A Response to Hair Haters

Illustration for article titled A Response to Hair Haters

Black hair is having its season. The New York Times declared it “still tangled in politics” and my story in Time explored why Michelle Obama’s hair matters. These were against the backdrop of The Michelle Hair Challenge, The Politics of Michelle Obama's Hair, Beauty, the Brush, and Black Girl Pain, and abundant chatter all over the internet. Looming hilariously just a month or so in the future is the release date for Good Hair, the Chris Rock documentary that will put a much-needed humorous spin on the whole thing.


But among the online comments responding to all the black hair analysis is a noticeable thread of distaste - outrage, even - that this "pathetic" topic unique to black women is being explored in mainstream settings. No matter that each piece of black hair analysis deliberately unpacks why the issue is more than just cosmetic.

I'm perplexed and disturbed by this disdain for that which isn't personally relevant. For example, I just can't get into sports. With football season approaching, I'll soon have to explain to super bowl party hosts and fantasy league coordinators that a game to me is just meaningless colors flashing against a green background. Every fall, someone breaks down the rules for me. Despite my best intentions, I tune out somewhere around first down. But I understand that the game and the culture that surrounds it are important to many. Sentimental. Sometimes even central to identity. So, I have never been moved to make furious comments on ESPN.com, or to position myself in front of the plasma screen yelling, "It's just a GAME! Who cares?!”

You see, I understand that not every part of American culture is tailored to my personal interests and experience. I attribute this partly to the fact that I do not have narcissistic personality disorder, and partly to the fact that as woman of color, I'm used to it. In areas that expand way beyond sports. My identity isn’t threatened by being less than 100% tuned-in to a particular discussion. In fact, being an outsider can be enlightening.

So I suggest that those responsible for the sentiment behind all the hair hate should approach the issue the way I do football. Attend the party. Make an effort to appreciate it. If you find that you truly can't, please just sit down somewhere and wait for the season to pass.

— Jenée Desmond-Harris