Beauty, the Brush and Black Girl Pain

How one troubling YouTube video brought out the screaming little girl in all of us.

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At first blush, it looks like a familiar ritual in many black homes: A little girl with abundantly gorgeous, kinky-curly coils sits down with her mother/caregiver for a little grooming. Like most little girls, she’s none too happy to be participating in said ritual. So she lets her displeasure show.

And that’s when a harmless little ritual morphs into YouTube infamy, sparking a furious debate about black parenting styles and the difference between hair care and child abuse: We watch the mother/caregiver as she proceeds to “brush” the girl’s hair, pulling at it with a ferocity, yanking and yelling and telling the little girl to move her “goddamn hand.” “I’m trying to get these f****** naps out of your head so you can look like somebody,” she tells her.

It’s hard to listen to the little girl scream. It’s also hard to watch her try to escape, and to watch her mother—if it is indeed her mother—run after her, pinning her down with her thighs, “brushing” her hair with a vengeance, cursing her the whole time. You can see clumps of hair floating about.

The anonymous girl’s big sister—who posted the event on YouTube under the heading, “My Lil Sis,” and “Nappy Ass Hair 2,” films it all, laughing so hard that sometimes she can’t film straight: “America’s Funniest Home Videos!” she chortles.

Most of the viewers watching it on YouTube didn’t find it funny. It was flagged for child abuse, taken down from the site and then posted again. And then it went viral, cropping up on sites like Naturallycurly.com, Longhaircareforum.com and Cafemom.com. Some bloggers played detective, tracking down the provenance of the video and reporting it to authorities. (It looks like the video originated in Detroit.) Hell hath no fury like bloggers on a mission to save a child.

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