Skip to main content

Ew. Your Baby’s Hair is Turning

Avatar • Feb 17, 2014

url

By Lurie Daniel Favors of Afro State of Mind

You may have heard comments like these before:

Dang. Your baby used to have such pretty hair. What happened?

Oh her hair is so cute! Except for this nappy section right here…

That baby is so pretty! You almost don’t even notice her hair…

These are the type of comments that can make any new parent want to scream.  These are also the type of comments that people seem to casually toss at Black girl babies almost without even thinking.

It’s like the unwritten rite of passage.  A baby girl is born and fawned over.  After the initial burst of ooohs and aaaahs, a lot of folks who still harbor an “is-she-darker-than-a-brown-paper-bag” mentality will zero in on the new girl child’s specific traits.

I call these people Trifling Commenters.

Trifling Commenters may talk about your baby’s complexion and wonder if this is her “true” color or if (gasp!) she’s going to “get blacker.” Sometimes Trifling Commenters peer closely at your new born’s finger nails to see if the color of her nail beds are darker than her hand—which is a tell tale sign that this baby’s melanin has a bit more browning to do.

A sign sure to upset Trifling Commenter.

They may pull back her hair so they can inspect her ear lobes. Because dark brown ear lobes up against light brown cheeks may also be a sign that our precious little princess won’t be quite as “light” as desired.

If dark brown nail beds don’t evoke a response then dark brown ear lobes usually will at least illicit a sigh of frustration.

Your child’s hair may be parsed and dissected much like one might pick over produce at the grocery store.

Trifling Commenter may say something like this:

Oh, this section in the front of her hair is so pretty and straight! But that section over there, see how it’s fuzzy? Girl you gonna have problems with that section. But at least it’s better than this “kitchen” in the back of her head! Girl, this section is nappy!”

What’s a new parent to do when they see their precious darling evaluated, measured and ultimately found lacking? How can we respond to comments from otherwise well meaning family members and friends who simply have no idea how to see our babies without the veil of internalized racism?

More importantly—how on earth do we protect our children from the negative impact of Trifling Commenters? Here are some tips to navigate the negative baby inspections.

Consider the Context.

If your Trifling Commenter is an elder or someone with whom you don’t have frequent contact, you really have to consider the context.  Sure, hearing your 78-year-old grandmother talk about how “bad” your baby’s hair is will hurt and quite frankly it may just piss you off.  But you have to remember that dear old granny grew up during a time when this type of belief system was rampant. In fact, granny may have had these types of terms directed at her and simply may not realize how awful it is to perpetuate these beliefs.

Not to mention the fact that blowing up at Ma’Dear at the family reunion may not be the best way to educate family members on how to love Black kids (and you may be dis-invited to next year’s event…).

You may want to speak with Ma’Dear privately about how her words make you feel. Remember—you may not be able to change her mind, but you can ensure that she knows not to use this type of language around your child.

Tone Rules Everything Around Me.

I’ll admit that the first time someone said something trifling about #BabyGirlFavors’ hair, I felt my inner mama bear rise up and get ready to charge. But I had to remember that Trifling Commenter didn’t mean to be overly negative. At least not in the “I‑don’t‑like-this-baby-and-want-to-hurt-her-mama’s‑feelings” sort of way.

Trifling Commenter was simply ignorant. If I’d flown off the handle without remembering that, the situation could have been much worse.  As it stands I told her that actually #BabyGirlFavors’ hair was perfect because it was growing exactly the way that God designed it to grow. I then informed her that these types of comments can be very hurtful to young Black kids and that as adults we need to create a healthier space for Black children. Trifling Commenter was very surprised at my reaction—but respected it.

Know the Goal.

Before you respond to Trifling Commenter, you really need to be clear about your goal. Your goal should dictate the nature of your response. Are you trying to educate Trifling Commenter, protect your baby’s self esteem or something else? It may be that this is a situation in which you can teach Trifling Commenter about the racist nature of his or her words. Or perhaps, if Trifling Commenter is old, tired or one of those people who really don’t‑give-a-nappy-headed-damn about your politics and “Black hair” theories, you may be casting your educated pearls before swine. In this case consider the next point.

