Neither Here Nor There: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Eritrean and Ethiopian Diaspora in America

October 14, 2009

People’s Confusion about Race, Ethnicity, and Identity Comes Out…on Zahara’s hair?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 3:01 pm
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Several weeks back I wrote a piece about hair being a component identity especially for people of African heritage (including African American.)  There is a new documentary called “Good Hair” by Chris Rock (I should specify it as part comedy part documentary) that discusses the issues for black women.  The response has been split where some thought he provided a lot of good information where as others felt this was a very serious topic that impacts women’s sense of self and self esteem – those in the second category did not appreciate his comedic approach to a topic they felt kept a lot of women down.  I haven’t seen it but I am curious to see if his wife, Malaak Compton-Rock, gives an opinion as I’ve been told she is part Ethiopian.

However, the reason I post this piece today is because of a link I received from a friend.  It is a blog in response to an online Newsweek Article that was written on how white adoptive parents are not good at helping their black children (especially daughters) take care of their hair.  It uses recent photos of Zahara as an example saying her white parents (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) were doing a bad job with her hair by letting her wear it curly and “uncombed.”  According to the argument white adoptive parents do not realize that black hair takes different types of care because they do not investigate the true cultural difference between their culture and their child’s culture (of origin).  They essentially raise their kids as a “white” child which then can (will?) cause problems for the child when they grow older and have to interact with the world that will be quick to point out that they are not “white.”  What really has me laughing (both out of frustration and humor) is that she is using the racist views of what “good hair” is to condemn Zahara’s parents.  Honestly, she raises a point that I have argued for some time:  cross cultural adoption can lead to MANY problems if the adoptive parents are not culturally aware enough to understand their own cultural background, their adopted child’s culture, and the culture they will raise their new child in.  It’s just funny for her to tell the Jolie-Pitts to get their daughter’s hair under control when the picture used for the article shows – in my mind – a clean, curly, oiled, natural black hairstyle – AKA a healthy natural look for a 4 year old Ethio (some would say black) girl!!

Anyway – the response blog addresses many of the topics brought up by this blog: cultural identity, living a dual cultural life, how coming to the U.S. at a young age impacts your cultural identity, how coming to the U.S. as a young child impacts others’ perception of your identity, African identity  compared to African American identity, and what is “good hair”.

Pay special attention to the reactions by the blog’s readers who are of many different ethnicities and cultures.

I would LOVE to hear your reactions to this!!

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