Category Archives: Social Issues

Blue Ivy & the Hairistocracy

Blue Ivy and the Hairistocracy

Everyone, hide your eyes! Blue Ivy has once again had the nerve to leave the house and not care about what we think about her hair!! And, her weave-wearing, designer handbag toting, “FlapicCouncilBrownPaper-BagTeswless” mama is to blame and should be forever condemned to the seventh layer of Hair Hell! Gather your banners of judgment and arrows of shame and aim them directly at those “matted,” “nappy,” “linty,” “unkept,” baby locs to remind her that she, regardless of her (parents’) fame and fortune, is not permitted the freedom of wearing her hair unless it is coiffed to societal liking and passes the road to assimilation paper bag test. I mean standard of beauty.

I didn’t think it was worthy of discussion initially, but after seeing my own daughter shine most brilliantly when she is free to make choices regarding her apparel and appearance, I thought more about baby Blue and why her “disheveled” appearance was causing such uproar.  I really had to wonder and research why we, mostly middle-class black Americans, care so much about a toddler’s hair. And, the reasons given were quite telling. 

“It’s not about the texture. It just appears uncombed.”- The Appearance Patrol

I think the real issue here is that we, regular everyday people, care more about perception than the affluent ever have to or the impoverished ever care to do. This has been generational, out of survival and as a strategy to try and impress others for our own praise or advancement, (Massalittle-girl-with-natural-hair, Boss, other people in positions of power in our lives regardless of color, our community, etc.). We, collectively, clutched our pearls out of embarrassment, judgment, & disgust with the audacity of even a child to have the freedom to have IDGAF hair. Doesn’t she know the world is watching? How dare she embarrass (black) mothers everywhere and let her daughter wear her gravity-defying hair without any attempt to straddle and tame it? Blue can’t do what other children can. I’ve heard some say, to my disgust, with a matter-of-factness sharp as cheddar,”It’s a shame she got that nappy hair. It’s a waste of light skin.” Can we agree, we still have issues?

1511681_10203963778644606_5173442313471575513_nWhat’s the difference in the children pictured? They all have wild, IDGAF hairstyles going on here. Yet, they aren’t all critiqued in the same manner. Why aren’t they all {insert every epithet hurled at little girls with coarse kinky hair}? If it’s not about texture, then why didn’t anyone address Halle’s child’s hair, which also looks like she “woke up like this?”

Regardless of who the parent is, who are any of us to judge a child’s appearance strictly based on appearance? I’m not defending the celebrities on trial as much as I’m defending every little (especially black) girl’s right to be unrestricted by her hair. We see non-black celebrity children ALL the time with frizzy, unkempt hair, and we say it’s adorable and whimsical. The only reason ANY of us style (not take care of) our hair however we choose is because of the pressure of society to care about image. It shapes many of our choices.

The celebrity mother in question here has chosen to invest in her image to appeal to the masses and it has reaped her millions. (She would not be on the level she is had she not, & that’s a sad fact. Just compare her status to the natural, and darker-hued entertainers.) That is her personal choice. I, for one, am glad she has not imposed this choice on her child.

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“I don’t have a problem as long as the child’s hair grooming matches the mother’s because she doesn’t have a choice at this age.”   – The High Court of Parental Judgment 

I do have concern with parents who do consistently and selfishly put their superficial wants before the care of their child, which I’ve seen across classes, but I don’t think that’s the issue here. If Blue had what the hairistocracy has deemed “good hair,” I don’t think there would be a word uttered.

I actually felt this sentiment before I had a daughter, especially one that came here expressive and free-thinking. I also cared so much about the perception of others at one point that it paralyzed me to a degree. I wouldn’t go out unless my hair was laid! That was crippling and definitely added to my insecurity.

I realized this began in childhood. We were always shoe-shine sharp whenever we left the house. I was warned not to play too hard because I would mess up my hair, and it would “go back.” All of this carried over into young adulthood. I’m so glad I’m free from that now.

I don’t want my kibibi to go through that at all. On days when I don’t care about the impression we make (truth statement here), I let her decide how she wants to wear her hair. Sometimes, she wants three barrettes, sometimes a head full, sometimes it looks like pictured because she did it herself. Her hair isGabby-Douglas-Medal always healthy even when “it looks a mess.” Why isn’t Blue Ivy’s hair given that benefit of the doubt?

I’ll certainly teach my daughter to take pride in herself and take care of her body, which will inevitably display itself in her appearance. But, I don’t want her so focused on what other people think she looks like, rather than how she feels about herself. Our girls have it hard enough without our judgment of their hair. (I remember cringing about the attack on Gabrielle Douglas too.)

