Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Knee-Grow-fied Hair, Zebra Couples, And The Fresh LaFlesh

Dear Gentle Reader,

I feel so weird these days wearing my hair in a limp, stringy style I like to call "The Sophisticated Knee-Grow". And, as soon as I took a hot iron to my wavy tresses, I noticed how many sistahs do something similar to achieve a so-called "relaxed" hairstyle. Does that mean if we leave our hair in its natural, curly state, it's "tense" or "uptight"? Why must we make the effort to get our hair to "chill" anyway?

I suppose our approval ratings among the dominant majority go up when our hair is not so threatening as it is when worn natural or in an Afro, braids, or the mack daddy of them all--dreadlocks. There's no getting around it, mixed/black and black hair is political. Back in the day, you were either with us (sportin' a big bushy natural) or with them (toning down any perceived statement of anger with a perm and a press). As militants, we were proud to have hair that was untamed--just like us. Nobody named Toby around here! Nowadays, though, it seems that the 1970's never happened. I see so many weaves and wigs on sistahs in every walk of life. And, look at me. I'm using a hot iron! Why? As usual, I have no answers; just lots of questions.

Speaking of Knee-Grow-fied hair, I recently attended a screening of Samuel Jackson's new flick, Lakeview Terrace, in which Mr. Jackson plays an L.A. cop incensed that his new neighbors are a zebra couple. More about that mess later. But in one scene, his teenage daughter, wearing the "Sophisticated Knee Grow" hairstyle, emerges from their next door neighbor's swimming pool. As Kerry Washington's character hands the teen a towel, Kerry's Chaka Khan-like curls bounce and glisten in the sun. The women's hairstyles are a study in contrast. The teen then tells Kerry, "I like your hair". Instead of the obligatory "thanks" that Kerry utters, I think she should have said, "Well, youthful sistah, now that you got your hair wet, just go take a nap without drying and it'll go back home for you." Get it? Take a nap? A nap? Anyway, it was clear that the screenwriters had no clue about black women or, more importantly, the importance of black women's hair to other black women.

What a disappointment. I was looking forward to seeing how Hollywood would approach the story of a black man enraged by his new neighbors being a black woman and her white husband. But not once are we told anything of the history of interracial relationships. Why do so many black men see red when they see black and white? Hello! Does anyone remember a little thing called slavery? How about when white slavemasters raped black female slaves while black male slaves watched helplessly? If the writers would've written that fact in as a sort of a collective consciousness inherent in some black men like Samuel's character, I would've bought the story. But, no. Warning: Spoiler Ahead! Instead, this movie, directed by Neil Labute (In The Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors) wants us to believe that the real reason Samuel's character got his drawers all up in a bunch is because his own black wife died in a car crash in the middle of the afternoon while--get this--she was riding around with her white male boss. Lawd. Here's a rare opportunity to put real issues on the table, and what we get is Kerry 's character and her husband (Patrick Wilson) avoiding the "i" word (interracial) like the proverbial elephant in the room. I know there are mixed-race folks out there just dying to share their well-told tales with the world, and instead we're regulated to Hollywood telling us how it is (not!).

Anyway, don't go looking for any history lessons in Lakeview Terrace, but do look for my friend, VALERI ROSS, who plays "Old Lady" in a scene stealer. Me and Val go way back. That's a pix of the talented actress above with me outside an L.A. restaurant circa 2000, I think. The woman between us is writer/teacher Gabrielle Pina.

So far, it's been a wonderful week. The chill author of Biracial Hair, Teri LaFlesh, sent over photos of herself looking fresh in a Hip Hapa Hapa*Teez t-shirt. Instead of hatin' on the sultry sistah, get your own shirt and then send me a snapshot of you in it so I can post it here and on the new Watermelon Sushi website which will be up soon. It will so be up soon! Yes, it will! And, don't forget, you earn a rear crawl credit with your purchase. Contact me at for more info.

Meanwhile, I remain...

Your Hip Hapa,

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