Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nappy Hair

Today I have something really important to talk about. Black hair. Specifically the hair of African Americans. When I was growing up there were these people at our church that had a million foster kids and they shaved all of the boys heads. I thought that was normal. It is not. They might have been doing it because it was cheap. They might have been doing it because it was easy. Either way, they were doing a disservice to those children. 

I can only speak about the African American people I have encountered, and pretty much EVERY SINGLE ONE of them hates how white people take care of black kids hair. HATE it. It makes them mad. As a hornet.

Gary freaks out about it. And truly, he is not a freak out-er : ) 
You should definitely listen to me if you have any small African American kids hair to take care of because just look at Kaish!
Have you ever seen hair like that? That is how you take care of African American hair...or not. 

Actually, the African Americans I know think Kaishon's hair is out of control and BEZERK : ) but he loves it, so whatever! Plus, he is 11. At 11 you can decide what kind of hair you want. He thinks it is cool.
If you are in charge of a small black person's hair you should absolutely NOT just shave their hair. Do not think you will buy a shaver and do it yourself to save money. Your kid ends up looking like a dork. You really need to find a barber.

My friend Heather used to be in charge of Foster Care at an agency in the city and she had to give lessons to 'white people' about 'black hair' every session : ) She could not believe how the hair issue affects how African Americans view Caucasians. 
So, here is the deal. You don't just shave it all off and have a little skin head. Ever. (Even if that is the easiest thing for you. Even if you think it looks adorable. Even if you don't really care.) You can't just shave it all off. 

You need to learn how to do your kids hair correctly. In keeping their hair correctly you are showing great respect to their culture. 
You have to find the right length. You should not see scalp skin.
Scalp skin = TOO short.

When you are done shaving, it needs a shape up. Now, trust me, this is the most important thing. Other wise, you will be a person that doesn't know how to take care of black kids hair and every black person you encounter will frown and feel bad for your kid. Chances are good that you, as a normal person, can not do a shape up. Go to the barber. It costs money. So what. You need your kid to look normal and be accepted by their culture. 
This hair in the next picture is called nappy hair. Nappy hair is like the WORST thing a little black boy can have. I take full responsibility for letting Naji's hair get to this state. It was tragic!

The problem is that we only have white barbers around here. White barbers can NOT cut black kids hair. (Typically) they will tell you they can. You will be hopeful and smiling.
And then you will look over and you will have a little skin head.
Every white barber or hair cutter I have ever questioned assured me they CAN cut black hair.
But they can't.

I sort of gave up on finding anyone good to do Naji's hair. But then I looked over one day and there were the naps in the hair. I almost had a heart attack. Nappy hair is highly offensive to African Americans. 
Maybe you are thinking, oh, my kid is from Haiti or Ethiopia or some other place where they don't care about nappy hair...you would be wrong. They DO care. Nappy hair is not cool any where.
Upon realizing that Naji's hair had come to this horribly nappy state, I rushed him to the nearest Hair Cuttery where the pretty hair cutter PROMISED me she knew how to cut black hair.

I quizzed her.
What number would she put the shaver on?
How often does she cut black hair?
Twice a month.
Did she think Naji was the cutest little boy in all the land?

OK, I gave her a chance.
And sure enough...ten minutes later a little skin head with NO shape up walked towards me. 
I told the hair cutter that she should not say she cuts black hair as this hair cut would not be acceptable in the black community. She told me her boyfriend was black. I said, 'he doesn't let you cut his hair, does he?' She admitted he did not.  I gave her a $5 tip and Naji told me he was wearing a hood until it grew out.

I just hoped and prayed we wouldn't walk past any African American people on the way to the car. Of course we did.
And of course they shook their heads and (I can only assume) felt sorry for poor Naji.

Well, now you know about nappy hair and hair cuts. You can thank me later ; ).


Angie said...

well I guess I'm GUILTY as charged!! I've never shaved Adams hair off just because of my own personal preference I just don't like that look. But I do cut his hair myself. I honestly didn't think it looked bad!! I mean come on, the kid is BEAUTIFUL! but seriously, I did take him to the one barbershop in our community that is owned and operated by African Americans and the guy cutting Adam's hair looked like he had NO IDEA what he was doing. (yes he was black) not only did he look dazed and confused but he CUT Adam's EAR with his SCISSORS...This was when Adam was 2 and his little ears where still super soft..It bled for hours and I felt sooo bad that I never took him back. I guess I'll take my chances with my own lame skills...at least I'm confident he will still have his ears when I'm done!

