Today was another one of those days…
Another one of those days that I pick my daughter up from school only to find that her appearance doesn’t match the same little girl I dropped off this morning. What started off as beautiful twists–some pulled up into a bun, others hanging freely–are now unraveled, bows missing, and stray hairs flying every which way. (Also, please note that she attends an actual elementary school for Pre-K…which is something I have to decide on–whether or not I will keep her in public school; but that’s a conversation for another blog!)
Now, we all know kids. Most haven’t developed the consciousness of wondering if their hair is still in tact; they’re just worried about playing and having a good time. And in this case, my daughter can get pretty crazy in her sleep, so I have no doubt that “nap time” was the main culprit of her new look. That’s not my problem.
My problem is: when I ask my daughter if she noticed it was messed up, she proceeds to tell me that her teacher—“Mrs. So-And-So”—made a comment about it, and that’s how she knew something was wrong with it.
I probe some more and ask if her teacher made an attempt to fix it; she tells me no. So now my child has to walk around school for the rest of the day with unraveled twists and a bun on top of her head that has come undone. I mean, really, would it have been that difficult to fix a bun?
So…this is for you, “Mrs. So-And-So”
Does it bother you that I send my pretty brown girl to school each day–clothes ironed, fitting properly–modest yet stylish, skin moisturized, and edges laid?
Does she somehow conflict with the image you had in your mind of what “little brown girls” look like and the homes they come from?
I know the school system you previously worked for had a certain demographic of students and parents that created some prejudices and bias tendencies in you that you may not realize. But as for this pretty little brown girl, she has a mother that cares about her; that will take the time to make sure she’s clean and well-groomed; to ensure that she knows that in a world that tries to downplay our beauty–SHE…IS…BEAUTIFUL.
I have a question for you, “Mrs. So-And-So,”
Did you notice how she looked when I walked her to your classroom this morning? Is it too much to ask that the same pride I have in teaching her to take care of herself—that you also play an active role while she’s in your care? Don’t get me wrong; for me, this isn’t about looks. But I can’t deny what I notice…and that is, little brown girls don’t get the same treatment as everyone else. She’s only in Pre-K and already, we have to have the talks about why her hair isn’t blonde or straight or braided down the back like Elsa’s. (Go away, “Frozen”!)
And before you get defensive, let me explain something else: I do my job at home and in every situation with her. I remind her that she’s beautiful…I tell her that her brown skin is a gift from God and so is every kink on top of her head. But sometimes…you expect that from Mama.
Mama will always be there to tell you how beautiful you are and not to worry about everyone else. But you see, my pretty brown girl is more introspective than that. She noticed how on picture day, all the adults around called all the other girls by their name or nice pet names, such as “pretty girl” or “sweetheart” or “beautiful.” And when her turn came, they merely regarded her as “hey you.”
Where were you when this happened? I’m so happy that at four, she can tell me these things. I’m so glad I take time in my day to talk to my Creator who can pour into me so that I can pour into her at these moments and share with her the beauty on the inside that means more than anything. But it doesn’t take away the fact that she noticed…noticed that someone disregarded her. And as a parent, that hurts me.
Was she disregarded because she’s my pretty brown girl? Was her hair not tamed after it got messed up at recess or after nap time because she’s my pretty brown girl?
Oh, the lessons I’ve got to teach my pretty brown girl.
I don’t want to make this about race, but I have to wonder what it is about my smart, pretty, brown girl that’s getting in the way of her receiving that extra dose of care and attention that others get. And I also know she’s not the only pretty little brown girl in your class. But she may be the only one with a mama who cares enough to blog about it…to use these situations as lessons to teach her about who she is.
But let’s keep it on a small scale—just this once—and refocus on why I picked her up from school today looking crazy? I didn’t deserve to be looked at as a negligent parent who doesn’t take their time with their child. I deserved to see that same little girl I dropped of this morning—just like the other parents did.
I’m sure if little “Annabelle” (**name is made up) needed help today, you were there for her. For one, you identify with her. And maybe even more than that, you want her parents to know, in other words, you’ve got their back.
Well I’m here to tell you whether it’s “Annabelle” or “Anika”, you need to make a choice on the first day of school whether to touch the hair or not touch the hair. Oh yes, that IS the question. Because what you don’t want to deal with is me coming for you. By the time I make it to you, the case will have already been won…because I will have been watching and making sure I’ve gained enough evidence to back up everything I’m saying with dates and times included! I see that all the little girls who look like you leave school in one piece, while all the pretty little brown girls are walking around—some already self-conscious because (as my daughter said) she knew it was messed up from the comment(s) you made. I can’t speak for the other parents—sure, it could be a coincidence that the brown girls just didn’t have their hair done (doubt it!) but one thing I can speak on is how I send MY child to school every day. Basically, if you don’t have it in you to help them all, then you don’t need to help any of them. It’s that simple.
I also understand that maybe the cultural differences create boundaries for some people; meaning that if you’re Caucasian and are only used to touching or dealing with “Caucasian-type” hair or silky, straight hair…then it may be a little intimidating to even think about fixing kinkier hair of such thick texture.
My thing is: Don’t pick and choose who you’re going to assist. Because whether you think so or not, children notice and they see what’s going on. They see how their straight-haired counterparts are being fixed up and primped while they have to walk around the rest of the day looking like “Who Shot John.” Maybe you didn’t mean any harm by this; all the more reason for you to be aware of how it looks to others.
One thing I observed growing up, and have even witnessed in my adulthood, is that women of color are much more willing to fix the hair on any little girls’ head rather than choosing their own kind to assist. They take pride in providing motherly services, such as fixing a little girl’s ponytail or braid—and the texture of the hair didn’t matter. I worked at a school once where the principal would allow certain little girls to walk in her office if their braid came undone, but if it were a brown girl—she’d refer them to someone else.
As someone who has worked around children, I can personally say that if they are in my care—I will do what I can to make sure they look presentable at all times. When I worked in a daycare, if a little girl’s hair got messed up—no matter whether she was 2 years old or 12—I fixed it. It actually got to the point once where I would bring combs, brushes, and barrettes to work so that I could help whenever the need arose! Some of the dads knew that if they had to get their little princess to daycare that morning and dropped off without Mommy’s help, that Ms. Crys would come to the rescue! How would I look having her parent pick her up and her nose is snotty, crumbs on her face, and hair all over her head like a tornado came through?
And maybe that’s one reason it bothers me…because I know I do what I can when it comes to caring for someone else’s child. It would be nice to be on the other end of reciprocation when my child is in need.
I understand that to some people, I’m overthinking things. But when you’ve dealt with similar situations before—you know otherwise. As I always say, I take my job as a mother very seriously, and will forever combat the negativity my pretty brown girl faces.
* Warning: Please don’t get ignorant and try to say something about my daughter not being brown (lol). I’ve literally had people say to me, “well, technically…” — I don’t have time! She may have light skin (like her mother) but we are still BROWN and PROUD! In case you didn’t know, every shade of brown isn’t created equally; there are multiple variations of the color, which makes it that much more beautiful