Dear: White Mothers With Half Black Children,
I have a beef with some of y’all, and I think it’s high time that I actually address this on my blog. Now, I would like to preface this post by saying I am well aware of the fact that this applies to some black mothers as well, and that it does not apply to ALL white mother’s with half-black children. In fact, although I may have been able to say it a couple decades ago, now I wouldn’t even say that this could apply to the MAJORITY. With the advent of the internet and youtube, and I’m guessing people becoming more educated either before or after giving birth to their biracial children, I actually don’t see some of these things half as often as I used to. Which makes the white mom’s who are still lost and confused stand out like a sore thumb. No more is ignorance an excuse. It’s time to wise up and recognize this basic fact:
Your Kid Running Around With Her Hair A Mess Cuz You Refuse to Learn How to Do it is Sad And Despicable
And right here I’m giving you an out of sorts. Maybe you’re not a lazy, negligent, or clueless mother, maybe it’s the fact that your “Colorblind” attitude is damaging your ability to properly care for your biracial child. Seriously, I get it. You’re not racist. In fact, because of my multiracial family, I always assume that if you’ve had a child with a black man/woman that race is not a major issue or problem to you when it comes to who you love, how you love, whom you respect and trust, etc. Awesome. However, as I’ve already made clear in an earlier post, you are NOT colorblind… EVERYBODY sees race, and pretending you don’t is ridiculous. And here is the perfect forum to explain to you exactly why this silly “everybody is literally exactly the same” attitude can potentially have damaging effects to your biracial child.
One of the things we use to identify someone’s ethnic/racial background are their features. And some of those very visibly different features from ethnicity to ethnicity actually require different attention and care in order to keep them healthy. Black hair, for example, differs radically from many other races in terms of not only the texture, but in regards to the things that it needs in order to be considered properly cared for. This also applies to other aspects of grooming and care, as well as more major issues like health care and disease prevention, and social issues that could have detrimental effects to your child’s future. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. Today I am mainly focusing on all things hair, and am going to break it down for you so that, going forward, you can understand why treating your little girls hair like it is the same as yours is a terrible plan.
Basic Care 101
Let’s start at the top. Black hair is naturally dryer, both the scalp and the hair shaft. If you wash it every day, what you’re doing is robbing it of its ability to build up or maintain any form of natural moisture or protection, which will cause it to break off and get split ends very easily. This means that, depending on the texture of your child’s hair, anywhere from once a week to three times a week is the max. Your child’s scalp is also naturally drier, so those flakes you see are NOT dandruff, and cannot be cured by daily use of Head and Shoulders shampoo.
What you need to do is invest in some scalp oil: there are a large variety of them, in a large assortment of brands, smells, and recipes, so to find the one that works best for your child. What you’ll need to do is, right after washing and drying, use a comb to make parts about 1 inch apart from each other, and put the oil directly on the scalp. Depending on the level of natural dryness you may need to repeat this process sometime throughout the week. Notice how I clarified that this oil is for the scalp? Depending on the texture of your child’s hair (which can go from kinky to some form of curly) what product you’ll need to moisturize the shaft of the hair follicle can vary.
There are many, many black hair care/beauty supply stores and outlets, with staff that can assist you with finding the perfect one for your child. While you’re there, ask them to educate you on the different shampoos and conditioners that are formulated specifically for black hair. While I’m sure you love your Herbal Essences or Pantene Pro-V, those shampoos are not formulated for black hair, and so will probably be more damaging than helpful, regardless of what the bottle advertises. The internet is a powerful place, if you don’t have the time to troll around beauty supply stores reading every label. Google black/biracial hair care and you’ll suddenly have a gazillion guides and videos at your disposal. Here’s a great detangling, washing, and conditioning guide for biracial/black hair to get your started.
Styling: A NECESSITY
Now, here’s the part that some of you definitely miss, and was the inspiration for this post: styling your kids hair. She doesn’t have white-textured hair, so you can’t just wash it, run a comb through it, and then leave it as is and think you’re done. Pull it back into with a halo of frizzy hair circling her head also does not cut it. And if you think that using hairspray will somehow help you, you really need to think again. Those little plastic headbands? Completely useless.
