Photo by Hamed Masoumi / Image found at: http://change-production.s3.amazonaws.com/photos/wordpress_copies/race/2010/08/blackwhitefriends.jpg
This past weekend, my daughter and I had some fabulous bonding time at the beach. Plus, I was happy to see my daughter making a new friend at the beach. As I mentioned in my last blog (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/07/beach-bonding-and-interracial.html), all was going well until my daughter’s new friend whispered, “Are you black?” We addressed that and I thought the conversation between the two of them would return to sea snails, sand and cartwheels. Not quite.
My daughter recently got beautiful cornrows in her hair and I put them into a little bun in order to protect them at the beach. Like most girls, my daughter loves to play in hair patting her bun, taking the bun down and putting it back up again. My daughter was in the process of taking down her bun at the beach when her new friend, within earshot of my daughter, leaned in and said to me, “Her hair is really, REALLY short”. Oh my goodness. I tried my best not to grit on the little girl (sorry, that is IN there and I had to work to suppress it) and said, “Actually, her hair is quite long and very, very curly.” I hate the fact that I felt compelled to add in the fact that my daughter’s hair is long. Ugh, there I go again falling into the myth that length is a proxy for beauty (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2011/06/long-hair-myth-thanks-frenchie.html). But, it’s true. My daughter has a head full of long, thick, kinky hair and I bristled when the little girl referred to it as “really, really short”. Images of pickaninnies and headscarfed mamies floated through my head. Gosh, this stuff is potent.
I think that the two incidents (asking if my daughter was Black and then stating that her hair was really, really short) compounded and made racial identity highly salient to me. However, I might have responded differently if my daughter hadn’t been there. I might have asked questions rather than making comments. However, my own internal issues coupled with my protective Mommy nature kicked in and I felt that I needed to defend my daughter. How would you all have handled this?