Roger Owen Green said...

I remember one time that our daughter's hair got what some people thought was unruly - actually, I rather liked it. But the black people I didn't even know would comment about it. Yeesh.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Grandma J said...

I love how you educate me. I know nothing about black hair. Trea has white hair even though it's curley. Well, it's not curly because she straightens it.

I love Kaishon's hair, but boy it must get hot!

Mom2Isabel said...


Rachel said...

Okay... so I know you were saying this in your sweet and humorous way - but I seriously think there are people who need to know this and you are doing a huge favor in educating them/me/us.

I already knew I was totally unprepared to help in any kind of hair issue (but, that's true no matter the nationality... have you SEEN my own head...? it's tragic).

Thank you for posting this. I know the kids who are at the receiving end of the haircuts will thank you too.

Pumpkin Delight said...

I don't think anyone should attempt to cut hair unless they know how. Really know how! I LOVE Kaish's hair.

Buckeroomama said...

Have I told you how much I love Kaish's hair? Well, if I've never done so before, now I have! :)

Gigi said...

I kinda knew the hair thing was an issue for African-American women, but never realized that it was such a big deal for the guys too.

This was a true educational post.

Mark said...

I think Naji's "nappy hair" looks cute! But what do I know, I was raised by all white people in an entire white town.
John doesn't want me to cut his hair any longer. He wants to grow it out into dreadlocks or something which I'm having all kinds of heart attacks over. Although he is in public school now so he might blend right in. I'm beginning to become an expert on Claire's hair.
Mine? The shorter the better for me. I'm so "over" hair it's not even funny.
Your Friend, m.

Formerly known as Frau said...

I think for the next hair cut you need to drive him into the city! Hopefully someone benefits from this post, I had no idea it made such a difference. I hope you have a great Wednesday!

Maddy said...

Hahahaha!!! I love you Becky! For telling it like it is :) Hopefully, more people will become enlightened by this and we'll see less hair catastrophe's walking around!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

It is going to get too hot for a hood. I hope his hair grows back quickly.

She Writes said...

I love your guys hair. LOVE. IT.

And I know African Americans can't believe what Caucasians do to the hair of black children. Whites are so culturally insensitive and unaware it is embarrassing. Hopefully posts like yours will help people see there is a better way :)!!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I had no idea...really and I went to cosmetology school. But I don't recall them teaching me anything about african american hair.
Lo has a new boyfriend, he is Puerto Rican/Italian. And he has what he calls 'black hair'...it is really short but he is letting it grow out before he goes to the Air Force. I will see how it goes.
I thought nappy meant long. You are so cool to share with us.

Pix-Ology said...

I love the way you write, straight and to the point! Great shots as always!

Mighty M said...

I have a couple friends that have adopted African American children and rest assured they are doing a good job taking proper care of their hair! :)

The Incredible Woody said...

I had absolutely NO idea! And I, for one, think Kaishon's hair is fabulous!!

Team Lando said...

The school where I teach is 95% African American. I get hair lessons from my kids all the time. My favorite is when the little ones ask if I can do braids. Nope, can't wear 'em, can't do 'em. And no, I will not try on your hair, because your mother wants your hair to look nice.

Your son has great hair. I say it all the time because I love it so much.

Wanda said...

Becky, this was great. I just learned a whale of a lot of information. I have a "white" grandaugher who has "black" hair. Actually the color is deep deep red, but I like it best when she lets it go big....

This was so interesting, and the pictures are wonderful. I love your son's hair.

Brooke said...

who knew it was such an issue! thanks for the PSA :)

heartland farmhouse said...

Interesting POST!
Some friends of ours are adopting from Haiti & have spent quite-a-bit of time checking into this.
Hopefully they too aren't being fed empty promises?!;)
Time will tell!

likeschocolate said...

