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Beach bonding and interracial friendship Part 2

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?

  • bliv

    I can totally understand the protective instinct! But I also feel for the other little girl being totally baffled by a new experience. You can pretty much picture what her community looks like, can't you? Sad.I remember when I first learned about race as a little girl–I remember asking that same question almost of my older brother's best friend, William: Why do they call you black? You don't look black? I was lucky that their reaction was laughter and an explanation that made it clear that it was a label and not a descriptor, etc. I can imagine that your daughter's friend has been socialized much like your daughter has (unfortunately)–that long, sleek hair is "ideal". When a mother at the church I went to as a child cut her daughter's hair really short to match her own, all the little girls were shocked because they didn't want anyone to TOUCH their hair length. Had to be like Barbie's hair. Long and straight. Unless you put curls into it. All about control. No matter that it was absolutely adorable to see the short hair cuts on little ones. 🙂 I think it's sad that we still have this strange "samson-like" affection for long hair on women as if it's a mark of femininity. Anyhow, kudos for documenting these encounters. Very interesting. 🙂

  • topie

    Hi there Bliv! Yes, I think I messed up on this one. While I calmed myself, I did respond out of emotion a bit. Thank you so much for talking about your experience with your brother's best friend. Yes, it is good that that they responded with laughter. Question for you, is there ever a time when laughter is NOT an appropriate response? When might other responses (what could they be) be more appropriate? I think I get fatigued when I think that I should laugh in situations where I feel like people should really REALLY know better (especially in work settings). In fact, it seems like the flubs, goofs, insensitive comments are often coming from majority group members rather than the other way around. I guess I just want folks to take sensitivity training so that I don't have to bear the brunt of their curiosity, ignorance, etc. But, when dealing with children laughter probably is the best policy. You raise a great point about socialized ideals. I do think that my husband and I are raising our daughter to realize that her kinky, coily hair is absolutely gorgeous and brilliant in its ability to be styled in a million ways. However, it's inevitable that she also receive messaging about straight "sleek" hair. also love your thoughts about "Samson-like" affection for long hair on women as a mark of femininity. Such a great point! Please come back and comment often. Love your perspective. Thanks!

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Beach bonding and interracial friendship

My daughter and I had an AMAZING time at the beach: white sand, clear water, sand dunes. Wow, we had an absolute ball. All was going well. My daughter even met a few friends to play with at the beach. One of them, a little girl (can’t remember her name) was thrilled that my daughter is a cartwheel enthusiast and the two of them somersaulted down the beach. Under my watchful eye, they also cavorted in the water and were having a fabulous time. Until. Until.

The two girls were stomach down lying next to my beach blanket. My ears perked up when I heard the little girl whisper, “Are you black?” My daughter looked at her and said something like, “No, I’m brown. Does that look black to you?” holding up her arm for review. The other little girl looked baffled. Her tone of voice had sounded like she’d come upon some great secret, this brown little girl next to her was an alien! But wait, if she’s not black, is she really an alien? Her face looked dejected.

Some of you may wonder why we train our children to say that they’re brown. Of course, we are also very proud and knowledgeable of our Black heritage, exposing our children to history and current events as much as we can. However, we want our children to know: 1) that race is a social construct and 2) there are BILLIONS of brown people around the world and we are part of that Diaspora. I believe that people’s conception of race start in scenarios just like this one. I was grateful that my daughter understood that her skin does not define who she is. But wait, the day held one more surprise as the little girl turned to my daughter and made one more comment, this time about her hair.

P.S.: Here’s an interesting article I came across on interracial friendships by Nadra Kareem Nittle (8/7/10) on news.change.org: http://news.change.org/stories/what-are-the-barriers-to-interracial-friendships.

Curious to know what you think about our beach experience and the article.

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Summer Hair Care Tips

Image found at: http://madamenoire.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Woman-At-Beach.jpg

Well, I’m taking the plunge today, literally and figuratively. My daughter and I are having some bonding time so I plan to take her to a local beach. This should be fun (though I wish crazy hair thoughts weren’t whirling about in my head). Here are a few tips to keep your tresses happy when at the beach:

· Wear a swim cap if possible.

· Hair can get sunburned. If in the sun for an extended time, cover your hair to protect it from the sun (use a hat or scarf). This is particularly true post-swim/ pre-rinse as you don’t want salt or chlorine to bake into your hair.

· Apply a small amount of conditioner to your hair before getting into the water.

· Rinse out the chlorine or salt water as soon as you can and style it in a way to facilitate your regular hair care regimen (e.g., plait or braid it for easy shampoo, conditioner, comb through later).

Here are a few sources:

· http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curly-hair-care-methods/conditioning-curly-hair-care-methods/summer-curly-hair-care-tips?utm_source=nc_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20110705

· http://adoption.about.com/od/parenting/a/summerhair.htm

· http://www.bvhairtalk.com/2008/07/04/healthy-hair-at-the-beach/

· http://blackhair.about.com/od/basiccare/a/summerhaircare.htm

· http://www.blackhaircareinfo.com/summer-hair-care.html

· http://www.urbansalonnetwork.com/lets-talk-about-hair-61/95-black-hair-care-tips-for-the-summer.html

  • Unknown

    Really helpful tips for hair care! Thanks for the nice post.AshaHair Care Expert, Shine Hair Care CenterHair Care Tips

  • topie

    Thanks for your comment Asha. Please, keep commenting on the blog! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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