Know that I would've rather embedded it here but it isn't actually allowed. To check out what I watched, refresh your memory, feel what I was feeling, just click the hyperlink.
I work with far too many girls who feel like the character, Kim, in this episode, where she's been likened to or felt she's the equivalent of a Mammy. Dark skinned. Nappy headed. Thick. Ugly. But all that takes place, in the scene that actually made me cry, that I haven't posted. What's hyperlinked above is the culmination of Kim's self acceptance & Whitley's attempts at making amends for her family owning slaves once upon a time. No matter how you feel about that, as a separate issue, it made Whitley feel as though she had no right to acceptance in the sisterhood.
& THAT also made me cry.
Why? Because our issues as Black women still run THAT deep. Slavery has a "post-modern" face now & the Jim Crow era is still very much alive & well, but using other aliases. & because of this, Black women--& subsequently Black men--still got issues with self & each other.
It was Friday night when I was looking for a picture of Anne Curry's winter fresh to death white coat on the Today Show's dot com. As I was searching I found the story of Thandie Newton's journey back to her natural hair. While I love the fact that Black women all over are finding the courage to be themselves against all odds, & determining that their health isn't worth the cost of years upon years of chemical exposure, I was less than moved by Thandie's story. The natural assumption to be made is that I'm drinking a glass of haterade in her honor over her mixed chick woes. & I am, but not for the reasons you think.
While watching A Different World I recalled this article, which sparked the tears. & I wasn't crying for me. See, I'm good. Great, even, with the state of my natural hair & all my Black Girl Parts. But all of us ain't there & ain't gon' get there no time soon. As some of my tears were of sadness, some were also of gratitude that I actually had this show as...a friend of sorts...to help me deal with & adjust to what the world thought of Me, reinforcing what my parents told us: you are better than what they think you are or say you are, now prove it. & then I cried some more because my own Brownins, girls & boys, don't have access to television like this. What they do have is watered down versions of scared writers or scared networks cranking out lazy material using characters who don't make the cut to reach the "average" Black girl. Instead we've got this (beware it's a partial episode):
The other "crucial part can be found here. But after that episode of Reed Between the Lines aired, my girlfriend, Big Slim hit me up, kind of an accidental follow up to a discussion we'd had during brunch Fall of 2010. This is what Slim had to say after the episode:
I tried. I really tried to give Tracy Ellis Ross's new show a chance. While I appreciate any efforts to present a non shucking and jiving black FAMILY on TV, this shit already gets an epic fail for two reasons- it's not funny and the writers/producers are artistic punks. Most shows ain't funny these days, so whatevs on that. The bullfuckery behind the episode I caught is the reason for my surly email. Tracy and Theo's (yes, he will ALWAYS be Theo) daughter is an aspiring actress who was told that she needed to wear a straight haired wig to get a part in the school play as well as impress her crush. Very common issue for our girls so claps to them for broaching it. Problem is the daughter could be part of the new Carol's Daughter campaign cuz ummm, for all colored intents and purposes, she got good hair. No disrespect to all the the Cree Summers type sistahs in the world, but I do not believe they experience the same shame around their hair texture as well as pressure to change it as the Serena types do. It's very hard for most young black girls who don't have Indian in dey family to watch shit like this and relate because the reality is that chicks with curls that blow in the wind ain't receiving the same amount of negative feedback in deeze streets as the chicks wit nappy naps. The episode was such a missed opportunity to tackle a painful issue that is very real for the vast majority of our girls. Furthermore, their casting of dark men (both Theo and the TWIN brother of the girl are dark) with fair-skinned women just perpetuates other plantation pathologies. Even when we try to get it right we get it wrong.
Simply put--this whole family is SAFE. Everybody's hair is curly, making it easier to swallow the brown father & the 1 child who is of him in this family. The episode ended politically correct in favor of what's happening with Black women currently, however, THIS child's decision to embrace her curls is still...SAFE. Basically, the little girl who looks like Kim from A Different World is NOT featured as part of the spectrum of what makes Black women beautiful in our variations. This "movement" to embrace natural hair is spurred by dollaz & cents & giving many the misimpression that that they'll find bouncy curls & smooth edges & if not, these products will do it for them. Nah, Son. This thinking, these promotions exclude the Kims of the world, leaving them out of the conversation & invalidating the beauty in the strength of their kinks & coils. Even the site whose link I used to give up the rest of the episode, honoring Black Girls in the process of embracing their natural tresses & saying no to the damaging chemicals of relaxers tends to feature spirally tendrils with very little shrinkage, caressing domestic & international shoulders. With a little hair smoothie, souffle, butter or a mask, you too can have... Yeah, Ok. But don't fret, in case you just wanna look "natural" but your natural hair doesn't do "natural," there's a silkener or a shingler (to the tune of about $500) to relieve you of that kinky mess you're growing.
Don't get it twisted. I am in NO WAY hating on the sista whose hair IS naturally those spirally tendrils. Some of my favorite people have curly/wavy hair. ((yeah, I just said that dumb isht)) That's not the issue at hand here. The issue is that they are the ONLY mascot for this reclamation, & that's DANGEROUS!! My own students pointed out to me that, while my hair definitely is more coarse than curly...it counts as curly. & because I'm light complected, I too am safe & have room to wear "looks" that "dark skinned girls can't wear cuz we'll get teased." My father's softer texture evened out my mother's combination of lamb's wool & Brillo pad. I don't have to wonder what I would do with a kinkier texture because I don't have it. I get joked at work for having Negro hair, but I was raised to love it so it doesn't bother me. I'm "happy to be nappy." But my babies ain't. The majority have hair so damaged they all need to scrap it & start fresh. But length, ANY kind of length is treasured more than healthy hair. & we straighten at all costs. I'm honestly not the woman who feels, as I've said, that you should be natural because I choose to be. I DO, however, believe that you should aim to have your body, which includes your hair, be as healthy as possible.
& it's my girls' issues with self hatred, dismal self esteem, that finally broke me as I watched TV Tuesday morning. I was crying for all of my little girls who will just never be healthy of mind, body, &/or spirit. I wish it was as simple as putting on a brief performance, going from Mammy to queen to convince these Brownins of their natural beauty, inside & out. Each 1 teach 1 feels too small. Impotence is much too heavy an emotion to carry, but I'll do what I can.
Please forgive my typos & my verbosity, but I've been walking with this all for 2 days, even discussing it with B.B. over dinner last night. It also had to end somewhere, perhaps abruptly, but I can't carry this anymore tonight. Meals await, a book to read, Life awaits after being on hold for what feels like weeks.
Watch me move.