It doesn’t matter if MY grooming of MY hair matches MY daughter’s hair on any particular day. She is an individual, not my accessory. She is also not my reflection in the sense that she has to mirror all of my actions and choices. She only reflects the lessons I instill in her. She has no need or desire to impress anyone at this age, (what a freedom), and her ckahlil-gibran-on-childrenare is never in question by her parents (the people who actually care for her.) The only people that should have an expressed negative opinion about a child’s hair are the people caring for the child and the child her/himself. (Interestingly enough, many of the negative opinions I’ve heard and seen are from people who don’t even have children, let alone young daughters.) Every other negative opinion is only self-serving.

How many of us groom ourselves to impress people we either don’t know, don’t like, or who don’t care? We were trained to care about appearances, and many of us are crippled by image. Let our children be free from superficial societal standards as long as possible. Why does Blue, or any other child, need to impress YOU? What can you do for Blue?LACEFRONT-BABY-WIGS

I wonder if we would prefer seeing children adorned in the same hair styles as their mothers.  Would we be satisfied if little girls rocked weaves or short sassy coifs to “match” their mothers?

 

“It’s about the health and care of her hair, not its appearance. It looks dirty.”                                                   – The Genuinely Concerned Black Hair Police

I’m not sure why it’s assumed that this look means no care was put into their hair. We have absolutely no idea what the state of health of this child’s hair is. We have no window into the daily care of any child, regardless of the media’s invasion of this particular family, so her care cannot be assessed. I also don’t know why it’s assumed that the child doesn’t have a choice at this age. I can’t SPEAK for the other parents pictured here, but my daughter is allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to her hair on most days. It’s my way of teaching her that she has control and ownership of her own body, to the extent of her understanding. It’s the same reason I’m waiting until she asks to get her ears pierced.

The truth is when I don’t care about the impression her hair will make regarding my parenting and her appearance, I let her rock out the way she wants. At this age, that really is the only reason people style their children’s hair. Styling and caring for are two completely different things. No one’s really concerned about the health of any of these babies’ hair. We’re concerned about the appearance. If Blue had two barrettes holding her hair into two puffs, the care of her hair would be no different. No one can tell what the care of her hair is based on the few pictures the media decides we see. We are just offended that she doesn’t try to impress others every time she steps in public, as we were taught to do ourselves.

My daughter’s hair is always clean and cared for, & sometimes we still leave the house looking as pictured; just like we did that day. And, I happened to not match her hair grooming. Both of us were happy, still beautiful, & had healthy hair on our heads. She felt empowered by her choice to wear her hair the way she wanted, and we were not at all phased by what strangers may have thought. Freedom.

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Please post all comments and questions on this blog, and visit http://www.blackgirlspeaks.com for more information about the Black Girl Speaks Movement. 

 

 

Why We Must Forgive

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I was walking through a parking lot today, and I saw a sign that read, “If reason is on your side, show forgiveness. If justice is on your side, show humility.”

At first, it rattled me considering the state of anger wherein I’ve traveled increasingly since the Trayvon Martin trial, and where I’ve resided since this past week’s Jordan Davis trial. Why must they, (justice and reason), be mutually exclusive? Why does the gift of justice come so sparingly to my people? Why must we always be the strongest and forgive? I had to pray about that thing.

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I was reminded of the power of and that comes through forgiveness. It’s not letting anyone off the hook. It’s stopping yourself from being hung by your own rope. It’s letting go so you can progress in healing. It’s the gateway to productivity, and now is certainly time to be productive.

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So, I am choosing to forgive for my sake and ours collectively.

I forgive those who lay in idle complacency and serve as spectators to our genocide.

I forgive those who offer no alternative and do nothing to aid in our collective struggle other than serve their own individual pool, but who feel authorized to criticize, denounce, and ridicule strategies that are devised for the very people they’ve chosen to neglect or pity.

I forgive ignorance.

I forgive those who are so entangled in their own emotions and feelings that they cannot understand our plight enough to even fathom the thought of a group seemingly excluding them to heal within themselves.

I forgive those who throw baseless accusations and antiquated insults because they are afraid and personally offended that we are personally offended by our plight in this country.

I forgive all who are in the position to do so, but fail to empathize.

I forgive all who are in a position to do so, but fail to help.

I forgive those who look like they are African, but offer no other indication of such.

I forgive our would be leaders who have chosen their comfort, status, and fortune over using their platforms to propel the progress of the disenfranchised.

I forgive those in our community who have fallen victim to self-loathing, and in turn hate and seek to destroy us all.

I forgive those who have had the audacity to take a life that they didn’t birth, love, understand, or embrace with little to no remorse.

I forgive the history of America, though it’s never acknowledged its fault or current effects or asked for or felt the need for our forgiveness.