Protect Your Baby. At All Costs.

Regardless of whether or not Trifling Commenter is a revered elder or a stranger on the street, you have to remember that your child is watching you. Your baby needs to know that you will protect her self esteem to the best of your ability and that you will not leave her out there to defend her hair or skin color on her own.

2013-11-01 09.11.53

Please Protect My Self Esteem!

If Trifling Commenter won’t stop criticizing your child or continues in making negative comments about “bad” hair or “dark” skin, then I implore you to take your child out of that situation. We have to be our girls’ (and boys’) most ardent protector and defender. Our kids deserve to know that if the people in their community can’t respect their hair type or skin color, then the parents and care givers in their lives will stop at nothing to keep them (and their self esteem) safe.

I’ve said many times that when it comes to Black parenting, it’s hard out there! But it is so important that those of us in the natural hair community (and our allies) continue speaking out.

The next time someone says something derogatory about my daughter’s hair “turning” I’ll be sure to tell them “Yes! I am so excited about her true texture finally shining through! I can’t wait to see how many kinks, curls and twists her spirals evolve into. I’m so excited about how big her Afro is going to be!” Then I’ll toss my ‘Fro, put on our matching “Happy-to-be-Nappy” t‑shirts (and onesie), grab my kinky-haired baby and saunter down the street as our naps bounce around our heads.

********

Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or e‑book! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos! Don’t forget to check out Afro State of Mind Radio, Sunday mornings at 10 am on iArtistRadio.com – this week we continue our month long spotlight on Black education. Enjoy!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
60 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jasmine
jasmine
6 years ago

oooh!! loved this article!!! yes!!

nollyA
nollyA
6 years ago

yessss i love this ..but considering the very short fuse i have when it comes to matters like this I WILL FLIP ON ANYBODY WHO TRIES ME OR MY BABY.

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  nollyA

I don’t have any kids, but if I did & their own grand mom said something negative about their hair, I’D HAVE TO OPEN MY MOUTH TO HER ABOUT IT ! We’ve got to speak up when we hear this kind of crap !!

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
6 years ago

articles like this make me so sad.

gapch
gapch
6 years ago
Reply to  Ugonna Wosu

so true…

Twinkle
Twinkle
6 years ago

Damn all that! The trifiling commenter is rude period and they know it. They also have self esteem issues! I don’t have a baby but if I did..I would be very mean if someone talked about my precious one!

Redseouls
Redseouls
6 years ago

Lurie your baby is so cute!!

Other than the old grandma, are people really saying these stupid things to the parents in 2014?!? I wouldn’t say anything to them, I’d just cut them out if my life!! Period, point blank!

Redseouls
Redseouls
6 years ago

Lurie your baby is so cute!!

Other than the old grandma, are people really saying these stupid things to the parents in 2014?!? I wouldn’t say anything to them, I’d just cut them out if my life!! Period, point blank! #Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Mac
Mac
6 years ago
Reply to  Redseouls

Yes, yes they are (depending on where you are, and social factors wrapped up in that), and it is super sad. So we fight, and educate.

Bridget J.
Bridget J.
6 years ago
Reply to  Redseouls

Yep. Last week one of my close friends informed me that she had to let another friend know that her daughter’s hair has “turned” and then went on to say how the Mom was in denial. I was totally shocked and dismayed at the same time. Almost hung up the phone.

Alexandria
Alexandria
6 years ago

I can’t wait till it’s time to have children so I can teach them to wear their crown (hair) and robe (skin color) with pride the way my mother and father taught me

Amma Mama
6 years ago

I wouldn’t even make such comments to an adult, let alone a child. Speaking negative things to children really stays with them forever{well some kids, not all}. I remember being young and not even noticing certain “flaws” in my physical appearance until adults pointed them out by making negative comments {i.e. my nose, teeth, etc}. Those negative comments really stuck with me, umpteen years later. It’s important to really uplift people, especially the babies. If you can’t find something positive to say, just don’t say anything at all. Words hold a lot of power.