I feel you pain. While I am not African American I have very difficult hair to cut. It is think and course and curly. I can't tell you how many times I have walked out of the beauty salon and cried because my hair looked worse than when I walked in. My 9 year old inherited my hair. We are struggling with the whole hair issue. He would like long but we can't find anyone who can cut it in a manor that looks good. My husband usually shaves it off and my son ends up wearing a hoody for weeks.

Sarah said...

Awesome photos. Hopefully it will grow back fast.

*Jess* said...

My friend Jennifer wowed me the other day when she said she was putting corn rows in her adopted son Parker's hair. But now I'm wondering if she really knew what she was doing!

tinajo said...

Two of my friends (they are twins) both married black men and they have told me - and shown me - all the effort they have put in on learning how to do their childrens hair. It doesn´t seem easy (and they are both white girls so it´s not like they´ve picked it up somewhere along the way, haha)! However, now one of the oldest boys have a magnificent dreads hairstyle (is that what it´s called?) and look ever so cool - even in the eyes of his father. :-) All those years of hard practice did pay off for my friends! :-)

Jodi said...

Love it!! One of my biggest fears of adopting from Ethiopia was how to do their hair correctly. :) I can't wait for my boys hair to grow out! :) And a neighbor boy (who is African American) sweetly brought me business cards of his barber. Loved the help!

Unknown Mami said...

I married a man with black hair and a white mother. She would pick his hair out and send him to a black barber. He still remembers crying because he is tender headed. Now he shaves it all off because he's balding.

Tisha said...

thank you for sharing your insights in such a humorous way! this post should be sent to all non-black parents that adopt black children.

genderist said...

What a hilarious post and fabulous PSA-

Artemis Clover: The real L.A. love story. said...

hi becky,
i really appreciate the love and encouragement you always send over my way. you are a huge light and your outreaching ways inspire many people. i particularly like this post because it relates to me even though i dont have "black" hair. my hair used to be very frizzy (in part genetics, in part too much swimming, sun damage, dying it) and it would bother my mom a lot. so much so she once had me chemically straighten my hair. it made my hair so damaged and left it texture less. a few months later, i got a perm to add curls to my hair since i couldn't stand how straight it was. well many years later, after we finally left my hair alone, the real texture came out (which is a little bit wavy but mostly smooth) and i never have to worry about my hair like i used to. so embrace what you have and don't try to change too much. :)
have a great weekend!

photowannabe said...

Thanks Becky for the interesting information. I really had no idea. The only black hair I've even touched was on the heads of the kids in Kenya. Older people touching their heads was a form of blessing. It seems they all shaved their hair quite close.
I guess I was culturally ignorant about those I see every day.
Always a pleasure visiting your blog. you stretch me in so many ways.

Cetta said...

Gorgeous pictures!

Ansem said...

I never took care of my hair in high school, after a black guy ruined it. I just stopped carrying.

How do you feel about this?

Ansem said...

I never took care of my hair in high school, after a black guy ruined it. I just stopped carrying.

How do you feel about this?

Anonymous said...

There are so many things wrong with this article. There is nothing wrong with a buzz cut. I appreciate the emphasis in teaching white parents how to maintain and care of healthy Afro textured hair, but the author makes it seem like the Afro hair in its natural state is undesirable by all Black people, which is false. I also find it odd how the author uses the term "Nappy" so loosely and nonchalantly. I was not sure if this was a satire or not. Apparently, the author, and any other white parent with afro haired children, should do A LOT more research and talk to other parents within the black community on how to care for this unique and beautiful hair type. The original and first hair type for Human Beings.

Life with Kaishon said...

Anonymous people and anonymous comments have so little affect on me. I am the author and part of this was a joke and part of this was real. Get your panties out of a bunch and I would love speaking with you in a mature manner : ). Love, Becky

Anonymous said...

I'm black and many black ladies don't even know how to take care of their own hair without making it more like white hair with relaxers and god knows what. I think we need to be more tolerant. I see plenty white kids with terribly short bangs that look like crap, shaggy unbrushed looking hair on little girls, outgrown in need of a cut hair on boy- I don't stop those white people to tell them that. Besides that, I know little black boys who get their head shaved at home by their mama. And that mama gets a pass simply because she's black, I guess. Look at the folks who criticize your kids hair, too. Chances are their little girl has broken off relaxed hair. At least your kiddos have healthy, beautiful hair.