Bonus ARP link

Latoya Peterson steps into the transracial parenting and hair debate in the Jezebel post: “Thanks for your concern, but Zahara’s hair will be fine.” In it, she critiques a recent Newsweek article by Allison Samuels.

“Zahara Jolie-Pitt and the Politics of Uncombed Hair” epitomizes all of my frustrations with black hair debates. The blog post touches on historical hair issues and transracial adoption while using a pic of Zahara where her hair looks fine.

I suppose the article really gets under my skin for three major reasons:

1. Assumptions Surrounding Transracial Adoption

According to Samuels:

In recent pictures it’s clear Angelina Jolie hasn’t taken the time to learn or understand the long and painful history of African-American women and hair. If she had I can’t imagine she would continue to allow Zahara to look like she has in the past few months.

Reading through the article, I sensed an undercurrent of anger directed toward Jolie being a white parent raising a black child. Now, I can understand where a bit of this is coming from – as the owner of a site that spends a lot of time critiquing transracial adoption practices, what we have heard from transracial adoptees is that many times, parents treat issues of race and culture as if they were optional, which left the children ill-equipped to deal with insensitive jabs from classmates or fellow family members. However, the Jolie-Pitts appear to keep lots of ties to their children’s home countries as well as a larger global citizen perspective on the harsh realities of the world. So what could be the problem?

In sharp contrast, Madonna, who adopted a little African girl earlier this year from Malawi, makes sure her daughter’s hair is either braided with beads or bows. Recent photos show the little girl modeling neatly done cornrows with white beads at the bottom-a la Venus and Serena Williams.

Ah, I see. So, because Zahara is rarely seen in cornrows or braids, it means that Jolie is ignorant of cultural norms? I doubt it. Some kids simply do not like the tightness of braids or cornrows. (Personally, I know I hated the pain and tugging that came with cornrows, so I’ve only worn them twice in my life. Then again, I’ve been accused of being tenderheaded.) Later on in the article, Samuels acknowledges that the Jolie-Pitts have made efforts: they had Beyonce’s stylist on retainer for a while, and Brad Pitt often shouts out celebrity favorite Carol’s Daughter products in interviews. So clearly, they did some kind of research. But in Samuels eyes, this was not enough. Read more…

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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