Archive for the ‘black folk 101’ Category

Just a couple days ago my daughter said her daddy was “blue” because the shirt he was wearing was blue. Apparently I was red because that was the color of my shirt. I was beginning to think perhaps it is true what some people claim to believe… Kids are colorblind to skin.

I’ve never honestly felt that way; that children, or people in general are colorblind to race. It’s natural to recognize someone looking different than you, or out of the ordinary. Whether it’s someone with red hair, blond hair, brown skin—whatever. We aren’t blind, and it’s ok to notice these things. But do children?

happy-little-girl-with-fall-leaves

Tonight, my daughter dropped a bomb on me: “Mom, why are you brown and I’m not?”

“What?” I looked down at my shirt, to see if that’s what she meant. But she clarified just as I was checking.

“Your skin. Why is your skin brown, and mine’s not?” She asked.

“Yours isn’t?” I thought it might be best to answer her question with questions to see where she was coming from.

“No. See?” She held up her arm for me to inspect.

“Well, who told you that?” I immediately became suspicious of kids at school. Kids at school are always bringing new things to her attention. She just started a new preschool, and maybe someone said something about us after drop off.

“Well, Daniel Tiger says…” (She broke out in a tune) “In some ways we are different, and in some ways, we are the same.”

Damn that tiger.

No really, it’s not his fault, or any fault at all. In the episode on the PBS show the differences they highlight are a kid walking using braces, and not everyone having a tail. From what I can tell, my daughter taking it to the skin color discussion was all on her own.

little-girl

“That’s right,” I said. “But what color are you?”

She wasn’t sure how to answer this either, she looked around the room, maybe for a comparison.

“Well, my kitchen is white…”

“Yes…” I said. Waiting to hear more. “Like you?” I questioned.

“No.” She said.

“Oh ok, well what’s daddy? Is he brown too?” I asked, trying to see where she was going with this.

“No, he’s yellow. Like me.” She decided.

“Oh ok,” I answered. “What about your brother?”

“He’s yellow too,” she professed. “Me, and daddy and [my brother] are yellow. And only you—“ she stopped to change her mind. “You and Snoop are brown.”

The dog and I are brown. I smiled, as I learned the workings of my preschooler’s thoughts of the world.

“Ok. And is brown pretty?” I braced herself for her answer. But I was really curious what she’d say.

“No,” she responded point blank.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because brown’s not my favorite color.”

“Is mommy pretty?” I asked.

“YES!” And she dove into my lap for a hug.

“Mommy?”

Oh great what now. “Yes?”

“Can we play with blocks now?”

And as quickly as that, the conversation was over.

exploring-the-world

Later, after she was tucked into bed, then came back out of her room sneaking some extra mommy time, she brought it up again while pointing to a photograph of herself against her daddy’s skin and said: “I don’t want my skin to be this color.”

This comment shocked me the most out of everything, but again, I tried to stay cool and keep with the questions, versus answers.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because I’m brown, and that’s not my favorite color.”

“Oh, well what color do you want to be?” Again, I braced myself for her answer.

“Purple.” She said.

I took a small sigh of relief. Apparently I’m ok with my daughter wanting to be purple. I just said “ok” (whatever kid!). It was late and she was trying to delay bedtime at this point.

“You’re beautiful the way you are.”

As I suspected all along, kids aren’t colorblind, they notice things. Though it’s not always on her mind that “mommy is brown.” For some reason it came to her mind in this moment, and was gone the next. The same thing happens with conversations with my husband. I don’t constantly think about being married to a white dude… Or even dwell on the fact that I’m black. It rarely comes up at home because we’re just mommy, daddy, wife, and husband; adorable kids… A family.

Biracial-questionsShe’s exploring and learning about the world around her, in all sorts of aspects of her little life right now. I think. I hope. No, I PRAY it’s a long time before we have a deeper skin color conversation that deals with wanting to be colors other than purple. But who knows, maybe it will never happen. And if it does (because honestly, I suspect every child, every color at some point wishes they could look like someone else) I hope… No, I pray it will be as cool, collected, and humorous as it was tonight.

A couple weeks ago I walked into my boss’ office and uttered words I never imagined myself asking:

“Do you care if I wear my hair curly?”

natural-hair-news

I thought I was pretty much hanging up my blazers when I resigned from my weekend anchor position. I also figured being on TV less would be a great opportunity for me to embrace my naturally curly hair while reporting. Then when they asked me if I could fill-in anchor, I wondered if that meant I need to go back to my straight “Barbie” look.