Sonny
Sonny
6 years ago

i love this article. as blacks we really need to get out of this mindset. it keeps us enslaved since this is exactly how the Europeans used to view our hair during slavery and they cut our hair and gave us hair grease which stunted its growth. so we are trying so hard to obtain the european standard of beauty which is “long fine hair” and “white skin” we put our own people down. We need to raise up against this mentality because we are only hurting ourselves and the next generations. We need to grow in our understanding —… Read more »

chalise
chalise
6 years ago

this article was beautiful. well done. so far i haven’t gotten any out the way comments about my son, short of how adorable or cute he is (yes, i’m bragging mwa ha ha!) but perhaps it’s because he’s a boy. i’m definitely gonna be on the defensive if i have a girl-baby. the closest i’ve gotten to something that was a little uncomfortable about my son’s hair was my aunt going into the genetics of the “nice hair” that came from my family’s side to the “thick hair” that came from my husband’s side. thick was her nice way of… Read more »

Afrinaturality
Afrinaturality
6 years ago

Yes, these types of stories are very sad. Only yesterday, I visited my cousin’s 6 WEEK OLD mixed race baby. He, the father, asked me whether I thought the baby’s hair will have tight coils as she gets older (the baby’s hair is currently straight like many babies of that age, no matter the race). He thinks the baby will have straight hair based on the little bit of just-outta-the-womb hair she has. I just said it’s too early to tell and then sealed my lips. I can’t be dealing with all the nonsense surrounding hair.

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  Afrinaturality

What a punk that father is, Lol!

juanicole617
juanicole617
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

I wouldn’t go as far as to call him a punk father. He is expressing what he has been taught. I can admit I used to think this way only because it’s what my mother and her mother used to do. Checking the ears and fingertips looking for their real complexion is something my family did. I think it was out of the interest of what they would look like and not that a dark complexion was going to be bad. Well, at a least that’s how I looked at it. I think it’s amazing watching any child grow and… Read more »

rita
rita
6 years ago

Absolutely beautiful and empowering post. God bless you.

Tyler
6 years ago

I think I’ve come to the point where I accept that I can’t single-handedly fix ignorance. Arguing with people is just going to make everyone upset so I just smile and nod when people make comments about my hair. I don’t think it would be so easy for me when I have kids though, if it’s directed at them. My aunts repeatedly told me when I was growing up that ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT traits to find is a husband is that he has “good hair.” I mean, really? Can you believe people tell kids stuff like that? And then… Read more »

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

I remember hearing that back in the 60s when i was a kid. Lots of blacks told their boys & girls to ” marry light”. In fact I had a teenaged pal who told me her own mom had married her dad for that reason . Her mom was an average looking very dark girl with full African features & very short kinky hair that never grew more than a few inches long & she had been ridiculed for it by other blacks. She didn’t want her kids,esp if she had girls, to look like her so she purposely sought… Read more »

Poshnera
Poshnera
6 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Wow those comments were so sad and ignorant. We have got to teach our kids better. If we focus on their appearance more than their education, spirituality, and self-esteem then we teach them to look at others the same way. This becomes a problem because they too will talk about and treat others based on how they look instead of their character. I don’t have kids but if I did I would never want them to date a skin color or hair texture, but someone who loves and respects them and values their worth. I think this is part of… Read more »

p
p
6 years ago

let someone comment negatively on my childs hair let alone call it nappy. lets see if they leave my sight with all their teeth its just plain rude and wrong and disrespectful

MommieDearest
MommieDearest
6 years ago

Great article. I’ve witnessed foolishness like that first hand. *smh* I have the opposite situation. My son has curly, 3C hair. I have had black women fawn over his hair, talking how pretty and curly and “good” it is. I usually say something like “all healthy hair is good” and keep it moving. I really get irritated when I’m out with my son and his cousin, who has straight up nappy hair like mine. Invariably someone will comment on how handsome the little boys are, but they will then go on to fawn over my son’s hair while ignoring his… Read more »

Darlyn
Darlyn
6 years ago

When I have kids and somebody talks about my child’s hair, I will let them have it.

