I came across this image at Newsweek, when someone was wrongly associated with my blog. This is not the first time that Zahara has made an appearance in public, looking like a comb is a foreign concept to her adoptive mother. When White celebrities adopt Black children, there is always much discussion about what the children stand to gain from the relationship and little understanding of the connections that the children lose. Economic advantages are wonderful in life but they do not feed the soul or inform the person. Brad Pitt has gone on record saying that they use Carol's Daughter on her hair, but if that is the case, why is it always a hot mess?
Angelina may be used to throwing her long silky tresses into a ponytail and hitting the road, but Black hair cannot be treated the same way. You cannot just slap some product in the child's hair and send her out the door. Can you even imagine one of the Obama girls looking like Zahara for one minute? This is just one example of the ways in which White adoptions of Black children are problematic. No matter how much Jolie loves Zahara, she cannot teach her what it is to be a Black woman. Femininity is not the same across race no matter how liberal you may be.
A woman with Jolies resources could certainly afford to pay someone to ensure that Zahara left the house looking cared for. I do believe that the lack of attention, comes down to her ignorance of exactly how political hair is, in the lives of Black women. Madonna’s adopted daughter has her hair in braids and though I am still unhappy with the terms of that adoption, at least she is attempting to be true to the child's culture. How many of these children have we seen grow to adulthood, looking like a mess, until some Black person finally talked to them about proper hair care?
Hair is very much a part of a Black woman's identity. As a child, I remember sitting at my mothers knee each week, getting my hair oiled and combed. Not once in my childhood did I leave the house looking like Zahara. In these moments, not only was my mother showing her love for me, she was teaching me to care for myself and my appearance. What lessons is Zahara learning, running around the place looking like a brush and a comb are foreign objects? The child is not a plaything . She is a live person that will one day grow into an adult woman; does she not deserve to have the loving care that she needs?
When it comes to a Black girl, one cannot simply say oh it’s just hair. How you feel about your hair is often a reflection of the degree to which you have internalized racist understandings of Blackness. What positives will come from a White mother treating her natural Black hair as though it is unimportant? Black women have been fired from their jobs for insisting that they be allowed to wear their hair natural. The term nappy has been used repeatedly as an insult as though our natural selves are less than. When Jolie ignores Zahara’s hair she is acting as though a significant part of her culture and history is meaningless.
The first time the child appeared unkept, it was possible to give Angelina a pass, after all, children will play and get messy. The issue is that time and time again this is the way that Zahara appears and therefore; it is possible to state that a lack of concern is their everyday position. Angelina and Brad can afford to ignore the intricacies of Blackness because they walk the world with White privilege; to do so with a Black child is to handicap them. Zahara may have the last name Jolie-Pitt but the world will not envision her two White adoptive parents when they see her, they will only see a Black child and all of the negative stereotypes that go with it.