Skip to main content

Malia's Hair is Off Limits! So is Sasha's!

I read a snippet of a New York Times article in which there was criticism of the hairstyle Malia Obama wore to Italy. Twists, to be precise. Said twists were criticized as not befitting someone representing the United States abroad.

Hold up. Slow your roll, America. You don't get a say in this. Neither Malia nor Sasha "chose" to represent the United States in any way, shape, or form. And their hair, and how they wear it, is off limits. Back the eff off.

I was hotter than a hornet reading this. The whole black woman's hair thing? That's personal with me. We black women have more than enough issues and neuroses about our hair and how we wear it. It is not open to debate within wider circles, especially when there's a child involved. The choices we have, other than wearing our hair in its natural state in twists, dreads, braids, cornrows or afros, are painful -- chemical relaxers, also called "creamy crack," and searing hot straightening combs. If Malia has chosen to forgo chemical or heat straightening for her natural locks, that's nobody's business but her's and her mama's.

As a child, I was what was (and probably still is) called "tender headed" -- I had an extremely sensitive scalp. And I don't have naturally straight hair like my mother and my maternal grandmother did. I have your average, nappy black hair. So imagine the terror my mother went through trying to comb the long, kinky hair of a crying, screaming child. She gave up. My first grade photo shows me with three huge lumps of uncombed hair on my head with a braid coming out of each. Making me scream just for vanity's sake was just too much for my mother to bear.

Finally, a friend of my mother's stepped up and straightened my hair with a hot comb, out of pity for me and my mother. After that, my mom would send me to her regularly, and then to another woman, because I would still cry and scream. As I got older, I took over the care of my hair, with one exception -- my mother would straighten my hair with a hot comb. Problem was, my mother had three other daughters who also had kinky hair. My mother ended up doing a lot of straightening until my older sisters got old enough and started going to their own hairdresser -- I assume that was because either they paid for it or my mom got to the point where she could afford to send them. My mom straightened my hair every other Sunday during my adolescence until I went off to college. And my hair was not short -- when washed and dried, it looked like a Chaka Khan 'fro. When straightened, it was down to my bra strap. It was a lot of work. And there was the occasional ear burn from a hot comb that slipped from my mother's tired hands. My mother should have won a place in heaven just for dealing with the kinky hair of four little black girls.

Ever since college, I have chemically straightened my hair with relaxers, and I hate it. I still have a sensitive scalp. Just last week, after avoiding my new stylist for six months, I went to get my hair "relaxed." There is absolutely nothing "relaxing" about getting your hair relaxed if you have a sensitive scalp. I always burn. Always. Given that chemical relaxers are a derivative of lye, the danger of a chemical burn is real. Ten seconds into the process, I knew my entire scalp would be engulfed in chemical pain, and it was. First, there was the unnatural coldness of the calcium hydroxide on my scalp, which then slowly turned to a searing chemical heat. None of this was my stylist's fault, since she's relatively new to me -- if you scratch your scalp or have a sensitive scalp, you are bound to burn unless you "base" your entire scalp first, and that's still no guarantee that you won't burn, at least not for me. It was a race to the sink to get that stuff of my scalp. Tears filled my eyes, and scabs later formed on my scalp where I burned, but my hair looked fly. Still does. But when I was getting it "relaxed," I swore at myself and to myself that I would put down the "creamy crack" forever. The daily ease of styling straightened hair, however, is addicting.

I would not ask any little black girl (or grown black woman, for that matter) to risk chemical burns or getting her ears burned with hot combs for vanity's sake. Straight hair for black girls should be a choice, not a dictate, and not some concession to national opinion as to the proper way for a young black girl to wear her hair. For anyone who hasn't endured chemical burns or heat burns to the scalp to pass judgment on Malia for wearing her hair in its natural state is plain and simply wrong. If I were her age, I wouldn't straighten my hair, either. I still have fantasies of getting dreads or just shaving it all off (it's now down to my bra strap yet again -- must have been the six months off without a relaxer), but BMNB has a thing for long hair and looks like a lost puppy every time I talk about changing it. Ah, the things we do for love.

So, America, you don't get a vote, a voice, or nary an opinion as to how Malia and Sasha wear their hair unless you're willing to take a straightening comb to your own hair or let some relaxer sit on your scalp until it burns. I hate to go there, but this black women's hair thing? As they used to say in the '90's, "It's a black thing, and you wouldn't understand."

Oh, and do NOT touch our hair without our permission. We HATE that.


I could not have said it better myself...thank you for the post!
mr. nichols said…
wow. i didn't even hear about this. you really hit it on the head in this post.

Popular posts from this blog

When You Leave The Ghetto, Don't Bring It With You

NBA player Gilbert Arenas brings a gun to an NBA locker room. NBA player Ron Artest lets his pit bulls run wild and free in Loomis, California while playing for the Sacramento Kings. NFL player Michael Vick did time for fighting dogs. And NFL player Plaxico Burress is doing time for shooting his damn self.

What do all these men have in common? BMNB would say an inability to make a profound paradigm shift. I’m less eloquent than BMNB is, so I’ll say it differently: The inability to leave the ghetto behind.

Yes, call me saditty, bourgie, elitist, stuck-up, whatever. I don’t care. Until you’ve had a tweaker ruin your Thanksgiving turkey, you don’t even know (more on that later), and I’m not trying to hear you.

Living in Western Placer County, my husband and I continue to hear stories from folks like us who had to flee “those who can’t leave the ghetto behind.” You know these people, and they come in all races. In our case, we had returned to Sacramento in 2004 and 2005, respective…

Black Woman Blogging's Gun Control Proposal

Thanks to a relative who sent me death threats, I became a gun owner. Reluctantly.  What can I say.  You don't choose your family.

That said, I'm for gun control.

As far as I'm concerned, America lost its moral compass when we didn't do squat after Sandy Hook.  If you can allow a madman to murder children and not be moved to do nothing, you have no moral compass.  Period.

Now that we've broken an unfortunate record for the number of people killed in a mass shooting, perhaps we as a country are ready to get our minds right about gun control.  Perhaps.  So in that spirit, I offer my gun control proposal.

First, we need to agree on some real (not alternative) facts and principles:

1.  There is no such thing as an unlimited right.  Yes, people, there are no unlimited rights protected under the Constitution.  Your right to free speech?  Well, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment and even protected speech can be limited by time, place and manner.  Your…

Retired Man Walking: Too Young to Retire, Too Old to Take Shit

A while back I ran into a friend and fellow professional employed by the State of California, and he offered me his perspective on State employment as a tail-end Baby Boomer like myself -- someone who can't retire because he lacks the requisite age or years of service, but, unlike myself, is tired of taking shit from superiors who don't know what to do with you.

Although my friend gave his permission for me to use his name in this blog entry, I decline to do so because what he does is so specialized that it would not be hard for anyone to identify him as one of the few African American men, if not the only African-American man, in California state civil service who does what he does. For purposes of this blog entry, I will refer to him as he now refers to himself:  Retired Man Walking.

Retired Man Walking, or RMW, has an interesting philosophy he applies to working for the State as a professional who isn't old enough to retire but has been around long enough to know the s…