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One Mocha Mom's Inner Struggle

400 years without a comb

Watching the above video brought up so many emotions for me. I graduated from Cornell University just three credits shy of attaining a minor in African American Studies. I took my first course as an elective, and was so amazed by the information I was learning for the first time despite attending some of the best schools in my state. In college, I kept asking "how and why" the experience of African Americans in this country could have been so horrific. It was incomprehensible to me that anyone exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ could tolerate the institution of slavery, and the continued racism we still struggle with today. I suffered conflicting emotions of horror, disbelief and rage. At times I walked around campus with a huge chip on my shoulder. I needed somebody to confront, but my Caucasian peers were so far removed from the historical connection I was feeliing, it seemed I was making mountains out of mole hills. I was often asked why I couldn't just let it all go. Those events, having happened so long ago, have no effect on us today. I've had friends tell me, had they lived in those days, they would have been abolitionists.

I wanted to know what could be done about the sense of self I've inherited from my forefathers because of the legacy of slavery. The methods of hair care displayed in the video seem crude and rudimentary, but how far have we truly come from the mentality being portrayed? We like to insist we make the choices we do today for fashion and convenience. We say we don't want to take the issue too deep, and
it's just hair. Watching this video, I ask myself, how can it ever just be about hair?

I was especially moved by the segment where the mother was soothing her baby and murmuring about her beautiful silky hair, and how she hoped it would stay that way. While I've never said those words to any of my daughters, I remember having similar feelings. I had one daughter whose hair
turned faster than all of the others. I remember feelings of frustration, thinking I was doing something wrong to encourage a premature transformation. While I understood their hair would change, on a level beneath the surface, I dreaded it.

My son had big fat silky curls as a baby. His features were so pretty, people often mistook him for a girl no matter what he was wearing. As his hair grew I braided it up to keep him cool. When he was ten months old I decided to give him his first hair cut. One family member was outraged. To this day, she mentions it almost
every time she visits. She insists his hair would still be loosely curled today, had I not cut it.

As a young mother, I've been encouraged to
shape my baby's nose. I've been praised for birthing pretty babies that get lighter every time. One could infer this to be a great feat considering my dark skin. I've had a family member praise my efforts in sharing my knowledge about nappy hair care while in the next breath moaning, "why were we given this hair"? Her ambivalence is understandable considering the implications of the video we've been discussing.

My purpose in posting this discussion is to actively take the position that I want this madness to stop with me. God has blessed me with four daughters and a son who deserve to embrace who they are.
I believe that while the above video was done in a caricature style, so many of the scenarios are being played out in our lives today. I'm sometimes amazed by the things I say, and the jokes we make. My challenge is to be ever cognizant that little ears are listening. Also, my actions say so much more than my words ever will.

Comments

  1. I live in the Caribbean and I too want this madness to end with me. I pray everyday that God gives me the strength to respectfully voice how I want my child to be raised.

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