Sheryl Underwood’s disparaging comments about kinky hair jogged Danielle C. Belton’s memory about the negative things she’s heard black adults say to black children about their features. In a piece at Clutch magazine, Belton stresses the importance of grown folk not giving black children inferiority complexes about their brown complexions or hair texture.
The people who told me I was “bad” were not my parents, they were individuals like an old, hateful black elementary school library aide I had while growing up who regularly told us children (all black) how “bad” we were and how nappy our hair was and how that was awful and how the white children she taught at the other schools were much better, nicer, prettier children than us. They were people like some of the men I dated when I was much younger who would tell me they would break up with me if I ever cut my long, chemically straightened hair. My personality didn’t matter, nor were my face or charms. They dating a headful of hair — not me. And the hair had to stay.
Some folks on Twitter have asked who taught Sheryl Underwood to “hate herself.” More than likely she doesn’t see it that way like most people who’ve internalized that certain aspects of blackness are simply “bad.” She’s confused at the response she’s received because she was only stating the status quo, saying what others usually say in private to their daughters who go natural. What’s usually on heard by some grandmothers snickering about how your hair isn’t “good” enough to go natural, as if the 1970s and afros never happened. Mothers worrying about your “looks.” Strangers on the street, classmates and co-workers all passing judgment — does having natural hair make you some kind of radical? A feminist? A socialist? Did you just get dumped? Do YOU hate yourself for not straightening your hair, they imply?
Read Danielle C. Belton’s entire piece at Clutch magazine.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.