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Guest Post: On Having a Daughter with “Good Hair”

Avatar • Dec 15, 2010

 by Danielle Edwards of Black Married Momma

Those of us in the Black community know what “good hair” is, even if we’ve banned it from our personal lexicon after wising up to its origin, ended the vicious cycle of straightening our own hair, or have become aware of its inherent self-esteem destroying potential.

But for those who don’t know, “good hair,” when used by or in reference to Black folks, is hair whose texture isn’t the tightly coiled, sometimes wiry mass of kinks that is conducive to Afros or growing locks. “Good hair” became known as such because it was somewhat of an anomaly and novelty among Black folks, most of whom had to resort to chemicals, hot combs or hard brushings with thick greases and tight stocking caps to achieve a similar effect. Most centrally, “good hair” was sometimes romanticized as tangible evidence of a racially diverse lineage, and, furthermore, it resembled more of an ideal representation of one of our unique features that the prevailing culture had overtly and implicitly programmed us to hate.

Still, for those of you who need more of a description, “good hair” is typically wavy trending toward straight or curly but certainly not kinky. It tends to grow longer more quickly because it doesn’t experience shrinkage to the degree or extent of Type 4 natural hair. It lies down when wet and can have a high gloss when freshly washed and combed or brushed with a bit of product. It is just as at home in braids as it is in its freeform, which hangs in a way that an Afro does not.

My younger daughter has this “good hair.” I knew it early on, when months after her birth, her coif was still as loose and curly as it was on the day of her birth. After all, black folks obsess sometimes over how it can take from months to the first full year before our features – from hair texture to skin hue – are permanently fixed, so fluid are the range of features and attributes we have. After a bout of cradle cap around 6–7 months of age, my daughter’s hair blossomed as if Miracle Gro had been feverishly applied. She quickly went from having bald spots courtesy of cradle cap to thick curly masses of curls and waves unlike anyone else in our house.

My husband, my elder daughter and I essentially all share the same hair texture – Type 4, prone to thickness, most at home in braids or locs and most able to retain length if left alone more often than not. Our younger daughter, with her type 3 curls, has hair that reaches her waist if stretched to its full length and, these days, elicits unsolicited reactions and responses from strangers.

Ooh, she has some beautiful hair.”

Is that all her real hair?”

What kind of products do you use to make her hair like that?”

I have been dreading this day – this time when such comments would be said within earshot of my older daughter and make her begin questioning her own beauty or worth. And it has started to happen. As positive as I am with both of my girls, my daily affirmations – no matter how loving or sincere – cannot cancel out the steady stream of spoken messages or drown out the noise of unspoken appraisals from the media or regular ole people in our real lives.

And so now I feel like I have to be even more deliberate the balance it all out. I share with them the beauty of Black hair in all its manifestations, diversity and stylings. We have children’s books about Black hair – my favorite, “I Love My Hair.” I keep them on top of their “hair game,” and these days I’m extremely glad that 1) I wear my own hair natural and have for most of my life and 2) I can braid, twist and cornrow like nobody’s business.

Still, it’s complicated having one daughter with the quintessential crown of “good hair” in this society with its ethos of a complicated racial and cultural past.

I imagine it will even grow more complex, since my older daughter is the lighter of the two.

You know, the younger one with ‘that nice hair’ …”

You mean the older one, with the light skin …”

I forecast that my daughters will be referenced in these terms in the future. I recognize that I cannot stop this, but my role as mother and parent expands to halt its impact for as long as possible, so that they retain their identities as individuals, no matter how much people try to brand them as indistinct archetypes.

For more of Danielle’s writings check out Black Married Momma.

