I came across the short film ‘Hair love’ By Matthew A Cherry whilst perusing? images online. It’s a funny heartwarming tale about an African American father learning to do his daughters hair. It won Best animated short award at this years Oscars. It appealed to me because I see aspects of the story in my life ie. how daunting it must have been for my husband (who has no hair) having to deal with my daughter and all her hair while trying to avoid the tears and screaming.
After watching the film it made me think of Brice and his relationship with our daughters’ hair. So I asked him for a quote about his memories of the first time he attempted to comb and style Maia’s hair...
"Alright, let me give you some insight into where I'm coming from hair wise, in two words, white & bald. The simple concept of hair care is as remote to me as point Nemo. I honestly do not remember the first time I combed or packed my daughters hair. I just remember the importance of the routine to my wife and the Napoleonic battle with said hair to conquer their submission. But the one thing I remember is seeing the happy face of my daughter telling me "I'm pretty Daddy!" I'll go to battle everyday just for that."
Isn’t that sweet.
He’s very involved with taking care of the kids in every aspect including trying to understand how to care for their hair.
When Maïa was about 2, Brice started trying to style her hair. Before then, he had just been moisturising and combing it like I had shown him. But now her hair was long and he felt like he could try and do something with it. At first when packing her hair in a ponytail he would comb her hair, not properly addressing the hair in the middle, so when he was done you would see a big mass of hair in the middle because it wasn’t properly smoothed down. If Left like that all that hair would be tangled when you take out the hair band. Tangled hair on a kid is not fun.
He didn’t understand he had to comb everything regardless of whether you could see it or not.
In regard to his experience and where he his now he had this to say...
“With experience, now comes expectations on my hair skills to get better. I follow 2 basic principles 1. The one thing I know is to keep my daughter distracted during the process. 2. The basic thing I've learned is not to pull directly on the hair, but to maintain it at the base to be able to comb it properly without hurting my child. This is where I am now, learning the basics, I hope to be able to do more than sided ponytails one day...”`
We work because what he doesn’t know I’m there to fill in the gaps. So he understands or has an understanding of all aspects of his daughters culture and vice versa (as the girls are French and share a culture with their dad that is not my own). We all know how the world will see our beautiful babies ‘they’re black’ no matter how much we hope and want or wish that they be seen as just human. That’s the way it is so they will be taught all about the culture and prepared for the world at large.
My children will not live in a bubble not knowing what to expect. They will learn all the tools to enable them to be proud of who they are and where they come from (at the appropriate time). Right now all they know is some people look at them and think they are soooo beautiful, while others want to touch their hair. They do not see or register the looks that we sometimes get as a family as if we were some kind of abomination. Before they get to the point where they can understand those looks and be saddened or affected by them, they will understand who they are, be full of self-confidence and pride and be in a position to let that all fade into the darkness from whence it came.
Which brings me to something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, Interracial adoption yes or no?
Can a white couple truly understand how to take care of a black or coloured child? Know how to raise a confident self aware individual who is proud of his/her culture and not someone who can not reconcile who they are with the colour of their skin?
Why I thought about this was because I have a sister in law who has custody of my mixed race niece. She sees her father often but because she spends so much time with her mum I started to think , does she know who she is (her black side)? Does she have a good understanding of her culture? One day she came home crying cos the kids at school were teasing her about her hair. I wondered how her mum would address that. All her friends and classmates are white and I wonder how it affects her outlook. Now my niece is stable happy and loved. I’m just thinking here. I also have mixed race kids and I know I would like them surrounded by different cultures.
I see a lot of white couples adopting black babies/kids and all I’m thinking is, “They can’t handle their hair, they don’t understand their history, what can they teach them about their culture? How will they prepare them for what lies ahead?” Or is love enough? I have no personal experience hence I have no idea. Such scenarios are portrayed in tv shows ie ‘Grey Anatomy’, ‘This is us’, ‘Grace and Frankie’ etc. It seems to work, but that’s tv not reality. I don’t know if that really works. At the same time I feel like if there’s love I guess that can cover up a multitude of things. But I don’t think there’s any replacement for learning about your culture. There is something else that bugs me about this. ‘The white saviour complex’. Because the said couple is giving a loving home to a child therefore should motive be overlooked? Man… I don’t know.
On numerous occasions I myself have been thinking about adopting a child and I believe it’s something that I will actually do eventually. But discussing it one day with my oldest daughter she asked me ”Will the child be white or black”? I had to pause for a second because I had never actually thought about it. That’s a very good question. I think probably in my mind I was always seeing myself adopting a black child which is why it never came and I never acknowledged race.
It was a great question because yes I could just adopt a black child because that’s what I know. To some extent we would be coming from the same place and I’d be able to impart some kind of wisdom. Now I’m thinking would I love the child the same as my own child? I believe it is possible and I hope that I can, uncertainty wouldn’t be fair on the child. So I would say I know that I would love the child (Children are precious, they are innocents) so the child would definitely have a happy home. Now if I were to adopt a white child would I feel the same? Bear in mind my husband is white and we have mixed race kids who appear ‘light skinned’ black and he loves and adores them. So why couldn’t I? Also knowing that if we have another baby I could give birth to a child who appears white and I would love that child because he/she would be mine, a part of me. So I guess the answer should be yes I would love my adopted white child.
In conclusion, while it can be great to give a loving home to a child who needs it, you need to be aware that it entails a lot. You have to understand things such as hair and learn how to keep it neat and how to care for it whilst also being willing and able to teach the child about their culture/history so they know where they came from and are not completely lost. Take a look around you, can you see the climate we live in right now? Understand that you need to raise that child to be confident and be aware of who they are. I don’t believe in ‘all you need is love and everything will be fine’. I come from a very traditional family who have tried their darndest to teach us traditions and let us know where we have come from and I think it’s great. They are trying to keep our culture alive and I will endeavour to do my best in order to do the same for my children and for any child I am fortunate enough to adopt in the future.
No hate all peace.