“Oohh Child! Nappy, nappy, nappy! We have to get you a perm! I can’t believe I have you out here on these streets with you walking around with all these kinks in your head! Just all out in the open. We’re going to have to nickname you Lil Nappy!” stated the young mother, yanking her child’s head in a too-tight ponytail.
Being what people might call “nosey,” I continued to watch the scene of the small 7 or 8-year-old girl being scorned by her loud mother. As in most cases, the young girl was not worried about her hair before her mother made those comments. Her attention was fully on her Cookie Monster doll as she sat on the bench, kicking a pebble in a circular motion. As soon as her mother was finished with her rant, the young girl began to touch her hair over and over again as if she was trying to hide it from the world. She put down the doll and asked, “What’s wrong with my hair?”
After taking mental notes of the entire situation, all I could do was shake my head and walk away. The simple fact that she kept calling her child “Lil Nappy,” and not saying it in a positive manner, made me almost choke on my cappuccino. But the true issue that stabbed me like a knife was that the mother was simply passing down her insecurities to her daughter. Her daughter was perfectly content, and not worried about how her hair looked, until her mother drew negative attention towards her natural curl. At that point, her childhood daydreams quickly turned to thoughts about her hair and how she could hide it.
As Black women, we know that hair is a touchy subject that we keep close to our hearts. From weave to natural to perm, we all have our personal opinion of why our style is the best to rock. Once we grow older, our opinions may change due to life experiences, the finding of ourselves, or simply a change of heart. Especially if you transitioned from relaxed to natural hair later in life, you may go through a mental transition of shedding a stereotypical perspective of beauty that you were taught in your early years.
It’s understandable that there is not a rule book for teaching and parenting a child. It’s a learning process, but one must realize that the parent is the most influential person in the life of a child. What a parent teaches and says to a child holds weight, and will always settle in her or his mind.
At the end of the day, children are beautifully untainted when it comes to the world. They either become more uplifted, or jaded, by what they are taught. Being a young Black girl is a tough road to travel, and it creates a heavier load when you learn that your natural self is not good enough at the tender age of 7. Whether you’re a mother who wears her hair natural, perm, or weave—allow your child to embrace her true self. Black women are constantly taught through media that we are not beautiful enough, and transforming is the key to opening the door to beauty. It’s our responsibility to stop the cycle.
– Ellisa Oyewo