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Lissie
Lissie
9 years ago

First and foremost, Black Married Momma, I think you are an AWESOME mama! This part REALLY touched me: “As positive as I am with both of my girls, my daily affirmations – no matter how loving or sincere – cannot cancel out the steady stream of spoken messages or drown out the noise of unspoken appraisals from the media or regular ole people in our real lives.” “Good hair”, light skin/dark skin, relax/natural, lol, I don’t ever see these issues going away in the black community! It’s here stay, unfortunately! But I think you’re doing a fantastic job of “drowing out… Read more »

NewNaturalista
9 years ago

Danielle, I know exactly what you mean. My daughter’s hair has been referred to as “good hair.” She is also lighter skinned — which for me brings up some underlying issues — people can’t see past the skin color — I sometimes get “Is she your daughter?” or “Wow I don’t see you in her at all.” As I grow and become more connected with myself and my daughter I realize that there are issues our children will be faced with — we can’t shelter them from that. At the same time, our relationship with each other will give her the… Read more »

Raven
Raven
8 years ago
Reply to  NewNaturalista

I can’t believe people would actually say something like that to you. How can they not know how rude/hurtful that is? smh this world.

Stacey
Stacey
9 years ago

Don’t underestimate the power of your voice to your daughters. You see them how they really are and not how others do. I remember how my mom always used to tell me how pretty she thought I was, despite the fact that I had very crooked and crowded bucked teeth (not to mention the uni-brow and thick glasses). I never felt like I shouldn’t smile as big as I do now that my teeth have been straightened. Her voice and compliments were my biggest influence. I knew she meant me no harm and in her eyes I was a pretty… Read more »

The Notorious ZAG
9 years ago

You never realize the impact society has on the minds of children until they say or do something that makes you take notice. My son and I were in Toys R Us looking for a gift for my niece (who also has “good hair” which is another story in itself) and we ended up in the Barbie section. There stood this beautiful Black dark chocolate brown Barbie doll with a twa. “Oh my GOODNESS!,” I shrieked like the big kid I am, “son.. can you buy me this? She’s so pretty!!” “Ummm.. I like this one better.” *points to a lighter,… Read more »

freeyourheart
9 years ago

this post really touched me. while not yet a mother, i’ve endured my own struggles having a lighter, skinnier little sister with “good hair.” i was the dark skinned, bigger older sister with thick hair. i grew up in a household where looks were important but we received chastisement as well as praise in ample supply. or i did. and it didn’t help that the world would tell me “oh you’re so smart. and your sister. oh, she’s so cute!” it took years to get over that. (i sorted out those emotions in this post: http://msjanelle.blogspot.com/2010/10/youre-so-smart.html) but i applaud you for… Read more »

Anon
Anon
9 years ago

This is something we are fighting here in our household. My two daughter’s are biracial, very fair-skinned, green eyes and type 2 hip length hair. The black community just fawns over them and I HATE it. I absolutlety hate it. This kind of attention will inevitably give them a superiority complex. I counter it every chance I get but it is a losing battle. I think other cultures deal with it too though. I have white friends that are blond/blue and they get the same attention from their own community but at least it is praise for features that are… Read more »

brunettefury
brunettefury
9 years ago

Anon — I don’t think it’s a losing battle. Your daughters will understand the message (when they’re older) if you keep teaching them.

am
am
9 years ago

i dont know what to make of this post. I think its commendable that you acknowledge what the broader society attributes as good or beautiful. But I think its more important for your daughters to understand that you value them for who they are — the character that you are helping to form and their values that you influence, more than the externals. Sometimes, regardless of what you as a parent do or say, they’ll always be ignorance around and hopefully they’ll have the fortitude to deal with it. I guess it had to be written — but it only highlights… Read more »

serenissima
9 years ago

this post as well as the comments were resoundingly deep. im not a mother yet but i seriously dreading these kinds of conversations since, as another commenter said, i dont see these issues going away any time soon as it will be heartbreaking to have to explain the concepts of ‘good hair’ vs ‘bad hair’ to a child 🙁

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kinksncurls
kinksncurls
9 years ago

