the time Barack Obama became a fixture on the national stage, I
have eyed Michelle Obama with an uneven mix of appreciation and
not about her fashion sense, though she’s been ridiculed for accentuating
her hips and baring her toned arms by folks with twisted aesthetic
sensibilities and outright hate.
not about her countenance, though she’s been attacked for not smiling
enough, scowling at inopportune times and having a toothy grin.
not about her skin tone, though some mainstream magazines lightened
her up a few shades when they placed her on their covers.
about her hair.
we have a sister in one of the most visible, transformative positions
on the planet, and she’s wearing colonization on her crown.
don’t care if she has a relaxer or is “really natural” and “just”
presses or flat irons her hair. My issue is that she apparently
feels the need or inclination to rock a straight ‘do; that she just
may have a standard that posits straightened hair as an ideal, when
she could forever change the way black men and women – and non-black
persons nationally and globally – perceive and react to our natural
curls, kinks, coils and zigzags.
not the only one who feels this way. I informally surveyed some
black women just to make sure I wasn’t off target.
think the standard that some black women choose to exemplify in
terms of their appearance would be different because she’s in a
role to be a trendsetter,” said a 20-something sister.
she did that it would be a huge statement,” said another 30-something
who presses her hair and wears hair pieces on occasion. “I would
identify with that gesture as I did with the two Olympians who held
their fist in the air at the Olympics. We have been brainwashed to believe that we are not ‘pretty’
unless we go blonde, add tracks or process our hair straight. The
funny thing about all of it is that now white women are spending
LOTS of money trying to be like the one image they have tried to
change for so many years – the image of a black woman.”
so I’m not crazy. Nor am I alone in my opinion that if Mrs. Obama
sported some twists, a fro, or, dare I suggest, locks, she could
change the world. She could make black girls see the beauty in their
natural-born selves and do away with the age-old towel-hair dress-up
game. Her image could transform the hair care industry and stimulate
the black economy. We’d have less trepidation about wearing natural
hairstyles in the workplace or on a job interview. Sisters could
go swimming and not care about being seen out in public with their
organized fuzz in full view. Brothers would realize, en masse, that
there is something cosmic and convenient about being with a woman
who doesn’t need an arsenal of thermal tools or chemical treatments
to keep up her appearance.
Michelle Obama cannot be completely averse to natural hair. Her
older daughter, Malia, is frequently photographed with cornrows,
twists and braids. We as mothers have a responsibility to our daughters
that transcends providing for their basic needs. We have an obligation
to project an image that reflects the self-esteem we want them to
radiate. For a long time, I have believed that black
mothers should wear their hair naturally.
discussion isn’t about options, manageability or convenience – the
rationales that black women who straighten their hair often rely
on for their opening arguments. We have an agenda that is bigger
– and loving – ourselves, as Yahweh made us.
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards is a Nashville-based communications expert, writer
and poet whose works have been featured in The Root, The Washington
Post, National Public Radio, Black Magnolias Literary Journal, Parenting
Express, Mamazine, Mamaphonic, The Black World Today, Africana.com
and new work will be featured in the inaugural issue of Mythium.
She is the founder and editor of the forthcoming online literary
and has taught creative writing at the Tennessee Prison for Women.
to contact Ms. Edwards.