In part I get where the ire comes from. Women’s hair in general has oft been called their “crowning glory.” And for black women, even in these days of the natural revolution, it goes a step further. To many, hair isn’t just an accessory to beauty; it can also be a political statement, a reflection of self-love (and hate), an indicator of socioeconomic class, an equalizer for other perceived beauty flaws and more. To pretend that hair is considered “just” hair would be foolish.
But to be genuinely irritated over the state of a child’s hair is foolish. To point out the obvious: It’s not your kid. Children, as evident to anyone who has a child or has observed a few, also run, roll and jump as fast and as hard as they can. A well-groomed head in which painstaking time was spent to create a style of any sort can go to crap by midday, if it takes that long. And whatever free-for-all style was undone by all that expended energy should not be taken as a reflection of how much they are loved or their overall well-being.
And too, some kids, especially the little ones, don’t like their hair fussed with. A well-meaning mom (or dad) has to pick her (or his) battles, and maybe the time and energy to get the baby’s head “together” that morning just wasn’t worth the fight. That’s fine, too.
There’s also a deeper issue here: the idea that black girls — and, of course, women — have to “do” something to their hair to be presentable and acceptable. Clean, moisturized hair isn’t enough. In the case of black girls, it’s got to be pulled up into puffs, neatly parted and braided with baubles at the root and barrettes at the end, cornrowed, braided with extensions and, in some circles, even permed. Just letting it be and sticking a headband on it, based on some of the reactions to Beyoncé’s Blue, seemingly isn’t enough.
I wish the energy directed at the mothers of little black girls who just let their hair be were directed at the moms of young girls I’ve spotted with limp, overrelaxed ponytails or red bumps dotting their hairlines because their braids are too tight. A message definitely needs to be sent to the moms who, whether from styling their daughters’ hair in tight ponytails or heavy braids, are essentially erasing their daughters’ edges. That’s a real cause for concern. But Blue Ivy’s free-for-all curls? Hardly worth the effort.