Archive for the Society Category
What is it with black women and wigs? All over the internet ads now appear for ‘wigs for black women’ aimed at an African American audience. Even Google have got in on the game. Right across West Africa today, the majority of women wear wigs or weaves as part of daily life. And the same is true of black women in the Caribbean and parts of Europe, making wigs for black women big business for someone.
My own mother wore a wig for all 47 years of her life in England. I still for the life of me can’t understand why. Why at twenty-one years old she would suddenly decide to hide her own natural hair and start wearing any one of a dozen Winnie Mandela-style curly afro wigs in public?
It wasn’t as if she didn’t have hair to style in a reasonable fashion. For in the early years, at least, before too much wig wearing ate away at her scalp like a cancer, she had a head full of “good hair.” But the more she wore wigs was the more she grew wedded to the idea of never being seen in public without her “hat-on,” as she called it.
Growing up in my mother’s house, there was always the faintly musky whiff of real human-haired wigs in the air. I developed an aversion to false hair early. “Work with what you’ve got,” I’d tell her. “What are you ashamed of?” But she wasn’t one for hair salons or other vain excesses; she’d have you know. She had two kids to feed and a mortgage to pay all on her own, and the state of her hair was hardly the most important thing on her mind.
“Look how great that lovely actress Carmen Monroe looks,” I’d plead. “And she’s practically your double. Try a crop.” But we spent years fighting that particular battle, my mother and me. And still, whatever argument we got into, invariably ended with me trying to persuade her to dump the wigs, and free her mind. What are you ashamed of? But it never worked. As the years rolled on, she grew to despise my dreadlocks even more than I still hated her ‘real human haired’ wigs.
Then after the cancer took hold, and the chemotherapy had taken its toll, she became even more psychologically dependant on the wig as a kind of crutch to feign normality, while she laid up in bed wasting away.
We even buried her in a damn wig in the end. Against my better judgement, it was, but “Sis” begged and persuaded me that “the mum we knew and loved, wouldn’t have wanted a seat on the right-hand of God, without her hat-on.” Too true, I suppose.
So, there you have it. My mother, wigged-out all the way from England to the grave. I wonder how many other sons or daughters have said as much. What say ye?
Race in America is rarely far from any talk about the United States. So news from The Washington Post that Mitt Romney is performing very, very well among white voters came as no surprise. Accordingly, recent polls show him winning this group by more than any GOP presidential candidate since Reagan, the newspaper went on to assert. ‘Why do you think Romney has such a lead among whites?’ they asked. The obvious race baiting question reminded me of the last time I passed through America–on my way to somewhere else, thankfully.
It’s minus 10 degrees outside a couple of weeks away from Christmas with ice on the ground. I am at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina, waiting for my connecting flight to Jamaica, and the boarding gate is filled with Americans, both black and white. Over the ninety minutes that I am sat waiting beside an old black man on a church convention for a week in the sun, I see not one white person in polite conversation with any of the other passengers travelling to Montego Bay.
It feels weird to me. If I were in England in a similar situation this Waiting Area would not be segregated by race or colour. There would be friendships across the different racial/ethnic backgrounds and, of course, we would see a number of mixed-race couples flying out to the sun, none of which is in existence here.
As if to highlight the point, a very cute black boy of about four years old is running around boisterously playing with his slightly younger sister. A ‘White’ woman standing with her boyfriend watches intently, as the sister has her hair cornrowed by their mother, a rather strapping young woman in sandals at this time of year. Noticing the woman staring, the young boy smiles at her, and she instinctively smiles back.
The boy moves closer. Behind a belted partition, he pauses for a moment, pulling a small toy car from his pocket and wheeling it across the carpeted floor toward the woman, where it stops at her feet. Her expression immediately changes. The eyes of the world in this small room are upon her now, and she knows it. The mask of civility slips from her face and she stands deadly still as if petrified by fear while the child crawls across the floor to retrieve his toy.
Returning to the same spot behind the makeshift barrier, the small boy tries once more to entice the young white woman in play, shoving the toy car toward her again, but she deliberately turns her back to him this time and stares vacantly into space. I nudge the old man sitting beside me. “Did you see that?” he whispers.
I can barely believe it myself. I cannot imagine a similar situation happening in England as bad as it can be. A white English woman would never have responded in that way, I’m certain. She may have gently kicked the car back to the boy, but she would never have dismissed him in that callous ‘don’t come near me’ kind of way. After all, he is only a child.
“But you could feel the prejudice, couldn’t you?” the old man says in hushed tones. “That’s what it’s like in this here United States of America. And I believe that it’s got worse since we’ve had a black president.”
By the time we’ve landed on the tarmac of Sangster International Airport, the white Americans on-board have donned sunglasses and are smiling broadly, each obviously looking forward to their Caribbean getaway. As for me, I can’t wait to see the back of them.
Pops always liked to remember the old time sayings from home. And when he dropped them on these British-born youngsters, they always had to wonder. When he explained to them, they would get it. But he’s stopped all that now.