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Here Are Some Tips For Black Hair Care For White Parents

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While there is literature exploring the relationships that Black women form with each other through doing hair, there is a noticeable lack of discussion about how white parents care for their Black children’s hair. My research focuses on online Black hair care resources that cater to white parents of Black children and seeks to understand how white parents find resources and form community centered around Black hair care. Through performing a content analysis on two online Black hair care resources, I find that 1) there is an abundance of online Black hair care resources and communities for white parents to explore; and 2) not all white parents will utilize these resources unless prompted by an outside source, usually an older Black woman. I expand on these findings and discuss Black hair as it relates to the formation of both Black and white racial identities as well as the shaping of kinship ties. It is important to note that this research primarily discusses white adoptive parents of transracial families, but does include white biological parents of biracial Black-white children as well. Black Hair Care For White Parents

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Here Are Some Tips For Black Hair Care For White Parents




There are many scholarly and cultural works that examine the bonds that Black women form with each other through doing hair. The relationship that hair cultivates between Black mothers and their daughters encompasses a unique and layered bond informed by the passing down of beauty standards, the acceptance or rejection of those standards, and hours of hands on heads of coily, textured hair. As a biracial woman raised by a white mother, I did not experience this type of bonding that appears to be a large part of Black girlhood for many. My hair journey began with the revival of the natural hair movement, as Black women took to social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to share their hair routines, tips and tricks, and go-to products with the goal of helping Black women and girls embrace their curls. My relationship with my mother and my relationship with my hair were largely separate, however, there are many white mothers who seek to care for their Black children’s hair. This research seeks to explore that relationship, specifically in the context of social media platforms, while addressing the following questions: What resources are available to white parents of Black or biracial children that specifically address transracial families and their children’s hair care? How have white parents of Black or biracial children found resources and cultivated community centered around their children’s hair care? How has social media aided parents in their search for resources and community?

As there are few studies that focus on white parents in relation to their Black or biracial children’s hair specifically, I will focus primarily on the current natural hair movement on social media while providing context by looking at racial dynamics within Black-white families. This research will first illustrate the importance of hair within the Black community and its significance to Black girls and women as it aids in both forming a racial identity and creating community. Next, I will examine how the rise of social media platforms contributed to the resurgence of the natural hair movement and made curly hair care more accessible to the masses, and how that expansion impacted Black women and girls. Finally, I will dive into racial consciousness in Black-white families and explore how agents of socialization differ across racial lines. Here I will focus specifically on how hair plays a role in these racial and familial dynamics through both peer reviewed study as well as providing examples of spaces both online and physical where white people discuss doing Black hair.


Black Hair and Beauty Socialization

The relationship between Black girls and women and their hair has been explored extensively, and we know that Black people’s perception of their hair often mirrors their perception of themselves. In her book Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness, Ingrid Banks argues that Black girls’ and women’s understanding of beauty is inextricable from their relationship to and perception if their own hair. In chapter one, “Why Hair Matters: Getting to the Roots” Banks presents the social, cultural, and political contexts of hair through interviews with several young Black women who wear their hair in varying styles. She introduces the idea that Black women “go through a socialization process in which hair is central,” and in turn connect conceptualizations of value, respectability, beauty, and desirability directly to hair.1 How many young Black women and girls decide to wear their hair is a direct reflection of the acceptable beauty standards that they have learned from society. In addition to the conceptual, one interviewee named Isha focuses on the physicality of her hair. The physical characteristics of her hair such as the kinky, coily texture, length, and color, as well as the process of cleaning and caring for her hair in addition to manipulating it into certain styles are central to Isha’s relationship with her hair. While she accepts that hair is related to constructions of beauty that help to shape the perceptions that Black women have of themselves, she also recognizes that hair is more than just a construction and honors the physical relationship that she has with her hair. But what happens when Black women do not have the foundation they need to masterfully manipulate their hair? For many Black and biracial children raised by white parents, haircare falls to the wayside as inexperienced white parents fail to take adequate care of their Black children’s hair.2

Movements relating to Black liberation in the face of white beauty standards, help Black and biracial children develop a sense of pride in their Blackness that they may not be able to achieve on their own when raised by white parents who (subconsciously or unconsciously) reinforce those standards. The phrase “Black is beautiful” arose and spread quickly through African American communities in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A response to decades of discrimination and ostracization at the hands of white supremacy, “Black is beautiful” referred to “the newly expressed appreciation of dark skin dark skin and tightly curled hair.”3 In Ain’t I a Beauty Queen, Maxine Craig describes four cultural contexts from which the “Black is beautiful” movement emerged. These contexts include: resistance to the dominant beauty standard, generational differences regarding the ideas of respectability politics, hair becoming political, and the creation of a “pigmentocracy” Craig explains that the “Black is beautiful” movement is the product of a generation that rejected years of adhering to the dominant white beauty standard in order to embrace Blackness as it came naturally.

Social Movements and Social Media

Over the last two decades, many Black liberation movements have shifted online. The most recent hair movements, most notably the resurgence of the natural hair movement, gained popularity on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. As more people acquired access to the conversation surrounding Black women’s hair, divisions within these movements began to arise. Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps illustrate how, in the first decade of the twentieth century, the rise of the internet exacerbated the already clashing opinions on what constitutes natural hair and “good hair” in the eighth chapter of their book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, entitled “The Divided Decade: The Early 2000s.” The popularization of social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provided Black women with a space where they could be in conversation with each other about issues pertaining to their hair care and allowed them to build community in which natural hairstyles were celebrated rather than rejected. However, not all natural hairstyles were accepted within the natural hair movement. Black women with “kinkier” hair textures were not readily embraced by the natural hair community compared to their looser-curled counterparts. In response to this, individual Black women with coily hair created blogs where they would detail their hair routines, give product recommendations, and even share their personal natural hair journeys hoping to reach women of similar textures.

