Yesterday’s hair post, “My Hair is Not a Wild Animal” comes on the heels of many, many comments that have recently been made about my hair. It seems like the longer I go without it being cut, the bigger it gets, the more likely people (and their nasty little children) are to make comments about it.
But if I thought that I was alone in all this, then a shocking recent article, “Zahara Jolie Pitt and the Politics of Uncombed Hair,” in Newsweek (which have conveniently removed the online piece) written by an African-American editor Allison Samuels who is attacking Angelina Jolie and her African daughter Zahara Jolie-Pitt’s hair should have just made me ill if it were not also pointing out a strange solidarity between those of us who wear our hair natural and are routinely attacked for it. Even at four years old!
And Samuel’s hair advice would be laughable to my hair stylist. Samuels writes: “any self-respecting black mother knows that she must comb, oil, and brush her daughter’s hair every night. This prevents the hair from matting up, drying out, and breaking off.” The hair should only be combed when wet. Brushing dry kinky hair is brutal and leads to matting up, drying out and wouldn’t you know it…breaking off!
Samuel’s further attacks are scathing:
“Hair that is nice, neat, and cared for also gives African-American girls the confidence that they can fit into the world at large without being seen as completely different. One truism of childhood is that nothing is more important than being like everyone else. Well, as like everyone else as you can be with Hollywood parents. But not all people will recognize Zahara as the child of movie royalty. To many, she’ll be just a black little girl—and a black girl with bad hair at that.
In recent pictures it’s clear Angelina Jolie hasn’t taken the time to learn or understand the long and painful history of African-American women and hair. If she had I can’t imagine she would continue to allow Zahara to look like she has in the past few months. Photos of Zahara show the 4-year-old girl sporting hair that is wild and unstyled, uncombed and dry. Basically: a “hot mess.”
Latoya Peterson’s response “Thanks For Your Concern, But Zahara’s Hair Will Be Fine” is beautifully said but the remark that what people are really objecting to is “the fact that any hair that doesn’t hang down straight is considered unkempt” really hit home for me. Peterson’s points on transracial adoption, cultural norms and “the unquestioned embrace of conformity” will speak to everyone.