Afros. Big ones, small ones, tight curled, loose curled. I love them. And so does my son, which is why at seven years old he decided to ditch the number one cut in the barber's chair and grow his fro. He was happy and proud of how much it had grown, but two years in it's become something of a frustration. Why? Because there are a few things he's getting tired of...
- Unrequited touching - I rarely see anyone start to randomly stroke someone's long flowing straight tresses, yet there seems to be an unwritten rule that it's ok to just start patting an afro, without asking permission, like it's a little puppy. It's not. In fact, if you think about it, it's kind of creepy.
- The assumption it's a trend - It's not. Yes we might be seeing more men and women embracing their natural hair, which is great, but it is just that, natural. And guess what, it ain't gonna change anytime soon. That's the hair they were born with, not some new fad.
- The assumption a 'statement' is being made - it's not. Yes sometimes people grow an afro to make a point, but, as is often the case when it comes to children, they are just growing their hair. Whilst some hair grows 'down', ours happens to grow 'up and out'.
- The shock of it being 'so soft' - My son has actually experienced people trying to lie on it like a pillow (still kinda creepy). Some people have soft fros, some people's are drier. The same way caucasian hair can be different textures. No matter how it 'feels' to touch, it's still just hair.
- Being asked how to wash it - Given that I haven't been able to procure the sweat of a baby unicorn or saliva of a dodo, we are having to resort to using shampoo and conditioner. But to my surprise, it works.
- It's 'difficult' - For some reason high street hair dressers seem to think this is an acceptable excuse not to even consider touching a person of colour's hair (sometimes before even knowing what they want). Yep our hair often needs to be handled differently, but difficult it is not. And with so many natural afros in this country, it's time more hairdressers took the time to up-skill (they clearly haven't realised how lucrative the afro hair market is)
I'm sure many an afro-sporting adult can relate to these points, me included. Whilst I might make some of these points with a hint of sarcasm, my point is that children might not take them so lightly.
By commenting, behaving and treating them differently simply because of their hair, their confidence can slowly be knocked, stopping them from wanting to celebrate who they naturally are, believing the people that tell them their hair is messy or 'unprofessional', ultimately feeling pressured to comply with a mainstream, western expectation of what 'normal hair' looks like.
Make no mistake, I'm not against relaxers, braids or a shaven head in my son's case, but I'm more a fan of confidence building, equal treatment and letting people just be.
So, this World Afro Day, I leave you with a message from my son: "It's only hair. Get over it."
For more of Claire's musings on motherhood and more, visit www.mumsomnia.wordpress.com