My niece is bi-racial but she grows up with the caucasian side of her family. And its interesting and sad to see the dynamics, because for her, her 3c hair is bad hair. She has cousins that are the same age as her with straight blonde hair and blue eyes, and her family is always saying how unmanageable and unruly her hair is. I feel terrible anytime I visit (about four times a year) and do my best to style her hair when I’m there and let her know how beautiful she is, but I’m not there all the time. Your… Read more »

trackback

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Carisa D. Brewster, H.D.Spivey and Cortne Edmonds, Black Girl Long Hair. Black Girl Long Hair said: Guest Post: On having a daughter with “good hair” #naturalhair http://t.co/gNcaJyv via @bglhonline […]

E
E
9 years ago

See that’s where I don’t like to see the usage of “Good Hair” term being used, to me this is stating that a person thinks their hair is much better than the other person. To me having good hair is healthy hair that’s taken care of and is being styled with different styles and techniquest that work with you. Now I see having a looser texture may work for some especially during the detangling of hair and such, but all hair types are good. You just have some that you have to work less on and others more on. For… Read more »

ice
ice
9 years ago

i honestly think you can pretty much insulate your children against skin-color & hair-texture issues if you don’t have them yourself. my parents emphasized that “there’s no such thing as good hair” & thus this is my truth. of course i’ve wished my hair was straighter or nappier so that i could wear a particular style, but overall, i love my hair. not because of its texture but because it’s MINE. same goes with skin color…in my family it’s really not ok to be colorstruck or to assign certain character traits or beauty with a skin tone. my grandparents both came… Read more »

Beingtruthful
Beingtruthful
9 years ago

This is my first time commenting. Thank you for writing and sharing this post. My eyes filled with tears while reading it because I felt like I was reading the story of my life in the last 18 months. I did the big cut last February because I didn’t like the way black people were fawning over my 18 month daughter’s “good long hair” and I felt certain that in due time my 3 1/2 old would be affected by this. My hubby and I instill each and every day to our girls how beautiful they are, but I’m so… Read more »

mek
mek
9 years ago

my great-aunt was known to give my female cousins who had “good hair” or light skin a beating and yell “YOU THINK YOU’RE CUTE BUT YOU AREN’T!” whenever they misbehaved or acted like they were better than someone with kinkier hair or darker skin. I don’t think it was exactly right, but it did make my us realize that beauty is subjective, and i thank my aunt because she was the woman who taught me what true beauty is. From her I learned that it didn’t matter what my hair texture was like, how much i weighed, or what my… Read more »

mixed beans
mixed beans
9 years ago

This is a beautifully (somewhat poignant) written post! oh, i can so relate, on so many levels. You are doing a great job Black Married Momma. I completely agree with the first commenter “Lissie”.
Thanks for sharing, and so openly too.

neems
9 years ago

Danielle, I think you ripped a page straight our of my life. I’m the older one with the light skin and have a younger sister with the good hair. Thankfully, by parents never treated us differently. Instead, they reinforced that my sister and I were beautiful no matter what. Thank you for sharing this.

thelady
thelady
9 years ago

Thanks for addressing this issue. I don’t have kids yet but I am one of two people on my mother’s side of the family to not have “Good hair”. I’m a type 4. My mom, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles are all type 2 or type 3. I know what it feels like to be the little girl that gets ignored cause everyone is fussing over a relative with a looser hair texture. My mother never talked bad about my hair texture and she hates chemicals but she does prefer straightened or stretched hair.

anon
anon
9 years ago

IMO, ppl who make light skin or “good hair” important are shallow. It won’t get u into heaven, it won’t get you good grades,it won’t make u likeable, etc. At the end of the day beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just b/c there is one person who thinks 3c curly hair is cute there’s another who doesn’t so what difference does it really make? We have to teach our children to be confident and appreciate the gifts that they have and not to put so much emphasis on what other ppl think or say. Give them Jesus,… Read more »

Nia
Nia
9 years ago
Reply to  anon

no, it won’t get you into heaven. but unfortunately it may get you better grades and make you more likeable. 🙁

Daree Allen
9 years ago

Some family members will favor one child over another due to their hair/skin tone. It’s so great that you support both of your girls and don’t pit them against one another the way the outside world is attempting to do.

