I hope you all are ready for a relaxing weekend. My weekend would have been off to an amazing start, as I have so much planned with my family, but I have to say there was a bump in the road for me today. Now, what I’m going to discuss is a very sensitive subject among Black people. For those of you that do not know, I am of African heritage. I moved to the United States a decade ago to further my education, and I decided to stay back because I loved it. No one forced me to stay. I chose to. I have built a family and I am building a career here and I am happy to be able to exist gracefully and peacefully in Africa and in North America. In my opinion, knowledge of various cultures and ways of life makes me more versatile in the world. Ignorance bugs me and I choose to be a student of the world forever.
When I got back home from work today, with a smile on my face, happy to see my kids, I thought all was well with the world. After all, it is Friday and I was looking forward to having a fun time with family. I proceeded to ask the lady that watches my kids how the kids were today. She then said to me, “It would have been fine, but we had to leave the park early.” I asked her, why and she proceeded to tell me this jaw dropping, disgustingly ignorant story:
She said she and the kids were playing in the park, when an African American lady asked her, “Are these kids from a group home?” Apparently (in this strange woman’s mind), when a Caucasian woman is playing in the park with 2 Black kids, the only possibility for that scenario is that the Black kids must be from a group home.
My kids’ nanny gasped in disbelief and said, “Actually, they live at home with their mom and their dad and I am their nanny.” The lady said, “But don’t you see her hair? She must be from a group home.” Also, according to the mind of said strange lady, when an 18 month old Black girl wears her hair in its natural afro state, it is a repulsive thing.
This is the point in the story where I do a little bit of educating. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Black people’s hair, it often does not grow out of our scalp straight. Some people like to wear their hair in its curly state, while others use several methods to straighten it. I have chosen not to straighten my daughter’s hair as she is only 18 months old. Even beyond that, I do not see the need to use harsh chemicals to permanently alter the structure of my daughter’s hair to please disgruntled strangers in the park. Some people who are advocates of straightening, sometimes think that our hair texture is ugly in its natural state. I believe our hair is just fine the way it is. But I digress.
Our nanny replied, “What is wrong with her hair? Is it because she does not have a relaxer? Her hair is in its natural state.” Strange lady repeats herself, “You really don’t see anything wrong with her hair?” Nanny says, “No I don’t.” Strange lady looks exasperated, walks off, and says, “I know you are probably going to tell her mother what happened here today, and when you do, let her know that I work for the county. I am sure they must be African.” Then she walked off. Our nanny was so dumbfounded that she too decided to leave the park for fear that she would lose her cool.
Please someone out there, explain to me why a stranger will take the time out of her hopefully busy day to make comments about a toddler’s hair. I am extremely confused. You see, I believe that all children are gorgeous regardless of skin color, hair texture, eye color, or any other physical attributes. I do not look down on other people’s children and there is nothing wrong with children who live in group homes. That is extremely snobbish and snooty. From her statements, I am guessing she looks down on Africans, children from group homes and children with their natural afro textured hair. I am also guessing that she is extremely excited that she has a county position. Kudos strange lady. I am glad you are gainfully employed.
Well, I wish that lady well, and I have been tossing and turning wondering what to say to her if indeed our paths ever crossed. You see, I am an educated and civilized African (as millions of us are). I believe in treating all humans with respect and dignity. I also believe in teaching my children to love everything about themselves- from their chocolate brown skin, to the curls and kinks in their hair. As I said in a previous post-my children are people of greatness that will go on to be successful in their endeavors. I will also (unfortunately) have to teach them that some people (even people who might look just like them) might take offense at their demeanor or physical attributes. When and if that happens, I will teach them how to stay calm, not take the comments personally, and keep on living life with pride and a head held high. I do not take a defeatist attitude in life. I also believe in befriending people from all nations and walks of life. If you are a person of character, I am more than happy to be your friend. I do not look at hair texture or skin color, for beneath all of that lies a similar genetic makeup. We are all human and outward appearance is simply a shell.
Shame on you stranger lady!! Shame on you. If we do meet, I will calmly explain to you why I am proud to be African, and why I do not feel the need to hide my daughter’s afro textured hair. If you do not like It, feel free to either close your eyes or look the other way. I will never look down on your children, so please accord my children the same respect.
Has a stranger ever crossed your path and knocked the lights out of you with his/her comments? If the above happened to you or someone close to you, how would you react?
Proud Thinking Momma
P.S: Remember that no one has the power to define you. Although some people might judge you before meeting you, know that if you take those comments in, then they have won. Live your life with grace. Treat all people fairly.