Unlearn Everything

Your biracial child deserves to look presentable too

Sabrina Ftouhi

More stories from Sabrina Ftouhi

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When I was 5, I remember my mom cutting off all of my hair because she couldn’t handle it anymore.

When I was old enough to sit on a stool, my mom would brace herself for the screams and tears as she did my hair.

When I was 5, I remember my mom cutting off all of my hair because she couldn’t handle it anymore. My childhood was full of paddle brushes being ripped from my scalp to ends and my hair was paper thin with almost no real curls.

I remember going to the hair salon and getting the ugliest haircuts. When I would walk in I swear the stylists looked like they wanted to draw straws.  

My most embarrassing moment to date was my eight year old self going in for a simple trim. The lady who reluctantly agreed to cut my hair combed it out and made me look like a clown. 

In the middle of the haircut, she stormed off. 

Up until I was 16, I only wore my hair in a bun because I had no clue what to do with it. 

My friends asked me why I never wore it down, but when I wore it down, they would ask me why I never straightened it. 

I didn’t understand why something like that made me feel so defensive, and then I met J.Cole. 

Although I’m not the biggest fan these days, in high school I worshiped this man’s music. He was the first artist I had come by that wrote about being a mixed kid.

Music helped me form this part of my identity, but not as much as my hair routine. 

When I was 15, I remember being frustrated with doing the same sloppy bun. When I would wear my hair down I drenched it in mousse so it would be rock hard and look wet the whole day. 

As I grew older, I noticed I wasn’t the only mixed kid suffering from internalized hair hate. I don’t know if it’s the same way in other regions of the country, but up here it’s different. 

More often than not, I’ve seen mixed kids of white moms come to school with a matted mess or a perm. How can y’all be so lazy? If your kid comes out of you with a different hair type, it is still up to you to learn how to take care of the hair and make sure your kid would look just as good if they had straight hair.

Impatience is not an excuse. 

I also want to touch on the differences of mixed kids who have white moms compared to the ones with Black moms. That’s a whole other unlearning for later.

I can’t stop non Black people from appropriating hairstyles, but I can tell you this: It’s not “just hair.”

As a mixed person with a white mom, I received absolutely no help with something so mundane. When I finally grew tired of the same unhealthy hair habits, I actually had to consult YouTube to learn how to take care of myself. 

In the present, my hair is like a flouncy moisturized lion’s mane and I couldn’t be more proud. But part of me is still mourning the fact that I never had any Black women around me in my early life to teach me proper skills and history behind it. 

Again, I can’t tell anybody what hairstyle to wear. I will say that appropriating these hairstyles is not only offensive to Black people who have been wearing these styles for generations, it’s also deeply offensive to those of us who never got to experience the culture through our hair. 

Ftouhi can be reached at [email protected]