On Friday evening (April 11, 2008), MSNBC aired
“Meeting David Wilson,” a documentary in which a 28-year-old
African-American by that very namesake goes to North
Carolina in search of his roots, ultimately meeting the white
contemporaries of the family that had enslaved his own, and
traveling to Ghana, his homeland of origin
as revealed by DNA testing.
After the program, MSNBC hosted a 90-minute “Conversation
About Race,” hosted by Brian Williams and held at Howard University. The panel featured a Who’s Who of thinkers - white and
black - who had gained entrance into the exclusive society of
those whose opinions and analysis are deemed creditable, controversial
and/or a cause for pause. Scholar Michael Eric Dyson, activist
Kevin Powell and Tim Wise, one of the most honest white men
in America , were
among the panelists. Also featured was Malaak Compton-Rock,
wife of comedian-actor Chris Rock and burgeoning do-gooder in
her own right.
The conversation discussed the ills of poverty,
the poor distribution of governmental resources, the composition
of today’s black households, the perils of black manhood and
the many negative connotations of blackness, as quintessentially
demonstrated in the “doll test,” in which black children overwhelmingly
find a Caucasian doll more appealing on grounds of appearance
and associated presumptions of intelligence and personality.
Constructions of beauty - “how aesthetics are
presented in the mainstream and the impact such images have
on the minds of black boys and girls” - briefly became the thesis
of the segment. Michael Eric Dyson mentioned how features such
as full lips and fuller behinds are vilified until they are
adopted by white women via implants and collagen injections.
Kevin Powell lamented the dearth of darker-skinned black women
in music videos.
But Malaak Compton-Rock stole the moment with
her quiet ignorance. Why, she wondered, did her three-year-old
daughter Zahra come home from school one day, sad that her hair
was not as long as that of one of her non-black friends? Momma,
do you like my hair? Compton-Rock said her daughter asked. She
told her daughter that, yes, she liked her hair and its fluffiness
and puffiness did not detract from its intrinsic and unique
said what most black mothers, seeking to reinforce their daughters’
self-esteem, would say, especially in a world that co-opts but
pays little homage to their beauty. But surely I was not the
only one spotlighting the elephant in the room. Here was Compton-Rock,
bemoaning her daughter’s ambivalence about her own hair, seemingly
befuddled and blaming society and the media, when she, herself,
was donning at least 18 inches of silky straight weave!
My question to Compton-Rock is, girl, have you
looked in the mirror lately?
Our daughters, in their formative years, copy,
mimic and role play everything their mothers do. As the mother
of two daughters, and - obviously - as a daughter myself, I
know this to be true.
If I wear pink, my daughter wants to wear pink.
If I put on lip gloss, my daughter reaches for her chap stick.
If I dish out a bowl of ice cream, my daughter begs for an ice
If we, as black women, go around looking like
make-believe, pretend white women, playing a bad form of dress
up so common that we no longer see it for what it is, well,
guess what? Our daughters will want to, too.
How can black mothers don unnatural-looking weaves
(or, for that matter, relaxers or contact lenses) in textures
non-representative of what naturally emerges from their follicles
and expect their daughters to be content with their kinky, coiled,
curly, zig-zagging, frizz-prone, comb-catching hair?
Black mothers, wear your hair natural, be it
nappy, curly, wavy, straight or any combination thereof. Be
it a close-cut Caesar, long and luscious locks, symmetrical
cornrows, free-flowing braids, trend-setting twists or an ambitious
Raising black girls in a world where Angelina
Jolie is praised for her pouty mouth and Jennifer Lopez for
her derriere, while one-third of black boys of the same age
are projected to spend time behind bars is complicated enough.
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards, a Nashville-based writer, poet
and communications professional, seeks to make the world a better
place, one decision and one action at a time. To her, parenting
is a protest against the odds, and marriage is a living mantra
for forward movement. Her work has appeared in MotherVerse Literary Journal, ParentingExpress, Mamazine, The Black World Today, Africana.com, The Tennessean
and other publications. She is the author of Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body & Spirit,
Life & Death
(2005) and is the founder and creative director of
The Pen: An Exercise in
the Cathartic Potential of the Creative Act, a nonprofit
creative writing project designed for incarcerated and disadvantaged
here to contact Ms. Edwards.