Gloss
Gloss
6 years ago

This is all really so sad and so true. I come from a family of mixed light skinned women. We are Hispanic and black. All of the women in our family are very light skinned with extremely long beautiful “good” hair. However, we were all raised in predominately black neighborhoods. When my sister had her daughter 9 years ago with a black man, the first thing my very light skinned mother and aunt’s did were inspect her (my nieces) cuticles and earlobes. My aunt gasped “mmhhmm they look real dark, that baby is gonna be BLACK!” MY mom agreed and… Read more »

jessybabe
6 years ago

This is how people get either cussed all the way out, or punched in the face. Especially family members since they think, just because they are family they can put their negative two cents in, and that you’re supposed to take it

amanda
amanda
6 years ago

While tone is important, I’ll never miss an opportunity to check anyone who makes a back-handed comment about black hair, which is BEAUTIFUL. I don’t care how old you are, or how sweet you are, insinuating that a child isn’t beautiful because of their curl pattern or skin tone is self hatred, and if you can’t keep it to yourself, prepare to get checked. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my wig-loving, nap hating, creamy crack addict aunties — but I will let them know that their opinions are both harmful and unwelcome.

Legallynatural2
Legallynatural2
6 years ago

Great article I had this happen to me with both kids. My son’s hair was very curly until his dad cut it at 2. Prior to that soo many people went nuts over this kid, oooh look at his hair over and over again it was ridiculous. Then his dear ole aunt made a comment that it was going to change, to what? Its hair! I am so tired of this stuff, hair skin color its so pathiec, and old doesn’t equal ingonorance if your “ig “as my kids say you just are! Most of these statements come from a… Read more »

Cass
Cass
6 years ago

I don’t have a child but when I hear how my cousin, one minute praising her daughter’s hair for its length but then bashes it for it’s texture, it makes me angry. Example. While combing her hair she would show off how long it is but in the same breath of she’s talking about her curl pattern she would say, “I think she has that 4C sh#t”. The other day my cousin got a weave installed and it was cut into the cutest bob ever. Her 4 year old daughter rushed up to her and said “mommy I love your… Read more »

U.D.N.T.K
U.D.N.T.K
6 years ago

I remember this happening on a few instances. My sister (black) married a white guy and they had their first child two years ago. I was with her at work with the baby when one of the security guards came in for a chat (it’s D.C with have security guards errwhere). When she (a latina) picked up my nephew she began stroking his hair and saying “Ooooh “sister’s name” he’s going to have that good hair”. And I couldn’t believe it! She was pretty much saying oooh, girl your baby’s hair is not going to look anything like yours, good!… Read more »

Looker
Looker
6 years ago
Reply to  U.D.N.T.K

Don’t be fooled because I found out the hard way that white women feel the same way about black hair and skin tone and so do Latinos. They also point out “good and bad hair” Trust me. I have seen it with my own eyes. White people may give a back handed compliment to my son, For example they might say “Oh he has great hair” They don’t use the word “good” hair. But they mean he has better hair than my boyfriend and I do. Everyone wants to blame black women for promoting hair hatred, but other races just… Read more »

ro
ro
6 years ago
Reply to  Looker

I think we as the black community can change that. If we all walked around rocking our hair just the way it is; not showing everybody that we love a good weave, people would get the idea soon enough. E.g. some of my white friends have shown me that they don’t like their pale skin by the obsession with fake tan. I’ve received the message loud and clear. If we stop trying to cover up and alter our hair, we would give out the message that natural hair (with all its varying textures) is beautiful and we love it!

