It took an Italian puppeteer on Sesame Street to do for African-American women and girls what Chris Rock's Good Hair should have done. A brown girl muppet with of mop of curly hair has become a social networking sensation and media darling as a result of 1 minute and 52 second video on You Tube.
Two concerned fathers, two different approaches. Joey Mazzarino, head writer for Sesame Street and father of 5 year-old, Segi, his adopted daughter from Ethiopia said that his inspiration for the song came about when his daughter said that she “wanted her hair to be long or blond like Barbie or a princess.” Rock’s daughter asked him, “Daddy why don’t I have good hair?” which inspired him to create the Good Hair documentary. I was excited about the film, but I left the theater disappointed. What I thought would have been an exploration of the whole notion of “good” hair in the African-American community that still exists today ending up being a not very funny or enlightening look the fact that so many Black women are obsessed with the notion of “good” hair as defined by a European standard. But Rock never explored the “why” behind the longing for what many of us don’t have naturally.
I wear my hair closely cropped sans chemical intervention, and I’m definitely not advocating that all Black women and girls cut their hair off and go natural. I’m happy with the choice I’ve made, but I also know what it took for me to make peace in my head with what’s on my head. I really just want to see us get rid of this ridiculous notion of “grade” or texture and length as what defines “good” hair. No matter what’s on top--relaxed or not, braided or locked, long or short— good hair is simply hair that is healthy.
In my work as an educator I see daily that hair is still an issue. I see the children who worship the long hair goddesses asking for permission to touch or stoke their hair. I hear “nappy headed” and “bald-headed” as insults regularly. Far too many African-American women and girls still believe the lie about the lye (relaxer). I see girls whose hair has been eaten away around the hairline where it is most fragile and broken off and badly damaged by misuse of chemicals. Chemically processed hair requires more maintenance, not less. And this mess that some of us put in our hair is truly unbeweaveable. In this day and age, even with the magic of relaxers and the wonders of weave, far too many of us are still trapped because we allow our hair to hamper our life styles—translation: we are not getting our hair wet nor are letting anyone mess it up. Run your fingers through what?
Rock resigns himself to the possibility of his daughters getting relaxers and wearing weaves, and that’s fine, but I wonder if his daughters saw Mazzarino’s muppet would it make them love their natural hair?