You need to learn how to properly part your child’s hair, the products you need to smooth it down, and how to secure the ponytails so that she looks well-kept and loved. This may take some practice, but the fun thing about your children is, they belong to you – you can use them as practice heads, and what can they really say about it? Just put something they want to watch on the TV, hand them a dolly, they’ll live. As for you, if you don’t have a friend to help you, you can always bring your child to a professional and ask for some guidance/tips…they are normally eager to help you out. But again, I understand, you may not have hours and hours to be visiting salons and learning how to do your child’s hair. In this case, the internet, again, is your friend. By doing a general search on “black hair style for children” or “how to style biracial hair” etc. on youtube, you’ll not only be able to come up with a multitude of videos to use as reference as you walk through the style, but you can actually gauge which videos are being done on hair that is similar to your child’s, and therefore the products/techniques/styles that will work well with your child’s texture of hair. And the styles range from a nice, healthy looking loose style, to ponytails, to single braids and twists, and even to cornrows. Here’s an example of one of the dozens of how to cornrowing videos:
See, not so impossible when someone walks you through it, right? Now, I understand you were probably not raised on cornrowing. It is a skill you should acquire. It will stay neater for longer, and should you need to oil their scalp quickly throughout the week it gives you easy access. But it will take you practice to perfect. And maybe you’ll start with doing just one here and there, or just short cornrows at the front of her hair. Eventually you will get the hang of it if you keep at it, and in the meantime please at least do the rest of the hair-care, and do the simple styling. Your kids halo of frizzy hair, and dry lumpy-looking afro-puff ponytail looks…unkempt.
Absolutely No-No’s – A Lesson in Common Sense
And please stop relaxing your children’s hair when they are like 2, just because you’re too lazy to learn all of the above. This is such a terribly negligent thing to do, it borders on child endangerment. First of all, just because her hair is permed doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that it needs completely different products and the scalp needs to be oiled. In fact, to keep the hair healthy, once you’ve relaxed it it actually takes more careful adherence to the rules of maintenance, moisturization, etc. to keep the hair from breaking off and the scalp from being dry and flaky. Not only that, but these are CHEMICALS you are putting in your child’s hair, and having them sit under and breathe in every 6 weeks. And do not be fooled by the “Just For Me” so-called kiddie perms…they are just as destructive and harmful as the relaxer made for adults…including the burned scalp with associated scabs and puss, searing pain as your hair is processing, and potential of permanent, irreversible hair loss. Do you realize how much changing your child’s body and hair go through in the younger years? What you’re doing by relaxing their hair at such a young age should be criminal.
And please, enough with the fake hair on babies. You’re going to stick weave or braids on your four year old? Do you realize how tacky and inappropriate that is? Not only are you teaching them that their natural hair is not pretty, but that mommy’s is, you’re putting them in a grown-up position long before their time. Do you let her wear mascara and lipstick to school every day? No? Well then you shouldn’t be putting fake hair in her head every day, or dumping chemicals onto her head either. And let me just add in here that the added strain and stress on the hair from putting extensions in or weaves, bonding glue, etc. can have the exact same disastrous results as the chemical treatments can, and requires a certain lifestyle that doesn’t often fit with the carefree and fun life that children live. And it also requires even more maintenance and care than natural hair does in order to remain healthy and strong and to grow. Think your precious little girl will look super cute with a receding hair line or a bald patch? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Think about how old little girls were before their mom would let them get a permanent, or get highlights. in your days…12? 13? Yeah well, relaxer is a chemical, just as a permanent or hair dye is, and if you’ve learned one thing from your mother that you can apply to your biracial/black child’s hair, it’s that some things you can’t do til you’re older…even if it would make mommy’s life easier and allow her to selfishly not learn how to take care of your natural hair properly, and maintain it properly.
This is what you want to inflict on your child? Do you get that once that damage occurs sometimes it is irreversible, and she will live a life where she will always have to have a wig, or weave, or other hair pieces just to cover the damage caused by your laziness and ignorance? She will wonder why she is so unlucky to have weak, breaking hair, that won’t grow past her chin, or is thin and listless, no matter what she does…stop the madness. Please.