Olive
Olive
6 years ago
Reply to  Looker

I believe the only reason that other races make these types of comments about black hair because they have heard it from the black community. They just repeat the same things we say. The good hair/ bad hair started with us, therefore they are just reiterating what they learned from our community. If our hair of all different textures were praised in our community, then other races would know nothing else but praise and appreciation.

toni
toni
6 years ago
Reply to  Olive

I would disagree only to say the good/ bad hair battle started with slavery and we have continued it. You are right it has to start in our communities

Claudette
Claudette
5 years ago
Reply to  Looker

Where do you think Black people got that attitude from? My children know that mummy is very Afrocentric. I praise our hair and I’m very careful not to use that good hair/ bad hair rubbish around my children. I’m a 4a and so is my eldest but my youngest is definitely a 3 something. Of course both girls worship at the church of straight hair, but I don’t encourage that.

Looker
Looker
6 years ago
Reply to  U.D.N.T.K

And guess what white people are always assuming my hair is fake. And that I’m copying my sons hair. I’m like oh yes he has hair like mine and white p eople will ask “oh that’s your hair??” In shock.

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  Looker

Tell some of those idiots that you inherited your hair from your son !! That should give them something to think about !! LOL!!

iluvedges
iluvedges
6 years ago

Wow, I never knew…sad

Mimi
Mimi
6 years ago

Whoa people actually say things like that? I have heard people say things about babies hair changing texture but not in a bad way. They were just stating a fact, but to be so negative about it is just shocking. I wouldn’t blame any mother for snapping someone’s neck for making such a comment. A good cuss out may get people to start thinking twice before they make such statements.

Pat
Pat
6 years ago

Racism has done a number on people and they better stop mocking at what God created. I know that if a person procreates for skin tone and hair texture fate may allow for that child to look like what you hate. People better stop this foolishness and start looking at the inside of a person.

Janai
Janai
6 years ago

I have 5 beautiful brown children and yes I have heard ALL of the above comments times 5, In regards to all of my children. Last summer we were at a school picnic and an Ethiopian Parents Came Up To Me And Said “oh my goodness your son is sooo beautiful…His hair is straight! And he’s more beautiful than the others. You know more fair?!” I almost died right there on the schools lawn. My other children. We’re right there!!! I just walked away. How do you even respond to that foolishness. I had a long talk with my kids after.… Read more »

Me
Me
6 years ago
Reply to  Janai

Really? That’s a shame… My parents are ethiopian, and our culture doesn’t put a big emphasis on varying skin tones. Sad to see the prejudices that are coming in, especially towards children.

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  Me

I can vouch for that .In my college days I had numerous Ethiopian friends of varying skin tones & hair textures & that hair & skin drama never reared its ugly head. Just goes to show you how that disease infects immigrants who come here from other countries with people of color & the sad fact is, too many native born African Americans are carriers that keep passing it on????

SuZQ
SuZQ
6 years ago

Step away from my baby with such thoughts. He/She is beautifully and divinely made.

I’m just practicing for if I ever have children. No one is going to infer they are less than perfect in their God given features without a rebuke from me.

D.
D.
6 years ago

My younger brother was a very pale skinned, light eyed baby but my grandmother still tells the story of how shameful she felt when he yanked off his beanie as an infant and revealed his “nappy” hair.

Rochelle
Rochelle
6 years ago

I don’t even have children yet and at the first introduction to my boyfriend an Aunt who is light skinned with relaxed hair touched his hair looked at mine in it’s natural state and stated how tough our kids hair will be. We are both dark. I was embarrassed for her. I was not allowed to relax my hair until I was 18 and my Mom didn’t surround me with that negativity

Looker
Looker
6 years ago

Thank you for this article. I have a 2 year old. I have an older child as w ell. I happened to space my children very far apart by several years. But anyway, my boyfriend is a multicultural. Mostly he is African American guy. I would say he is 80% African American with light brown skin and grey hazel eyes but he does look African American. His skin is the same color as mine. we are BOTH about Tisha Cambells complexion maybe a little darker? I don’t know I’ve never really paid attention. However we are both considered light skinned… Read more »

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  Looker

You might have to find a dignified way to tell some of those heffas off with a a quick put down , esp if they make such remarks in front of your kids. That’s just plain rude & ignorant.