LBell
LBell
9 years ago

Thank you for sharing your feelings in this post.

My childhood was like ice’s: We learned early on that there was no such thing as “good” or “bad” hair, and that our dark skin was beautiful. It got hammered in enough to pretty much inoculate me against any self-hate issues (as well as others’ self-hate issues thrown at me) pertaining to my 4b hair and dark skin. That was ALL due to Mom and Dad.

I really do believe that your daughters will get the message so long as you stay on top of the hammer, so to speak…good luck…

Tracey
Tracey
9 years ago

I thank you for writing this article. My daughter has type 3 hair. She’s 2 years old and I’ve heard all sorts of comments in her little 2 years. My hair is 4b. It hurts me that we as a people have to go through this foolishness. At least we are conscious parents and maybe someday our great great great grandchildren will NOT have to deal with this.

Shalilac
9 years ago

Great story!!!

kanon
kanon
9 years ago

I echo the thanks for this article. My seven-year-old daughter is sporting a braid-out this week. She wanted me to define her curls, so I applied some conditioner with a Denman brush (the tightly curly method). It was cute, even after it dried and shrunk into a fro with crimps and small, fuzzy coils on the end. But I could see it was heading into tangly, unkempt land, so I began plaited it at night. She loves it. At school, she received some comments and a couple of criticisms/weird looks. Guess who gave her the compliments? White teachers and a… Read more »

Daniella
Daniella
8 years ago
Reply to  kanon

First of all, please allow me to thank you and the author of this article for not pushing the trite description of “good hair” onto your daughter. As a transitioning teen, I’m grateful to see so much support for natural hair of all shapes and density. My parents, like you, have told me that I look beautiful whether my hair is twisted up, braided out or even with my head scarf on. It took me so long for me to believe them because while I heard them at home I was, and still am, hearing about it from the black… Read more »

Daniella
Daniella
8 years ago
Reply to  Daniella

Continuing from my last reply, going natural gave me the confidence to realize that “good hair” is healthy hair. Having that confidence is helping me to become the person that I want to be and be able to get the ear of some relaxed girls that want healthy hair but have been so stuck in the “creamy crack” life they didn’t know how to get it. Becoming healthy in body and beauty allows for some of that resentment towards the members of the natural community with type 2 or 3 hair to be trimmed off like split ends. Thank you… Read more »

Nikki
Nikki
9 years ago

We had some of these same issues in my family. My younger brother has green eyes and ever since he was a baby girls would past by and say oh he’s going to be so handsome, look at those pretty eyes. But then he would be teased by boys who thought he was gay just because his eyes were light. My little sister has hair that 3c/4a & all it takes is a little water and grease for it to lay down and be shiny lol. And she got plenty of positive reinforcement for it, but she was also teased about… Read more »

Leo the Yardie Chick
Leo the Yardie Chick
9 years ago

This is why I side-eye people who say “it’s just hair”. There is too much baggage tied up with the history of black hair in the West for it to be ‘just hair’, and I think that comment trivializes a serious issue among Western black communities. I’ll be glad if we ever get to the point of it being ‘just hair’, but we are not. Far from it.

It's just hair
It's just hair
9 years ago

It is just hair to some people. Please do not judge them just like you don’t want to be judged.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago
Reply to  It's just hair

Very true, some people are beyond that ignorance

Nia
Nia
9 years ago

I too wish it were “just hair”.

candyce
9 years ago

my younger sister is the lighter child who at around 11 yrs old my mom put a relaxer in her hair. i’m the chocolatier daughter with the less “stereotypical cocoa female features, minus my body” and my sister has the full eyes and lips and 4 type hair. getting back to hair. i have never had a relaxer b.c. i was that “good hair” child and my mama always told me “your hair doesn’t need a texturizer or a relaxer.” i was ALWAYS discouraged from getting a texturizer or relaxer. so i have a VERY good idea about your issue… Read more »

naynay
9 years ago

This post also hits close to home. Although I don’t have any daughters yet, I anticipate/fear these comments about their skin color and hair, as I’m brown-skinned black and my husband is light-skinned Dominican. I know I have more important things to worry about when raising children, but having to comfort comments about how good their hair might be or how pretty their are because of their (potentially) light complexion, while trying to make sure they don’t become prideful… ugh! You’d think with all the hollering we Black folks do about how whites treat us, we’d learn to treat ourselves… Read more »