I forgive myself for not being more forgiving sooner and for putting my faith in anyone other than God and the Spirit of God within us.

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I forgive, because I must; because I need to heal; because we need to progress; because you’re worthy even if you don’t believe it; because we’re worthy even when we don’t see it; because that’s what I’ve been instructed to do; because reason is a gift too.

Because we have work to do, I forgive you.

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A Message to White Privileged People Who Take Offense to “Black Power” Movements

At our nearby park, there is always a nice mix of people from all over the world.  Parents, mothers or fathers, accompany their children and watch from a distance while mingling amongst themselves. Usually, everyone finds their “own kind” and stick together. “Own kind” will change depending on who’s present. Sometimes it means the same gender, or home country, or expatriates vs. locals. Of course, sometimes it means the same race. That feels very familiar. But, when it comes to race, because there are very few of my “own kind” in Singapore in general, I must infiltrate if I want to engage at all, on the playground especially. home

One day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a congenial French woman, who has lived in Singapore for over six years. It began very mundane at first; how’s the weather here compared to our respective countries; how much more expensive is it here compared to home; where our children went to school and why, etc. We watched our daughters, very close in age, play with their toys in the sand box. One was more practiced in the art of sharing than the other, and one tried to take possession of all of the toys from the other.

Somehow the topic of race and white privilege ensued, and honestly I wasn’t the one to present the subject.

“I suppose I can’t help but have white privilege. I’ve never had to think about it.”

She stunned me with this simple truth. I’ve never heard anyone personally say to me that they were equally aware and ignorant of this benefit. She went on to share a story explaining when it first dawned on her that SHE was treated differently than her “African friends.”

A small group of them were on holiday (vacation) together, and went out for a leisurely night. Two in the group were of African descent, but all were French and none of them ever vocalized there being any difference amongst them. When they were denied entry into a pub most of them had frequented many times before, she initially thought that it must’ve been closed even though it didn’t appear so. It did not dawn on her that she had witnessed discrimination until her “African friends” brought it to her attention. They had been denied entry many times in many other locations, even France to her surprise.

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This sole experience allowed her to take notice of other instances where she’d taken her rights for granted and, you could tell, there were revelations happening even in our conversation. Perhaps this was just a French problem she pondered. I assured her it was not and adduced my own examples. She repeated her initial comment about it being out of her control, and expressed disbelief that there could be anything done about it by anyone. She said this as we observed her daughter continue to snatch my daughter’s toys from her. My daughter eventually took her toys and played somewhere else after all of the play negotiation tactics I’d taught her had failed.

I have come to see, even more blatantly here, that the intoxication of white privilege affords one an extensive list of rights or entitlements  far beyond the scope of those who lack such a luxury.  One of which is that it allows one to feel well within their “right” to comment on, analyze, criticize, and belittle the sentiments of those seen as the inferior (whether conscious or subconscious) , all while trying to impose their views upon the perceived wayward thinker. It goes beyond freedom of speech. It’s freedom of control and authority to admonish that which is seen as contradictory to the majority view. This gift of white privilege is inherent for anyone of European descent, even in America, (though it does not have to be consumed to the point of intoxication), and has also been dispensed sparingly to the “passers,” people of color who could very easily be mistaken for otherwise either in appearance, social status, self-identity, or parallelism in thought or actions of superiority. These are the white privileged people.(See Wide Awake Parts I & II)

This particular “right” has been exercised incessantly in the U.S., but much more noticeably in recent years. With the public upset over the disputatious verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, which really have crossed all racial lines, there has been an influx of contending commentary from offended white privileged people expressing their abhorrence of the vocalized disgust with the trial’s outcome. How dare anyone question, challenge, or protest the results of the U.S. justice system? The gall of any group to express disdain for the norm, (exonerating white privileged people), in America is unfathomable and met with great resistance.  (See aforementioned explanation of “white privileged people” as it relates to Trayvon Martin’s killer before you exercise your “right” here.) And, therefore, any discussion of making changes that could prevent such outcomes or such actions in the first place are seen as inflammatory, threatening, exclusive, “racist,” and vile. This idea of change and “black power” must be spawned from a spirit of hatred towards the unassuming white privileged people. It just must.

But alas, I must inform you, that pro-black does not mean anti-white. Black people also struggle with understanding this. Yet, I do understand your confusion. You are perplexed by this because, as historically evidenced, the reverse is not true. Pro-white has meant anti-ANYBODY else. When members of white supremacy groups bolster their views with the term, “White Power,” it is certainly laced in hatred and disdain for anyone other than they.

downloadThe implementation of “white power” in the United States of America has been and is systemically in opposition of any non-white person. It has been since the seizing of this country from the native peoples that already dwelled in and cultivated this land.  I certainly understand how and why many project the sentiments of their ethnic predecessors on the rest of the world, but it is simply inaccurate and false.