Val
Val
5 years ago
Reply to  NubianPrize

You sound just as racist and ignorant as these “white people with mixed children”
You can tolerate rude racist comments from black people but damn them if they are white. Questionable and biased if you ask me

CozyVon
CozyVon
4 years ago
Reply to  Val

Who said she tolerated rude comments from blacks any more than she did whites? I guess I missed that part. She was saying ignorance comes from BOTH sides. You sound mighty defensive, like someone probably guilty of making comments like that…that’s why you mad, lol?

Looker
Looker
6 years ago

I also can’t stand some biracial people. One day I was siting in my girlfriends house. She is a white woman and her daughter who is half black walks in. Somehow we got on the hair topic and then her daughter proceeded to say “Oh you’re gonna hate me because I have white girl hair” She giggled like it was funny. I giggled back and then I said why would I hate you?? Yes she had “white girl” hair. She got her mom’s hair . But her hair was no where on my mind and i happen to prefer my… Read more »

Danay
Danay
6 years ago

I CANNOT stand it when someone says something rude about a child’s skin color or hair. It absolutely makes my skin crawl. I’m just plain old brown skin, not light or dark according to the standards people set, and my fiance is dark skinned. We talk about having babies and I tell him all the time that I love his deep and smooth complexion and how I would love to have a little baby that looked like him. If this were to happen, I hate the fact that my future child would be subject to stupid and ignorant comments but I will… Read more »

Sabi
Sabi
6 years ago

I don’t have any babies, but some broad tried this type of fookery with me one day when I was hanging with my nephew. It pretty much went like this, she insulted my nephew, so I of course insulted her. I made sure I had a cheery tone and a smile on my face as I made sure she knew how f**ked her face and weave were too. You will not disrespect my family around me and think I’m just going to sit there and listen to it, I will say the most nasty thing I can think of to you… Read more »

Jei
Jei
6 years ago

Personally I think in situations like this (if it’s possible) throw back questions. Soon enough people hear their own ignorance and if it is your granny not meaning to be hurtful but is~ maybe it will give her something to reflect on. Those others who were just being straight up ignorant might even learn something or at least be put on the spot for thinking it is ever ok to make comments like that. Like the woman who had the audacity to say one of the other woman’s children was better than the other. Maybe crazy lady would have learned something… Read more »

Richincolor
Richincolor
6 years ago

I was a bald headed and fair skin baby and when people see my baby pic, they would say ” I bet you hate you turnt dark! ” Umm no, if I would have stayed the same, my mom would have to do a DNA test for me. Lol. I have no issues with the way I look. I see beauty in and on me. I grew up in the south where light skin and good hair ruled. Everybody and their grandma is part Indian and white. Lol. It’s embarrassing to me. Being black alone is not good enough. Having… Read more »

eljjai
eljjai
5 years ago

Lol, for some reason when I read the title it seemed as though the baby got werewolf hair or something. Turning on the full moon.

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

I was born a chocolate baby with curly hair and I’m still chocolate but I have mix of loose and tight curls and coils now . I’m regrowing my hair natural since mom permed my hair at 5 .

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

I know blacks who think their children are better because they are mixed with light eyes and loose silky curls or wavvy hair i avoid them at all costs I also know blacks who think light skin black babies are better than the darker ones . I avoid them too and I have mixed cousins and they never thought they were better we are all equal . All come in different shades and we are all a family.

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

I also have natural curly afro hair with tight curls and I now only love big curly afro hair and I find straight wavvy and white girl silky loose curly hair to be boring ever since I went natural what I saw as beautiful changed . I now find all shades of brown skin chocolate brown eyes green eyes gray eyes and hazel eyes to be the most beautiful .

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

My cousin the other day said she don’t want to marry a man with 4b/4c hair because she don’t want to have possibly have a daughter with 4c hair smh . I don’t care what type of hair my husband has but I do want a black husband with long hair because I love long hair rather it be dreads curly afro kinky afro whatever on black men because it’s gorgeous .

60
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Shopping Cart