His reaction surprised me nearly as much as my own question…

“Are you kidding, why would I care?”

It may sound like a superficial question but trust me, some news directors in this business would most definitely care. My first boss asked me to change my name to Keisha for Heaven’s sake. So you know looks and public perception come with the territory.

He told me he thought my hair looked great, and to wear it however I liked.

natural hair news casterTo be safe I checked with my other boss, and she was also extremely supportive. So there I was, planning to debut something so natural and simple. Yet it felt like I was knocking down some kind of barrier; an unspoken rule that said I had to stay within the cookie cutter lines of an appearance.

On one hand I felt extremely proud. Thinking: Yes, this is a proud moment I’ll share with my daughter some day! And on the other hand it felt like no freakin big deal. “It’s just hair!” As my boss put it.

But then again this is the same head I covered up years before with a short wig after repeated requests to cut my hair from multiple people.

I twisted my hair the night before my anchor shift then took it out the morning of. I thought I’d be overly self-conscious or maybe even dislike the change, but the opposite was true. I felt confidant, like I was channeling my inner Oprah.

The reaction to my hair has been all over the map. When I first started wearing my natural curls co-workers didn’t immediately recognize me. Responses ranged from “YIKES!” (luckily this only happened once) to “I love it!” naturally curly anchorMy station even got a viewer response that directly complimented me on my new do, and praised me for showing off my natural curls. Granted, the subject line was mistakenly addressed to the other black anchor in Austin, but close enough right?

Since changing up my hair, another naturally curly anchor in town has decided to rock her waves as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if more are on their way. I’m obviously not the first new anchor to wear her natural curls on TV, and I definitely won’t be the last, but as for my experience all I can say is… It’s nice to let my hair down.

Dear Stranger:

I know my babies have the sweetest, most delectable looking curls you have ever seen. So enticing in fact, that you may find your hands wandering in its direction.

I’ve only recently began to notice just how frequently it happens. Last week we were waiting in line for a cookie at the mall when a little girl behind us started stroking my daughter’s head. Lil’ J looked at me like ‘Ma, who is touching my hair?’. I looked back at her and said “Oh, thinks your hair is pretty,” loud enough so the little girl’s mom would hear and maybe be prompted intervene. Yet she wasn’t.

I was torn between asking the little girl to stop, swatting her hand away, or just letting it go. I let it go.

The sad truth is, my daughter is pretty accustomed to people she doesn’t even known touching her hair. She used to frequently tell people “You can look at my curls but don’t touch them” but it’s not something I’ve heard her say in a while. I don’t know if she’s grown tired of telling people, or just gotten used to the attention, either way I still want her to know it’s not ok without her permission.

no you didn't touch my hair

I could go on about the psychological aspects behind a child understanding their body is their own. But I’ll stick to the main point here… You touch my kid, I’ll cut you.

I know these strangers aren’t ill willed–The opposite in fact. Some cultures actually believe touching a child’s head is good luck.

But here’s the thing… I don’t know where your hands have been. I finally reached my boiling point when I ran in to grab a drink at a convenient store, son on my hip and daughter at my side. We were setting out things on the counter when one of the store clerks walked behind us, and as he did he grabbed my daughter’s pony tail. He didn’t yank it, but just kinda felt it like ‘oh that looks soft, I want to touch it’. He gave me a friendly smile as he did it but I couldn’t contain my stink eye, and had my son been in my Ergo and not in my arms, I might have smacked his hand, or punched his throat.

In that instant it hit me how often I have let it go. People want to rub my son’s head just as often, though usually when he’s close to me people will at least ask, my poor daughter is the perfect height for wantering hands that just have  to know what her bouncy curls feel like.

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Yes, they’re fabulous I know, but they also take a lot of work to get them that way and I have to start all over again after your grubby hands grace her sweet locks.

Yes, their curls are irresistible, but I beg of you, please, resist!

My whole life I’ve either worn my hair straight, or wanted to wear my hair straight. I grew up hating the two stranded twists my mom would put in my hair when all of the girls around me had beautiful straight hair. That’s what I saw. Pretty straight hair that was easy to slide their fingers though. Pretty hair that blew in the wind, and didn’t need a half-dozen barrettes and a bottle of hair creme to keep it in place. I had such a distaste for my naturally curly hair I didn’t realize what I was willing to do to change it.

little girl two strand twists hairWhen I was ten, my parents signed me up for acting classes.–I was very dramatic but didn’t have an ounce of talent–Anyway, my instructor was passing out roles for our end-of-session play when she said: “And Jennifer, since you wear your hair in pig tails, I thought you’d be perfect for this part.”

