What’s really at the root of the petition to comb Blue Ivy’s Hair?

First, let’s be clear what Change.org is. It’s a platform that allows anyone, anywhere to start a petition, mobilize support and bring about change in anything from local concerns to global issues. When a vehicle like this is made available to the public, you can expect everything from a drive to stop the Celebrity Boxing Match between George Zimmerman and rapper DMX to allowing children with Down’s Syndrome to receive organ transplants.

It’s also a place for people no one’s ever heard of to get famous for expressing an opinion many find disagreeable. The only thing more ridiculous than Jasmine Toliver’s Change.org petition to get Beyonce and Jay Z to comb Blue Ivy’s, hair is the time and energy so many people are putting into arguing how ridiculous it is. And yeah, I’m blogging about it, too, so judge me if you will.

I’m a fan of India Arie and her outspokenness. Through her music and otherwise, she advocates the importance of embracing who we are. She encourages people to be free spirits, free thinkers and to feel good about our natural selves. Her recent response to the silly Change.org petition said the right things, but I’m not sure the topic was worthy of her brilliance.

In an open letter to Blue Ivy’s hair critics, Arie appeals to their humanity by chastising them for publicly making fun of a child. Then, she goes on to say the following:

“Why NOT be a person who is loving towards human kind as a whole AND people as individuals?? WHY NOT be a person [who] protects the hearts of children? I think all these people making negative comments would feel the SAME WAY if Blue Ivy’s hair were TOO DONE. If she had a relaxer, of Hair pulled too tight at the edges. Being gentle with a child’s hair is simply appropriate – this goes the same for ALL children. Come [on] ya’ll Lol We are better than this.”

Books, blogs, movies, songs, plays, magazines, sonnets and tweets have been dedicated to helping the masses understand this hair thing that we as African-Americans have been saddled with since we were brought to this country in chains. I would suggest anyone, but specially Jasmine Toliver and the people who support her “movement” read the book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps.

If you thought because you know the significance of Madam C.J. Walker and can name the last 20 black hair trends of our era, that you really understood how deep hair is to our culture, you’re wrong. This book explains what happened when slaveholders shaved off the elaborate hairstyles of their captives, disrupted their identities and turned people into objects for sale.

For centuries, Africans and their descendants have used our hairstyles as one way to proudly honor our individuality. But many people don’t care enough to get to the root of the issue (pun intended). And so the criticism continues by Black people who are so messed up by having had our true identity stripped from us that we’re still worried about  getting approval from other races and not fitting in.

We are still so much like our ancestors on the plantation who internalized the pain of realizing that the slaves with the straightest hair (often the mixed-race offspring of slavemasters) got better treatment.

I have two sons who visit the barber shop regularly. But if I had a daughter, I can’t say for sure whether I would straighten her hair or choose to let it flow naturally. I can only hope that whatever I chose to do would not need the endorsement of anyone but her father and me.

If Jasmine Toliver expected to get a rise or even a comment from Blue Ivy’s parents, then her efforts were an epic failure. (Toliver now says the petition was a joke.) In a week or so, she can figure our some other strategy to raise her social media Klout score, because this topic will be done. But the fascination with Black hair will go on and on and on.

What’s your take?

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