Rahilah03
Rahilah03
9 years ago
Reply to  naynay

This post really hit close to home.. My mother had 8 girls and we all have “good hair” However, when my daughter was born I was so worried and stressed daily with her “bad hair” that I relaxed it when she was only 4yrs old. It was the worst mistake I ever made.. I was so caught up because i could not get a perfect “pony tail” or even two slick pony tails and was embarrassed over her hair. I feel so ashamed for my behavior..My daughter is now 7 1/2 years old and since then I have gotten rid… Read more »

J9ssica
J9ssica
5 years ago
Reply to  Rahilah03

I have a little type 4a in the back of my hair and it’s soft,I know you feel guilty now but damn what were you thinking!! o.o

Sasa
Sasa
9 years ago

I don’t really have anything to add except… I have a 5 year old mixed raced cousin who has, of course, the “good hair” and the light skin. I took her shopping with my 13 year old dark skinned cousin with Type 4 hair, who admired her hair and kept going on about how much she wanted hair hers. I was just about to say something when my baby cousin, with a straight face, looked up at her and said “If every girl had the same hair, the world would be a very, very boring place. All hair is beautiful.”… Read more »

Kim
Kim
9 years ago

You know, I have boys and I still have these issues with skin color and hair type also. My sons all grow their hair out. My first child has tightly coiled sandy brown hair and a light complexion and medium brown eyes which sometimes lighten to hazel. He wears his hair in an afro. My second child has nut brown skin and type 3 dark hair which he is currently locing and brown eyes. My youngest has skin darker than my older but lighter than mine and hair that lies on his head in great looping curls and he calls… Read more »

Shirley
Shirley
9 years ago

You are an awesome Mother and your daughters are blessed to have you.

jaince
jaince
9 years ago

Don’t underestimate the media in that, they take young impressionable kids and rearrange their way of thinking, and when they are finished with them you have some really messed up adults, who don’t like themselves, their size, their color, their hair. They create insecurities and you know who makes a profit from that. No wonder the kids today are messed up. I’m not only talking about minorities, We’re all messed up — some to a greater degree than others. (Television plays a big role in that) and when kids watch a lot of television, or even interact with children or… Read more »

4975
4975
9 years ago

I think this article is as much a part of the problem as the behavior she points out by others. It seems that she is making the same distinctions about her children and highlighting this daughter. Imagine when she reads this article, forever stored on the internet, in the coming years. While the broader topic is one perhaps worth discussing, drawing attention to one’s own child for that purpose on a public forum seems irresponsible and more likely to contribute to the problem at hand.

Lisa M.
Lisa M.
9 years ago
Reply to  4975

@4975 How is recognizing a distinction the same as encouraging it? Use your brain. She is just acknowledging that other people will make a fuss over the CLEAR difference in her children’s complexion/hair. Please, be reasonable.

4975
4975
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa M.

You need to find a more constructive way to disagree with someone.

It's just hair
It's just hair
9 years ago
Reply to  4975

Nope. Lisa M. made the right comment. You just couldn’t answer it.

yup
yup
9 years ago
Reply to  It's just hair

Agreed

confused
confused
9 years ago
Reply to  It's just hair

use your brain” just reads as rude to me (jmo).

I do agree with Lisa M that the mother is identifying a problem not encouraging the thinking.

Nia
Nia
9 years ago

Okay, so when I want to explain to someone why we make a big deal of our hair, I am going to send them directly here. Black Married Momma, u have truly preached.

