Update on the Target Cashier Who Criticized My Black Daughter’s Hair

Remember this?  A few months ago, I went to Target with my black daughter whose hair was not “done.”  In other words, I’d let it go natural between hairstyles, and it looked like this:

The cashier — who’s also black — was very unhappy with Naomi’s hair.  Here’s the gist of the exchange:

Cashier: What’s you name, sweet little girl?

Naomi: Naomi

Cashier: You sure are pretty.

Cashier, to me: Have you ever thought of fixing her hair?

Me: Yes, I learned how to braid and I take care of it, but it’s been braided for so long I wanted to let the parts rest a bit and give her hair a chance to be natural.

Cashier: Well, I have been looking at it, and I can tell you don’t know what you are doing.  (Then, she proceeds to give me directions to a braid shop in my hometown.)

Cashier, to Naomi: How does your mom fix your hair normally?

Naomi: in twists, in beads, in braids, in an afro….

Cashier: Well, you sure are pretty, but you’d be even prettier if your mom took you to a braid shop.

The implication was clear.  Naomi would be better off if her mother was black and could properly care for her hair.  Well, as I’ve documented on this blog, I’ve gone to great lengths to learn how to do my daughter’s hair, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far!  During Christmas, I was shopping once again with Naomi when I saw that same cashier.  This time, I had “done” Naomi’s hair into twists, and it looked like this:

I took a deep breath and went through her line, curious to see what she’d say about her hair now that it was done — in my opinion — pretty well.  She didn’t remember us.

Cashier: Hey, little girl.  What’s your name?

Naomi: Naomi.

Cashier: Who does your hair?  [Then, looking at me.] I know your momma can’t do that.

Me: Yes, I am learning to take care of her hair by myself.

Cashier [Examining Naomi's hair more closely.]  Really? You did that?  Well, you did good.

It was a Christmas miracle!  I continue to plea for people to resist the urge to make international adoptions even more challenging by careless comments.  See Dear Black Women, Please Stop Giving Me Advice About My Daughter’s Hair; I’m a White Republican Raising a Black Child: Deal with It; and #$%@ People Say To Transracial Families.)  Also, if you are someone who’s recently had to start learning how to fix black hair, there’s a wonderful website called “Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care,” which will take you through the basics.

For fun, here are some other hair styles we’ve done lately:

After I took out the twists, we let it be in the “twist out” phase for a couple of days. Very sweet!

After I washed out the “twist out” hair style, it fell into these precious ringlets. She looked like Shirley Temple!

Today is “hair day” at the French household, which means treats, television, breaks, and lots of patience.  (Hopefully.)  I’m writing this while Naomi takes a nap, after having done about a quarter of her hair in twists again — I’ll post pictures soon!

About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • kristen peterson

    just want to leave a note to say i think you are a wonderful example of rising above the fray, nancy! God bless you! :)

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Kristen!!

  • ostrachan

    God bless you, Nancy. It’s clear that you’re loving your daughter, and doing so in a way that she enjoys. Beautiful to see as the outworking of love through adoption.

  • http://mycottagecharm.com Missy

    Hey Nancy girl! :) I LOVE the little curls in the “Shirley Temple” picture…it’s so cute! I just can’t imagine anyone being so bold as to tell your daughter that her momma can’t do her hair properly. (or at least hint to that conclusion) Girl, I wish you’d just move back to KY…I promise we’d be nice. :) Love you Nancy!! TJ and I would love to see you guys sometime!
    Missy ;)

  • Kellie “Red”

    Her hair looks great! Love those twists. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

  • Jean

    Naomi’s hair looks AWESOME!! Way to go Mama!! You have done an amazing job figuring all this out and the fact that you were civil to the Target Woman…that took an act of great discipline!