Recognizing this division, Tameka Ellington conducted research that details Black women’s experiences with forming community around their natural hair via social networking sites (SNS). Her article entitled “Social networking sites: a support system for African American women wearing natural hair” discusses a study in which seventeen college-aged Black women voluntarily participated in weekly two hour discussions about the impact of SNS on their experiences wearing natural hair. Through this study, Ellison found that all participants cited that SNS had positive impacts on their relationships with their hair. YouTube was the most popular SNS among the participants who either observed or actively participated in vlogs and other hair-care videos or channels. Even with mostly one-sided interaction, the use of SNS was shown to increase self-esteem relating to natural hair, increase understanding of hair texture and terminology, and change perceptions of what it means to have “good” or “bad” hair.6 These results indicate that there is strength in numbers, and when it comes to developing a better understanding of Black natural hair, community is key.

The emergence and popularization of social media platforms and networking sites not only expanded the discussion on Black hair within Black communities, but large social media movements such as #teamnatural and others catapulted the natural hair movement into the public eye. Black women’s hair became a frequent topic of debate whether in the mainstream or within natural hair communities themselves. It also thrust Black hair into white consciousness. White people became involved in the business of Black women’s hair—intentional or not.

Black Hair and White Racial Consciousness

Margaret O’Donoghue seeks to explore the development of white racial consciousness in her article “Racial and Ethnic Identity Development in White Mothers of Biracial, Black-White Children.” She conducts a study interviewing eleven middle aged white women who are married to African American men and raising their biological biracial children, arguing that their position as white women in society differs from other white women based upon their proximity to Blackness and their understanding of the Black experience in America through those closest to them. The study finds that these white women are more likely to exhibit awareness of their whiteness and the privilege that it grants them, especially as they witness the racism that their husbands and children are subjected to. The difference between these white mothers of biracial children and other mothers in transracial families is their close proximity to adult Black experiences. In transracial families with Black children and two white parents or one white single parent, those parents are less likely to explore their racial identities and therefore less likely to think critically about their children’s racial identities unless otherwise prompted.7

Kathryn Mariner discusses the plight of the other mothers—white mothers of transracial families with Black children—and the symbolic importance that hair plays in establishing kinship ties. This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork with adoptive parents, social workers, and hair-care professionals in and around Chicago from 2009 to 2016. She argues that “transracial adoption further complicates the politics of Black hair, as white parents are disciplined (often by Black women) in the proper care of their Black children’s hair.”8 White adoptive parents of Black children face the unique struggle of parenting their children under the Black gaze. While Black Americans are certainly familiar with living under white scrutiny, white people generally do not face the same daily interrogations. However, white parents of Black children are aware of Black women’s eyes on them at all times.

Mariner observes that “mastery of hair becomes a visible marker of both race and kinship. Mastery of hair is a way to produce kinship—to show a child is being cared for—yet that mastery fails to mask racial difference, which in turn threatens to undo kinship.9 However, a new abstract form of kinship is created as white parents in transracial families and Black women appear to have an unspoken co-parenting arrangement grounded in Black children’s hair care. Learning the intricacies of Black hair care is integral in developing a strong familial bond that both validates white parents’ positions as primary caregivers while also honoring Black children’s racial identity. With a desire to explore this further, the following sections focus on white parents of Black or biracial children and their use of social networking sites to find resources and create their own community when it comes to their children’s haircare.

Methods and Data

The principal method of data collection is a content analysis of two hair care resources geared towards white parents of Black children. The first resource is Britney Brown, an adoptive mother of Black children who uses the social media platform TikTok in order to share Black hair-care tips and tricks with other white parents of Black children. The second source is a Black-woman-founded non-profit organization called Styles 4 Kidz, which provides textured-hair education, services, and resources for kids and families in the biracial, transracial, and foster care communities. I chose these two sources because they illustrate that there are a wide variety of resources available for white parents looking to develop skills relating to and gain a better understanding of their Black children’s hair.

My points of analysis features two categories: model and content. When analyzing the model of a source I look for whether the source is an independent creator or a part of an established organization, whether it is for-profit or non-profit, whether it offers a physical service, virtual services, or a combination of both, what social media platforms are used, its target audience and actual audience, and its reach in number of views. When looking at content I note if the source discusses hair care, if the source discusses hair as it relates to Black children’s identity, if it offers product reviews and recommendations, and the overall services that the source provides.

As the table above illustrates, both sources use social media platforms in order to promote and/or publish content. Brown has the most reach at 8.5 million views on a video in which she gives a tutorial on how to do a particular style of braids on her Black daughter’s hair compared to a promotional video about Style for Kidz with 1.4 million. However, it is important to note that these sources use different primary social media platforms. Because TikTok videos are shorter and viewing is more random, it makes sense that Brown would generate more views in a shorter period of time. Due to her wide reach, Brown attracts audience members outside of her target audience. Her comment section on TikTok is filled with not only other white parents of Black or biracial children, but also Black or biracial children of white parents, as well as other Black people, mainly Black women, encouraging her to keep making videos about Black hair care.



There you have it, Here Are Some Tips For Black Hair Care For White Parents

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