She looked at me, waited for my elated responded when I did something probably no child before me had done…

“That’s ok, I’m wearing my hair down for the play.” “Down” meant going to the salon, and having my hair blowed dry, and pulled straight with a searing hot comb. I’d be at the salon for hours, bawling most of the way through from a tender head, but then so happy with the end result.

“So you don’t want the part?”

“No thank you, I’m wearing my hair down!”

And she passed the opportunity on to another girl my age who was more than happy to take on an additional role for our performance.

When my mom heard what I had done she was so livid, she made sure that my braided pigtails were exactly what I wore the day of the play.

long natural hair straightenedThroughout my life things hadn’t changed much. When I went off to college I promptly found someone who could straighten my hair for me every few weeks. Since I never had my hair chemically straightened (thank goodness my mom had the willpower to resist that temptation) I didn’t get it wet between salon visits. And the only time I ever saw my hair curly was right after a wash, just before getting it pulled straight again.

It’s pretty much been all I’ve known, and all I’ve understood to be accepted in my line of work. It was a battle getting some of my bosses to accept my long hair (which I refused to cut for the sake of TV) so I never even considered going a step further and wearing it curly.

Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t until having my daughter, that I even considered options for occasionally wearing my natural curls.

naturally curly long hair I grew up hating my hair. But why wouldn’t I? All I ever saw were women with pretty straight hair. Even my mom had her hair chemical straightened. And then there was me. Even if my hair was adorably cute and unique… I felt like my hair was ugly. And I don’t want that for my daughter. Or my son for that matter. I won’t ever allow clippers near his sweet head of curls.

long natural hairThankfully, there’s been a HUGE movement recently where black women are going natural, cutting off their chemically straightened hair and rocking their natural curls. More and more I’ve been noticing beautiful naturally curly hairstyles, on TV, online, and passing by on the streets. I can’t help but admit that these beautiful women, posting YouTube videos, countless blog posts, and tutorials inspired me to give my curls another go, and for the first time in my 27 years of life, I LOVE my hair the way it is, naturally. And as I look at this photo I took yesterday in all its natural glory, I don’t see a “new me,” but a me that I’ve been suppressing the last 27 years. And she’s happy to be free.

I’m always surprised when someone asks me where my kids get my curly hair.

“Really?” I want to ask. But I guess I can’t blame them. After all, most people have only ever seen my hair in its straight state.

I’ve never really regularly worn it curly in my adult life, mostly blaming that fact on my career. They prefer news anchors have a sleek and “professional” look. Which is why white or black, you rarely see anchors sporting curly locks on air.

I’ve never taken the time to straighten my hair myself. I have so much hair I just know by the time I’m done, my arms would be sore and my hair a mess. For this reason I go to the salon to get my hair straightened, or “pressed” as we called it growing up. Using a searing hot comb to pull my hair straight after it’s been washed and blow dried.

Nowadays getting my hair straightened simply replaces the hot comb with a flat iron. Works just dandy.

Since (to me) it’s a big ordeal to schedule a salon appointment ever time I want to go from curly to straight, or just when I want it to get to looking nice again, I preferred I not swim or wet my hair between most stylings. And when I plan things like my crazy 5k, I schedule hair appointments right after, to go back to straight and sleek.

hair-hike

Well, since I’m on vacation, not anchoring anymore, and couldn’t book an appointment before my trip, I decided now was the time for me to start embracing my natural hair. I feel unjust calling it a full on hair journey cause I’m not going very far and wide to change my hair back to a natural curl pattern, but it is my own journey. My little hair hike.

You may run across a lot of #naturalhair hashtags, or hear a lot of hubalub about people transitioning their hair, or even doing the “big chop.” That’s essentially cutting off the chemically relaxed or permed ends of the hair and transitioning back to your hair’s natural state. A reader recently asked if that was in the works for me. Thankfully, growing up my mom never allowed me to chemically process my hair–color or relaxer–so getting it back to it’s natural state was only a matter of getting it wet.

And here’s the result…

naturally curly twist out Well, this was after twisting off my hair into sections, letting it dry, then pulling the twists apart.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m very conservative when it comes to my hair. Aka BORING. I love pony tails and many days I’ve skipped brushing it all together. Wearing it curly requires me to do a lot more maintenance to keep it looking nice. Which is good and bad. Good because it looks super cute (I think), bad because I actually have to do my hair every day.

