, I get them as hand-me-downs from a friend) and this article was just beautiful. I am white, from a liberal town in the south, but I have always been attracted to blacks. Just the warmth of their skin, the directness of their manner, who knows why else. I dated black guys while in middle and high school. My mother had a hard time with it, trying to not sound racist as she would say "It's OK to date, but just don't marry one. They're too...different." This made me even more steadfast in my decision to swim against the current. Then one day I was admiring a beautiful little bi-racial baby girl in a stroller. "Isn't she beautiful?" I admired (she was!). "Is THAT what you want!?!" my mother said with harsh scorn in her voice. I was shocked. Couldn't she see this child (every child's!) beauty? Then I realized how horribly sad it was that racism is still so strong, even now (ex. Jena 6). I was 16. Now 30 years later, I've revisited the topic recently in my mind. Our neighbors/close friends of 6 years were a bi-racial family, and I would do their daughters' hair when our kids all had baths together at least once a week. It was always a joy, and I savored it. But thank you, Dawn, for opening my world view to not only the hair issues, also the competing cultural values and holdovers from OLD baggage dealing with ethnicity, cultural norms, etc. I hope your conversations with friends and those shared here and with our friends help to integrate us further in our understanding and respect for the whole HUMAN RACE. Peace.
Fabulous essay!More of these, please. :)
I'm a white mother of biracial chldren, two of whom were known for their "wild" hair. There were times it got very wild I admit.The only grief we got was from their white grandmother who has hair issues (she can't stop commment on MY hair) anyway.It may be different because they are boys though. There are fewer expectations and it was kind of understood that barretes and ponytails weren't an option.My oldest (of the wildest hair) used to get many positive comments on his hair. Of course we also got the constant"Where does your curly hair come from?" We just left it at "From Daddy" since it obviously wasn't from me.
Hi Mary Beth--I hear from my friends who have boy children of African descent that a whole lot of hair expectations depends on locale. My friend whose son has a gorgeous halo of golden-tipped curls got lambasted here in Columbus but now they're in Oakland where his afro is welcomed. This same friend sad she found it much more frustrating figuring out how to do her son's hair because there's a lot less advice than for girls and she didn't want to just buzz it because she thought his hair was so beautiful.
I was deeply appreciative of DF's article. I am an African-American mom of two biracial boys and so I paused to think what my life would have been like had I had girls with my son's hair texture. I can't do my hair! But, I would have learned, because you just don't let little black girls go out of your house into the world without starting out with the confidence of having their hair done or at least looking like their mama brushed their hair and secured it neatly. My working mom, did my hair every school day. There was no way, I was going be able to get up and go to school after rolling around on a pillow with the covers over my head and still have hair that was neat and in place for school. I was most impressed that DF stood up to other moms who just didn't get it because she respected black cultural norms for her black child. When I see a black child who looks neat and clean with their hair cared for (you can tell the difference between a black child whose hair is cared for but messed through play and one who does not have cared for hair period)I feel pride in that child and if the child does not look well cared for, I feel sorry that yet another black child is not being given the confidence to face a world that mostly has a poor opinion of his race. I'm so happy to have boys! And I was very moved by this article. Brain-Child subscriber DLC United Kingdom
There are a million reasons why I love Brain, Child and this essay just adds one more. Dawn, thank you for this. your essay hits very close to home.
I love Brain Child Magazine. I love the Fall Issue. I have read it from Front to Back and have bragged about it over and over. Textured was one of my favorite this fall but I also loved the TwoLesbians and a Eunuch Essay!
I'm the mother of an 8 year old bi-racial daughter and your daughter's hair sounds very much like mine - beautiful, princess, rapunzel hair! It was great to see what I feel expressed so eloquently. I have often looked at my daughter's white friends, with their hair every where and known that it isn't something I can get away with very often - maybe on a Saturday, when she is with me and we are running around. Even down, it's so beautiful, but as my daughter says, "it gets puffy". Every day my daughter sits down to breakfast and I sit behind her - "how do you want to wear your hair today?" - and even my mother, for whom the situation was hard, until that beautiful girl arrived knows and respects that she must have her hair fixed, because if she doesn't, then it will appear that she is uncared for - hair matters. It was hard to learn how to fix it, it took books and experiments and patience, but now, now we are good.
1) Doesn't textured mean permed/straightened? Aren't those products called "hair texturizers"? Perhaps it's one of those words that means two things.2) If this is really about racism and skin color, why aren't white adoptive parents of Asian or Latino children fretting about how to do their children's hair? It seems like all the attention paid to this issue further problematizes black hair. Perhaps the root is actually societal ignorance and disapproval of curly hair (and all the wildness and uncontrollability it represents).
There are times that I will let my daughter's hair "go," when I know we're going to be in a place of ... just white people. They don't care, and she enjoys the break.Yet, I do take amazing pride in fixing her hair anytime we are going to be venturing farther. It doesn't just show respect to my child, but it shows every other African American in our path that I respect and value them.I am happy to make that a part of my life.
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