by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
That Farai Chideya is no longer holding it down at NPR’s “News & Notes” is abundantly clear. Yesterday’s “News & Notes” segment–” The Obama Effect on Black Women’s Hair Issues–was some serious insipid nonsense. Since the dawning of the Obama era, I’ve sensed a disturbing trend in coverage of black women’s issues by mainstream media. Having a black First Lady seems to have inspired the media to take some notice of the unique lives of African American women. Good. Problem is, the gently increased coverage is shallow and inconsequential, and often has the feel of detached voyeurism–academically peering at the exotic world and strange habits of black women (oddly, this is so, even when the work is presided over by black women). A product of these travel guides to Blackchicksylvania is the “Lawd, us black wimmin’s hair sho is complicated” story, which usually includes the meme that Michelle Obama’s hair is a hot topic among black women. And so goes the “News & Notes” piece by Allison Samuels, featuring celebrity stylist Marcia Hamilton.
Says Samuels, “We now have an African American president, with an African American wife and two African American daughters. So now we talk a lot about hair–things we probably didn’t talk about when we had First Ladies who were not African American. So, the conversation has gone from one end to the other. Should Michelle wear more natural hair? Should she cut her hair? Should she have a perm? Should she press and curl? Why do we have such an obsession, even now, in 2009, with black women and hair?”
First, I would love to know where these purported conversations about Michelle Obama’s hair are taking place. Where is this obsession with her tresses flowering? So far, I’ve seen several articles about the phenomenon (I believe Salon has peddled it, too.), but have yet to experience it among any, y’know, actual black women. As far as I can tell, in real life, no one is riding Michelle to bust out the cornrows at the next State dinner. (According to Samuels, black female bloggers are calling for Michelle and her daughters to be champions of black hair. Why’s everybody got to blame the bloggers these days? I’m plugged into the top black blogs and haven’t seen any such discussion percolating. Hmmmm.) Read the Post Dispatches from Nappyville: WTF, NPR? Way to totally mischaracterize discussions about black women, hair and Michelle Obama