A friend of mine came over and helped me style the front into a parted halo braid, and I’ve been playing with the back since then. Since I’m in Utah, it’s extra dry and I’m trying to keep my hair hydrated and moisturized without having to wash it every couple of days. So I’m attempting to make one wash last several days in different styles.

I re-twisted and pulled up my hair one day.

naturally curly up doLet them down the next.

naturally curly long hair(I’m just now realizing Big T was in each of these selfies).

And I’m hoping to maybe fluff them up a bit more today and crossing my fingers it’ll be cute. Especially because I’m taking mommy and me photos with my kids today. Rebecca Loren Photography took my last two blog header photos during a shoot Lil’ J and I did with her three years ago. I’m hoping to score a new one with both my babies while I’m here in Utah. The crazy/ exciting/ scary thing to me is that I’ll be representing the curls for the first time in not only these pictures, but our family portraits we’ll be taking Friday (and my brother-in-law’s wedding photos Saturday).

I know it sounds so vain/insignificant/ lame to worry about, but it’s a big deal to me. These pictures will be hanging up forever, so I really hope I like my ‘do.

The good thing is I’m feeling more confidant than ever about my hair, I’m excited to sport my natural hair with my curly-haired kids. And I haven’t set any plans to go back to straight for the time being. I wanted to embrace my natural hair before I turn 30 and by golly, I’m going to do it now!

I was writing this post for my BabyCenter blog today but my dear friend Stacey-Ann beat me to the topic. I was actually kind of glad because I can lift the filter a bit more here. You know, be a little more blunt about this topic without the backlash from less-understanding readers (ya’ll get me, cause you read me more frequently). For instance, this wasn’t the headline I had in mind for my other blog.

Every once in a while someone will ask me and my husband what our parent’s thought, about us dating and getting married. “Did they care that you’re black/ he’s white?” It’s a question many interracial couples hear.

“No big deal,” I tell them. Really, it was 2004, and we’re all past that, right?

People say they don’t notice color or race, or anything of that sort. “I’m colorblind,” I always hear. As if it’s awful to notice we’re different. It’s ok to notice that we aren’t the same. We are different. The problem lies when you see simple differences like skin color, as a bad thing.

Cheerios recently debuted a commercial featuring an adorable biracial girl talking to her white mother and black father. I didn’t catch the commercial on TV, but I saw it online and thought it was charming. Did I notice the interracial couple? Sure. Seeing them portrayed in a mainstream advertisement makes me smile, because if advertisers are more comfortable showing interracial relationships, maybe that means society is getting used to it too. Yea, sure, that’s what I thought.

I’ve heard people say if you want to lose faith in humanity, read the comments on YouTube. People can hide behind the computer screen with a made up username linked to a fake email address and say whatever rude, degrading or racist remark they want to say. Unfortunately that was the case, even with this cute Cheerios commercial.


Commenters lashed out and called it “disgusting” and said that it made them “want to vomit.” That’s just the beginning. The comments got so bad that they had to be disabled on the video. Comments out, but Cheerios says the commercial stays.

Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, told Gawker, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”

Since the news has been buzzing about the controversy surrounding this very non-controversial commercial, many have come out in support of the brand. People are thanking Cheerios for showing diversity in their advertisement, and standing by their decision. And I’m standing by Cheerios and all of their delicious (honey nut) goodness.

And let me tell you something anonymous racist internet commenters. You make ME want to vomit. You suck. And I pray that I don’t know any of you in real life. Because if you act one way to my face but then are so much of a closet coward that you have to spend your evenings spitting disgusting bigoted remarks over the internet where no one can see you, we’d need to have a serious coming to Jesus.

So this time an advertisement gets some criticism for showcasing a mixed family. Truthfully, it doesn’t surprise me. But someone has to break the ice. I’d bet by the time my biracial son and daughter are older and dating, seeing families like ours, and kids like them, featured in commercials will hardly get a second glance. And no one will even think to ask what their parent’s thought about them dating someone of a different race.

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Does it surprise you that people responded negatively to a commercial featuring an interracial couple?

I think it’s absolutely wonderful when people tell me they want to adopt, but from time to time I’ll hear people say things that make me go “hmmm.”

My favorite line is “Ooh, I want one.” Referring to a black child. Kids aren’t puppies. You don’t buy one from a breeder, or pick one out at a shelter. It’s a human being, and you get what you get.

I don’t know if it’s because Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock made it cool, but for a while I was beginning to wonder if it was some kind of strange fad.

Source

When I lived in Utah I saw this all over the place. I’m going to be honest, at first I was a little concerned. I met mothers frustrated with their daughter’s kinky black hair who didn’t have a clue how to manage it, and black children who had never seen people who look like them. And worse… reading stories of parents who abused these children. Thankfully the latter was not as common.