An FYI on Identity
As a side note, I understand that you may not be able to cook foods from the other half of their ethnicity. But please make sure that they are exposed to foods, music, cultural experiences and customs and practices, from the other side of their ethnic mix, regardless of the father’s presence within their lives. And make sure that she knows that her black heritage is also something to be proud of: that regardless of the biases, prejudice, and racism of others, or that can be seen in the news or in other media forms, the majority of those who share that ethnicity with her are wonderful, strong, intelligent, worthwhile people and members of society. Otherwise, once she grows up and goes out into the real world, she’s going to feel very self-conscious and very unsure of herself without this firm knowledge and exposure, without that firm grasp on her identity (and research proves it time and time again), and for little girls that often leads them down paths we really would rather they didn’t go down. You can’t have a future when you don’t understand your past. How can you see the big picture when you are missing half the puzzle pieces?
A friend of mine was separated (through no choice of his own) from his gorgeous daughter. He is black and his daughter’s mother is Italian, and comes from a terribly racist family. When he was banned from being a part of his daughter’s life, this Italian family did their very best to raise her as Italian, exposing her to white-only and Italian-only things.
Well, she grew up. And now, in her early twenties, has expressed confusion and fear at the smallest of things. She wants to bond with other black kids in her University, for example, but is afraid of the black kids because she doesn’t know how to act or relate to them. She is twenty years into life, learning about the black half of her culture as though she is a tourist five-steps removed, instead of it being half of her. She wants it so badly…it just seems SO far out of reach, so overwhelming and confusing. And the experience is only made more painful and more confusing by the misinformation she was taught growing up.
Source: The Boondock © 2006 , retrieved from: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/
At best, when a child is raised counter to features and facts that she can plainly see evidence of in the mirror, when she is taught to reject part of herself as somehow unclean or repulsive, she will forever feel like she is inferior, for she will continually strive to become something she is not: free of that black half of her. At worst, she will reach out in all the wrong ways and to all the wrong kind of men. All the men will use and abuse her, and then discard her like yesterdays trash. The white men will have the opportunity when she is desperately seeking to be validated as “white enough”, or “acceptable enough to the white man”. The black men will have the opportunity when they realize they can get her to do anything at all to prove that she doesn’t hate black people, to try and learn “how to be a black girl”, to be accepted by a group she has no idea how to belong to, because she won’t understand that being black is not a choice, and therefore not some actions or general behaviours she has to do to get a “nod” into the society.
Or, like many who fear and don’t understand something, they can begin to hate. They can epitomize and embody hate without even realizing that’s what they are doing…Take a look at this example of a poor, lost biracial girl who has fallen into that terribly trap.
I thank the person who shared this video on YouTube. However, the title of it is DEAD wrong. There is nothing even remotely funny about this video. Pathetic? Yes. Asinine, in reference to her rationalizations and thinking, of course. But there is something so profoundly sad about this girls beliefs, I don’t even know what to say. Sigh.
But like I said, not every biracial child experiences any of this. Some of them, like the ones in my family, or the ones raised by my friends, are taken care of properly. One of my friends does the most gorgeous hairstyles on her daughter’s hair, cornrows and all (her daughter has been featured throughout this piece…isn’t she absolutely GORGEOUS?!?!), and she’s white. So it’s possible to learn, for those of you who have no clue. But please do. If you don’t, you’re doing a GREAT disservice to your daughters. And in this day and age, the last thing a little girl need is more obstacles thrown her way.
Anyone else see any dissonance issues between a parent raising their biracial child and not educating them, or taking care of them, in certain pertinent ways? This could be any mix of ethnicity..
Anyone REALLY dislike the way a certain race of mom raises her biracial children? If so, why?
Do you think it’s criminal to put chemicals in a toddler or child’s hair? (whether it be perm/relaxer, or hair dye, etc.) Are you one of the people who justify chemically treating your child’s hair? Tell us why!
What age do you think is acceptable for children to be wearing weaves or extensions, and under what conditions (if any)? Do you think fake hair is unconscious white-envy, laziness, or something else all together?
Do you think fake hair sexualizes children far before their time?
Toss in your dime…the first two cents are always free! 😉
And that there concludes my first official Black History Month Saga. As a point that- of course black social issues will NOT be confined to the month of February, and of course my whole point is that black history should not need a month because it should be integral year-round, I thought it only fitting to have the final post in March *wink wink*. Thanks for joining me y’all, I had a great time exploring all of these issues, and I hope you enjoyed the ride too.
Happy Monday Y’all!!