  • Tina

    Thanks for your insight. We too have adopted a chocolate baby girl and are learning the intricacies of hair. We adopted her domestically at birth and she is now two years old. From the very beginning I was “scared” of her hair. Not that I thought it would attack me or there was something wrong with it, but that, I know hair is important to most girls and I didn’t want to mess it up from the beginning. For the past two years, I have been looking for someone or some website that would help me learn how to keep her hair healthy, including Youtube videos and asking black friends what are the best products that I should be using, and are there any styles I can do to her hair now. Some of the videos were helpful, and my friends usually just directed to “some blue stuff at Walmart”. Finally, one friend a few months ago, came to my rescue and showed me how to do twists (that’s about all her her is long enough to do). A few weeks later, I found “chocolate hair/vanilla care”, and what a difference it has made. I am so thankful for the CHVC website and all it has to offer. I have learned so much from it about styles, products and care for our daughter’s hair. I have a long way to go, but I no longer feel “scared” of my daughter’s hair. I’m slowly learning and trying to educate others who don’t understand along the way. Her hair is much different than my straight, fine, vanilla, oily hair. Any hair that is different from mine, would make this a learning process for me. It boils to to the fact that our daughter is just that, ours, and we love her dearly with all our heart. She is our only child. We waited three long years for her to join our family. God knew from the beginning she would be ours, and our lives have been blessed by her regardless of the type of hair she has. Thank you for posting the articles you have about chocolate hair and vanilla mamas, it gives me the courage I need to keep working through my fears.

  • Jay

    Hi Nancy, this comment is actually in reply to your original post to black women commenting on your daughters hair, but I didn’t see the comment box on that page so I’m posting it here.

    I really wanted to be sympathetic reading this article, but I just couldn’t get all the way there. I’m black and my boyfriend is white. When we get married and have kids, he will get the same looks you do if I let my child go out in public with wild hair. I understand you’re offended by the comments black women make and that’s understandable. But, it seems like you focus more on being offended than truly understanding the “cultural, social and political” issues surrounding black hair. One of the main reasons black women don’t like to see black children with “free” hair is because by society standards it’s considered nappy, dirty, sloppy and unkept. Unless of course, the child has a white mother with her, then white people think it’s cute. How do I know? Because I, like almost every other black child, got comments, looks, jeers, stares, etc about my hair from white people when I was growing up. And I have what’s considered “good” (curly) hair and appear bi-racial. It didn’t make me immune. I was a super smart, cute kid with green eyes and bright smile. It didn’t matter. I was still that n*gger with the nappy hair. Whether you like it or not, when your child is out of your presence, that’s how (white) society will view her. It’s not fair. It’s not right. However, it’s still black reality in America. The sad thing is, white adults would make these comments not to my mother, but directly to me, the child.

    Also, I found it extremely interesting how you consistently referred to your child as being from “Africa.” She is from a country not the whole continent. As a Liberian, I and the majority of the diaspora find this highly offensive. And don’t call our hair products, “exotic lotions and oils”. Black people don’t like the word exotic. We hear it all the time when white people want to find a nice way to say “different from us.” I completely believe that anybody with love (black/white/gay/straight/republican/democrat) should be able to adopt any child that needs a home. And, I completely applaud you for taking the time to learn how to do her hair properly. That’s more than most people. However, you also need to take the time and truly understand the culture of the child you’re adopting, that includes racial, national, disporic, etc. That’s because this hair issue plays into greater issues. For example, I had to (am still) teaching my boyfriend that just because he dates a black girl (and has black friends) he does not understand “blackness.” Similarly, adopting a black child (while honorable) requires years of commitment and research. And then still, you’ll never know what it’s like to be called a n*gger or told that your hair is nappy. The best you can do is educate your child and prepare her for the experiences that will most definitely come. That’s just life. I sincerley wish you the best of luck on your journey…

    • bsbfankaren

      Sorry, but I don’t see anything “wild” about a black child’s hair in it’s natural state. There are now more then a few grown women embracing their natural hair, and it’s about time people get over the sociological aspects of black hair in the black community and embrace each other as we are, or simply look the other way.

    • beth

      Jay, not all white people would look at a child (of any race) and look for things to criticize. I, for one (white), see every child as an innocent partaker on this journey of life, along with me. I see beauty in that child, and would never say anything to damage a child. I’m sorry that all your own experiences were not pleasant, no one’s has been. There are good people of all races, and there are equally bad people of all races as well. Let’s be the good guys.