When I attended Black Student Union at BYU, there were events for these families to come and socialize with one another and, I guess, let their kids see other children who look like them. I asked the parents how they came about adopting transracially and heard a variety of responses.

One mother told me she wanted a biracial child because she thinks they’re adorable, another told me the waiting list was so long for white children so they broadened their search. Another told me it was more affordable.

A baby on sale? That broke my heart, but I’m giving them all the benefit of the doubt. While their initial intentions may have been questionable to me, I pray they’re loving parents.

These days my feelings aren’t so harsh toward families who want to adopt transracially. In fact, I think it’s great that people can open their hearts to children who don’t even look like them, and take them in as their own forever. It’s a sad fact, but according to some studies, black children are 7 times less desirable than other children. This is why there are programs that offer subsidies to help families adopting a black child. And let’s face it… There aren’t enough black families adopting either.

I think (hope) counselors do this anyway but I’ve thought of some advice for parents choosing to adopt a black child.

1. Learn how to manage black hair: Take a class, ask for help, do what you’ve gotta do so your daughter doesn’t have a matted mess that can’t be tamed and has to be cut.
2. Study black-culture and history to share with your child.
3. Have a variety of books, dolls, and toys that show people who look like them too.
4. Get involved in diverse play groups, so your child can see others who also look like them.

I also found a helpful article with more information on transracial adoption.

Actually, I think the list above is great for anyone. Being in an interracial marriage myself I am trying to be more aware of my daughter’s growing variety of books, dolls and immersion.

When people say “Black babies are so cute!” Not that I don’t agree, but is that specifically why you’d want to adopt a child? Ultimately a family is a family. Love is most important, and you don’t have to look like your children to love them.

Someday I’d like to adopt, possibly after I have one more biological child. But I’d like to think that race wouldn’t be a deciding factor in my decision.

I’m interested in hearing from others who have considered or who have adopted transracially. What has your experience been? Would you adopt outside of your race?

As I narrowed down baby names for my daughter before she was born, of course I was greeted with suggestions, ideas, and questions about what we liked.

I was caught off guard when someone asked if I’d name her Shaniqua.

Yes, because my name is Jennifer and Shaniqua is the first name that came to my mind.

This wasn’t the only time people have brought names like this to my attention. Why they think it’s fitting I’m not quite sure.

It’s also strange to me when people say I “don’t look like a Jennifer.” What that’s suppose to mean, I’m not sure.

Think I’m kidding? Think they’re kidding? Yea, that’s what I thought too when one of my former bosses suggested I change my name to something more “ethnic.”

A lot of people are intrigued by my job. People ask if I wear shorts under the news desk (thanks Anchor Man), if I have makeup artists, if I use my real name, the list goes on.

No, I don’t wear shorts, (but sometimes I’ll wear jeans), I do my own makeup, and I use my own name. But at my first news job, in a small town in Southern Utah, that almost changed.

After my first day the general manager brought into our tiny little office and sat me down. The main anchor, one of my mentors was with him.

“What do you think of changing your name to Keisha?” He asked me.

I laughed. Then looked around the room, realizing I was the only one laughing. My friend did give a sympathetic shrug, which made me think she thought it was about as strange as I did but couldn’t tell me right then and there.

“Are you serious?” I asked. Totally stunned.

He was.

He went on and gave me some explanation about my last name sounding French-Creole and that having “Keisha” as a first name “fit.”

“Think about it,” he told me.

I said I would but there was no thinking about it. I was not changing my name. Especially not to Keisha.

I did call my family, then my friends and laughed about it with anyone who would listen. To this day I still have to chuckle a little when I think back to that moment because I honestly don’t know what was going through his mind.

My name is Jennifer. My siblings: Heather, Michael, Lauren, Kimberly. None of them are stereotypical names you’d hear on the Top 60 Ghetto Black Names list. They are, however, found in the most popular names of the year list. I didn’t want my daughter’s name on either. My mother’s reasoning for her decision was different than mine. She would say “do you want to get a job?” Which sounds harsh but some research shows “black-sounding” names on resumes don’t do as well next to the same resume holding a “white-sounding” names.

Deciding what to name your children is a beautiful thing. The coolest thing is that it’s your choice. Some are more unusual, and others are more common, but no one should be pigeon holed into a name because of how they look.

And for your entertainment…I guess. The “Top 60 Ghetto Black Names.”

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget



I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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