Juicy
Juicy
9 years ago

just because you can’t comb it does mean it’s not pretty and the ppl who say that usual don’t see that often so they comment but she can also get discriminated against too by jealousy both ways all you can do is make them love each other as people keep away from negative

anewmeeP
anewmeeP
9 years ago

wow this seems so familiar to me. My younger sister who is gabrielle unions color has long 3b hair down to her waist since she was little. I am 5 years older but one shade lighter and have 4b/c hair. When i was little i felt so insecure bc everywhere we went people always swooned over my little sisters hair color. My babysitters always like to carry her around and i had to stray behind bc they wanted others to think that it was their kid. When i got to middle school i started wearing box braids and i still… Read more »

Shantee
Shantee
9 years ago

Unfortunately, this is a story that many black people can relate to on some level (either because they have experienced it or they’re the ones making the ignorant comments). But I do believe that if we continue to educate ourselves and address the comments head on (by politely correcting family and friends who praise one feature over another other), that by the time our children and grandchildren become adults they won’t have to deal with these same issues. I believe that forums like this can help make that possible.

Alex
Alex
9 years ago
Reply to  Shantee

me too.

Leslie Mac
Leslie Mac
8 years ago

Thanks for your post. Very interesting discussion happening here. I have been seeing a similar issue with my nieces — one of which is very light skinned with green eyes and the other darker skinned with brown eyes. People stop us on the street to say to the lighter skinned little one, “Oh she is so beautiful, look at her eyes”. Nothing to her equally beautiful big sister. I have taken an approach to tell both girls how beautiful they are and to pour over photos with them both pointing out how their smiles are so great, how cute a… Read more »

tammy
tammy
8 years ago

I was that girl with “good hair” growing up and didn’t understand what it meant until I was in an all black environment and now I hate that term. I had curly hair down to my waist until my mom permed my hair when I was 8. With a perm my hair was pretty much half way down my back. I guess for me ignorance was bliss. I have taken “good hair” out of my lexicon. For me I say healthy ‑doens’t matter if it is a TWA, twist out, perm, flat ironed or in an Afro. If you continue… Read more »

lively
8 years ago

My daughter has 3a/b type hair and i never realized how ignorant some black people could be. This man at the mall was trying to get me to sign up to lovefilm and then he commented that my daughter hair is so nice! So i said what makes her hair so nice, he said“well its so smooth and my daughters hair is really puffy and hard to comb”. So I said well there is nothing wrong with puffy hair it is just as nice. ThAt was pretty much the end of the conversation. I get so tired of people saying… Read more »

Jackal
Jackal
8 years ago

I’m honestly tearing up a bit, because you remind me of my mom. As long as you keep it up and always, always let your girls know that to you they are fabulous and perfect, they’ll probably be okay.

Skyler
Skyler
7 years ago

I believe if you continue to emphasis on not only what God naturally gave them on the outside but also ( and more importantly) you emphasis on what he gave them on the inside, then no matter what kind of negative comment arises, they will be proud to be who they are; both loving and accepting a unique identity and purpose that extends far beyond just hair.

If a woman can learn to find beauty within, no one in the world can take that from her!

Bruno Piacente
Bruno Piacente
7 years ago

Cradle cap is not caused by a bacterial infection, allergy, nor from poor hygiene. Cradle cap is also not contagious. Doctors do not agree on what causes cradle cap, but the two most common hypotheses include fungal infection and overactive sebaceous glands. Cradle cap is an inflammatory condition.^^„

Our internet page http://ideascollection.org/index.php

Kay
Kay
5 years ago

My daughter has Chinese on my side and Scot-Canadian (completely white) on her late father’s side. So, while she is mixed she does not have distinctly black or mixed hair. It is more like loose curls. What I am glad I did spare her from is the relentless shaming that my mom subjected me to in forcing me to make my hair as European looking as it could possibly get. No mother should be contemplating relaxers for their daughter at age 6. We are damaging our hair with processing, straighteners, treatments to make our hair look like someone else’s. Skyler is… Read more »

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