After posting “The Back to Black List,” we were met with a few comments of discourse. Some were well-meaning and sincere; some were malicious and irate. We were told this list would be viewed as “racist” if it were reversed, and therefore was racist because surely we did not have a right to avoid such a label when the privileged did not. We were asked if our list still included them; not that they wanted to be a part of it or help in any way because they were very content in the utopian land of equality and diversity as they saw it. They just wanted to ensure that no “right” had been stripped from them. Others expressed how hurt they were that we felt a need to “further divide.” There must be another way they admonished, but offered no alternatives or suggestions or assistance. They just wanted us to know that they were disappointed in us for hurting their feelings by developing an action plan without their permission that didn’t directly include them. Still others, and these were by far the most amusing because they looked “black” but were clearly intoxicated, expressed they had absolutely no interest in living among other black people, supporting black businesses, or  “helping black people because they don’t want to help themselves.” This was in response to our action plan to help ourselves. The list has been viewed as “racist,” unGodly, pretentious, and unattainable, and of course, “anti-white.”

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But, there’s that little thing called history. Our ancestors did not enslave, oppress, and enact genocide upon their European counterparts. The opposite is fact, and it was not so long ago in the context of world history. It is in your ancestral lineage to hate that which is different from yourselves. Those who do not, and there are many, are an anomaly. Therefore, I understand why you would want to project that reflection on others. But, that is not who we (most of us) are. The source of our declaration of “Black Power” is one of love and desire for such. You have always had power within this structure; there has never been a need for you to voice it or cry out for it. We’ve known. We’ve always known.

Your declarations of such were to serve as affirmations and intimidations, not demands or requests. And, they were always stemmed from your self-view of superiority and your disdain for everyone else. That is why a list in the reverse of “The Back to Black List” would be racist and unnecessary because it already has been written, but “The Back to Black List” itself is not. It cannot be. Wait for it…..here comes why.

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Only those in power,(economic, political, social, etc.), have the power to actually be racist. The rest of us are simply the pawn in the malicious enterprise of racism, and every other “ism” for that matter. Anyone can have prejudice, but only white privileged people can be racist because we were the prize, never the participants in the race. The only ones that benefit from racism are those in power. The only ones who are adversely affected by it are those who are oppressed. It is very clear who serves the former and latter positions in terms of race, this man-made divisive factor created long before we adopted “The Back to Black List.”

So, I denounce your baseless accusations that we are racists for having the audacity to love ourselves despite all that’s been done to teach us to do otherwise. I denounce the notion that we are racists because we recognize the importance of healing and restoring ourselves before we can fully and lovingly embrace anyone else. I denounce the accusation that we are racists because we decided not to wait for anyone to show up in a cape and save us.  I denounce the idea that we are racists because we have the brazenness to envision ourselves economically empowered. visions_of_black_economic_empowerment I denounce all claims that we, the educated and empowered few of us, will worsen the problem by restoring the economy, infrastructure, educational access in the already segregated impoverished black communities by moving there. They are actually quite humorous. It tells me that you actually feel somewhat threatened that we are empowered enough to SPEAK against the centuries old social structure that has been steeped in enmity and xenophobic practices in this country, and throughout the world.

Otherwise, you would show absolutely no interest in the messages of black empowerment. You would not engage in debate about issues that absolutely do not concern you or affect you and your general way of life. If you did not feel threatened or personally offended, you would not try to exchange racial epithets or hurl insults masked by the elocutionary critiques of your intelligentsia.

You would simply keep scrolling pass our posts, comments, websites, channels, etc., because you’d be confident in knowing that your quality of life will not be disrupted by ours improving, which is true. Yet, your privilege and fear make you feel a bit froggy.

So, jump, but after this post I will not be engaging in any further discussion with you on the matter, and I encourage other “Black Power” activists to take the same stance. This is a joint course in “How to Deny My White Privilege in Matters of Black Empowerment,” “How to Mind My Own Business,” and “How to Share in the Sandbox.” You either pass or fail. Class dismissed.

(I must state some of my “givens,” so it’s understood that I don’t take them for granted. We know that the term “white privileged people” is not a sweeping generalization to describe every caucasian person. Though, every caucasian person can and does benefit from white privilege, we are aware that not all adopt the mentality of the those who become intoxicated by it. We know “well-meaning white people” exist. This article was not to discredit those of you who support the cause of restoring the basic rights of humanity to all. No need to exercise your right in this forum by declaring your decency. We know you exist. We’ve always known.) 

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