Side-eye of the week: Allison Samuels and Newsweek

Courtesy of Newsweek
Courtesy of Newsweek

I was just going through my Google reader and saw that Afrobella commented on a Newsweek article titled Zahara Jolie-Pitt and the Politics of Uncombed Hair. The article is causing a bit of an uproar. The author, a senior writer at Newsweek who I assume is a Black woman, is concerned about the condition of little Zahara’s hair. Pretty much she thinks it’s unsightly.

In recent pictures it’s clear Angelina Jolie hasn’t taken the time to learn or understand the long and painful history of African-American women and hair. If she had I can’t imagine she would continue to allow Zahara to look like she has in the past few months. Photos of  Zahara show the 4-year-old girl sporting hair that is wild and unstyled, uncombed and dry. Basically: a “hot mess.’’

Really? Calling the child’s hair a “hot mess”? Now, on some level, I agree that parents with Black children should know how to deal with that child’s hair. I think that’s a given. But making it seem as if Zahara’s hair is inherently bad/unkempt/messy because it’s not pulled back in two super tight pigtails is not right.

There are those who say there is nothing wrong with Zahara’s hair at all, that her hair is in its natural state and that’s just fine.  I say natural hair—afro, dreads, etc. is fine, if it’s maintained regularly or when the child is old enough to make that decision for herself. Until then, the child’s parents are responsible for their general care and upkeep. Zahara is not even old enough to know that her hair looks dry and damaged as it stands straight up on her head. But there will come a day when this beautiful little African girl will understand what it means to be an African-American woman in this society and realize unlike her younger sister, hers is not a wash-and-go world.

So, from the author’s perspective, Zahara’s hair should be relaxed or something until she’s old enough to decide to be natural? Because her parents don’t necessarily subscribe to a certain aesthetic for her hair there’s a serious problem? This is when I scratch my head. Honestly, the child’s hair looks clean and moisturized. Why do we think her hair should be laden down with products, snatched back into a style to be “acceptable” as one of Afrobella’s commenters said.

Allison, you have some issues, girl. With yourself and how you view the hair that grows out of your own head. I don’t know if you have daughters or interact with little Black girls on the regular, but you need to get it together. From reading your article, Black hair is not acceptable unless it is ‘done’ and forced into a style of some sort. Stop putting your issues on a child. If Zahara and her family are happy with how her hair is, so be it.

Visit some natural hair blogs — you’ll see that our hair really is wash-and-go-capable.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Relaxed Chick says:

    I was surprised to read Allison’s comments. Yes, she is a sister. I have her book on celeb interviews and it is insightful, frank, funny and well-written.

    But this doesn’t sound like her at all.

    I have no prob with Zahara’s natural hair state. Heck, that’s how we ALL grew up – whether in pigtails, lil’ afro puffs, Chinee bump (sorry, I’m Jamaican…not racially insensitive, that’s just what they call the hairstyle in JA), ponytails, etc.

    I don’t believe in relaxing a child’s hair. I started relaxing when I was 24. My hairdresser didn’t even THINK of relaxing my hair when I was 9 or 15.

    So that’s not the answer, Allison. Does Zahara’s hair look a lil’ unruly at times? Well, yes. But then she IS a child…she runs around, rolls on the ground, etc. Angie and Brad probably do their best to fix her up but she has little brothers and sisters that will rumble with her. Poof! Her hair is a little messy and the paps come out.

    Allison, my sister – lay off the kids. If it were a grown woman, then spew your comments to her. But it’s a child. Hush, nuh?

  2. Joanne Rattray says:

    For the life of me I can’t see what all the buzz is about. The baby’s hair looks wonderfully natural and cared for, much better than if she was always pulled together in plaits or canerows (as we call it in Jamaica).

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