Friday, May 7, 2010

Let's Make an Issue out of Zahara's Hair

In black-hair-care circles, Angelina Jolie's care of her daughter Zahara's hair has been debated over a lot. It may sound silly, but it's true.

To some people, it seems that someone with as much money and resources as Angelina Jolie could afford to take the time to get their daughter's hair "taken care of" better.

Now, I don't know them personally, all I have to go on are pictures (like almost everyone else), and I generally like avoiding judging other people... but I can see how people could say that.

On the other hand, I can also see that she's just a kid and the Jolie-Pitt family likes to encourage self-expression. People have also attacked them for letting their daughter Shiloh dress "like a boy," but their response was that they let her dress in the style that she wants. So it's not like they're purposefully letting only their black child run around looking messy or not socially acceptable or whatever.

Photo: US Weekly

They're taking their kids to Italy for crying out loud! I think they're raising some very well-rounded, happy individuals. But the online debate over Zahara's hair is fierce... and from my own experiences, some of the arguments could have merit.

Links to some articles about this topic:
Zay came home from Target the other day complaining about a white lady he saw who had two adopted black kids with her. Complaining isn't the right word, but it was more of observing and telling me how uncomfortable it makes him to see that their hair was looking absolutely trashed.

It happens. I'm sure parents neglect their kids' hair because they either don't know what to do with it, don't have the time or patience that it takes to develop a good hair-care routine, or they're afraid to hurt them if they tried to get a comb through it. This is not doing the child any favors, but a lot of well-meaning white couples do this to their black kids.

Here's my rant for the day:

If these kids are going to go throughout their childhood with broken, brittle, damaged, and dry hair... it could hinder their chances of having healthy hair in the future and hurt their self-esteem. Breakage around the edges is sometimes permanent. And not learning at a young age that hair care is a part of proper grooming won't give them the tools necessary to make good, healthy hair-care decisions later on in life.

I'm sure they're already going to wish their hair looked like their mama's or daddy's hair (I've heard this straight from the mouths of adopted black children who I've done hair for), but if they leave Utah and get around other black people, they're going to wonder why their hair doesn't look like other black people's hair either. I don't know, I just think it could cause unnecessary self-esteem issues.

And not only that, but it's embarrassing. There are very few black people in Utah as it is. If the black kids who are here never learn to groom themselves properly, white people who don't know any better are going to look at them and think that that's what they're supposed to look like - unkempt and scraggly. Zay has told me, "White folks already think we're crazy!" Ha ha ha. Let's try not to further any negative stereotypes, mmmkay?

I don't know that going up to the lady at Target and calling her out on her kids' hair is a good thing to do. That might be well-intentioned, but could be really offensive. But I've also heard white parents say that they'd appreciate tips and advice, so I don't know.

I've talked about this before... both here and here. It's just that hair is such a huge part of our daily family life. I work with black hair day in and day out and so does Zay. When I have to hot comb out all the dreads that have formed in a little girl's hair so that she can run her fingers through it or get it braided, it can hurt... and most of the time it really just needs to be cut off, because the damage is already done. It makes me sad that it had to come to that. She might always associate getting her hair done with pain and trauma, because her parents didn't take care of her hair on a daily basis.

I've seen cases where some parents used chemical relaxers on their kids' hair when they were only 2 or 3 years old (to make the hair straight and "easy to deal with") and they have done permanent damage. Chunks of hair have fallen out, scalps have been burned, etc. That makes me sad! Every little girl wants to be pretty. There's different tastes in what's pretty, but unhealthy hair is never pretty.

There is a proper way to take care of black hair. It's a daily, weekly, and monthly process. It involves cleansing, moisturizing, and detangling. You don't have to straighten it and conform to a white standard of beauty - black hair worn natural is beautiful. You don't have to use heat and chemicals to beat it into submission. It just takes a little know-how and patience to get a good routine going.

I can't wait to be able to do my own little girl's hair (I've always imagined my daughters to have kinky curly hair). It's not supposed to be painful or scary or difficult. It's not meant to turn your black kid's hair into a white kid's hair, either. It's just meant to keep it healthy and manageable and give you lots of bonding time with your child.

Who knows what Angelina Jolie does with Zahara's hair on a regular basis??... but here, close to home, it's uncomfortable to see a child who looks like they've never seen a brush.


  1. Thanks for writing this! It was so interesting and a real eye-opener! Awesome post!

  2. @Josh + Jul - Thanks, Jul! You're awesome! :) Also, I'm glad you got some pictures up on your blog, cuz I'm starting to really love all things Japan! It's soooo purty!


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