    • Saphayia

      Well stated

  • ariel

    I’m glad your second encounter with this woman was better! I think it looks great & your daughter is a beauty.
    I actually wanted to comment on the video #$%@ people say to transracial families, but there was not a comment bar. It is a funny video, but I think they included TOO much content that IS appropriate. It is completely okay to ask what country they’re from! That could be an important part of they’re history! Maybe like me, they know someone that have adopted or are trying to adopt from Ethiopia- also, maybe like me, they even know about how certain laws are now holding that up, & wanted to discuss it. I would SO ask how you do her hair!!! My husband and I are considering transracial adoption, so hair is a big concern for me as well & I would love some tips. Because of finances, we’re considering a local adoption……which is why I also think the “is it expensive” question to also be completely ok!!!! My husband went on a mission trip to China a decade ago and always wanted to adopt from there, as did I, but it really has become so costly. Other people like us sometimes need to hear all the add ups, or even financing options & tips to deal with it, when making a decision like this. I’m not sure if you created or ok’ed the content for the film, but by advertising it you prop yourself up as a victim, instead of what you are, and can be (by how you choose to answer those questions): a catalyst for change. Think about it! ;-)

    • Nett

      To you white people looking to adopt black children, well let me ask this, how many black families do you see running around with white adopted children? You don’t know what to do with our hair granted some of you can learn, but leave our children alone. We are not cute little monkey’s. If you’re wondering where this is coming from, during our classes (my husband and I) to adopt. I actually heard white people say I want one because I like their hair, I find them cute, & the killer, I want one so I won’t be afraid of them. I can’t tell you how hard it was to sit there & listen to their ignorance. So now whn I hear whites talking about going to get one from another country….well what are you really trying to prove, that your not prejudice? Now saying all that, if the child came from your body, well I wish you luck peace and happiness.

  • nIK

    I think Naomi is beautiful and I think you are doing an excellent job with taking good care of her and her hair! I as a young African/African-American woman just wanted to let you know that older and sometimes even younger “Black” women definitely have a long way to go when it comes to our hair, but keep up the good work, pretty soon you’ll have other parents asking you for advice or to even do their kids hair! God Bless

  • Naomi

    Awee your daughter is soooo cute my name is naomi too and I found your blog by accident while trying to figure out what to do with my own hair

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Come on over — I’ve been practicing! :) Glad you stopped by!

  • Veronica

    I am a black woman and…. You are doing a fantastic job!

    This blog and the blog this one was intended to update were very insightful for me! I have had to give the “hair speech” many times to white people who just can’t understand why hair is so important in the Black community. The mere fact that you are successfully conquering “our” hair WITHOUT professional help is something to be proud of. I am 22 and I have yet to accomplish the task of caring for my hair in its natural state- which is why is chemically straightened LOL :) I applaud you!

    Thanks so much for helping those in need. Please do not let ignorance get to you. Though I’m sure they meant well they expressed their concerns in the wrong way. I would offer you help you do need it. So, instead, I offer you simple words of encouragement- keep it up mom! Do what you have to do for YOUR daughter’s sake. The journey will not be an easy one but its nothing you can’t handle!

    Hope I’ve helped in some way!

    • Veronica

      TYPO ALERT! *I would offer help, but you don’t need it.

  • Ancel Pratt III

    great read! Thanks for sharing. I must say, you did an amazing job! It’s funny hearing the challenges of my sister-in-law with trying to do my nieces hair. . .and they’re all Black. . . I stumbled across your blog but very happy I did. . .best wishes with everything

    Mr. Ambition Over Adversity

  • Kelly Hoerter

    That was very rude of the Target employee to talk to you like that. Did you complain to management? I saw the picture of her “natural” hair before I read the article. It looked nice to me, and I didn’t know about any of this previously.

  • Saphayia

    Nancy, you seemed offended that a black woman would offer to tell you anything. There are a countless number of white woman who have bi-racial or African American children who do NOT attempt to educate themselves on how to care for their children’s hair. There’s nothing that ticks me off more than to see a mother of any race who is NOT attempting to meet the needs of her children. So before offending all black women by telling us to leave you alone, why don’t reach out to women like yourself and offer them assistance with learning how to care for their
    bi-racial and African American children. Start with the hair and follow through to their history, self- esteem and instilling pride in themselves. Oops, did I just offer you some advice?