Wednesday, August 6, 2008

V

Oh, the world in which we find ourselves this summer.  V's been on the phone all morning.  One of her friends died last night, from a gunshot wound in South Seattle.  This is the 4th person her age (or younger) to die this year.  She told me last night that basically she lived in the ghetto in Seattle.  Drive-by shootings and other gang violence are part of her life.  This northern, mostly Caucasian, city in which she now finds herself has revealed that the world is different than she expected, that whites aren't nearly as strange and even bad as her history had led her to believe, but she left her heart in Seattle, with a large extended 'family' who know and love her.  No question about it.  
And I've learned a whole lot too.  One of the most prominent things I've learned is how ignorant I've been my whole life about hair.  Yes, hair.  Now I have some of the slickest, thinnest, straightest hair around.  I can use a rubberband meant for braces to pull all the strands of my hair into a pony-tail, which has shocked my daughters--and now V--more than once.  My girls have great hair, though.  Thankfully got it from their dad--thick and strong and curly.  E climbs out of bed, runs her fingers through her hair with a little water, and it curls for the whole day.  SK has stronger hair, not quite as curly, but it's always beautiful, and grows twice as fast as E's.  
But V moved into our home and within a week, we were in hair crisis.  Her hair isn't tightly curled, but nappy.  I was unfortunately ignorant that these are two different things, and trust me, you don't want nappy.  It sticks straight up and breaks off easily, right at her forehead.  She's horrified that we wash our hair so often, because that would destroy her hair completely.  I'm telling you, I've spent more money on products, on extensions, on  braiding that didn't work, than I have in a year on my own hair, and it isn't because V's picky. Well, she is, I mean, she's 15, but she does have some legitimate concerns.
But, as I said, I'm learning--every day it's something new.  Her hair is one of the easy things.  Really.  Her real world doesn't get us, doesn't get how V can live with white people, think we're probably not taking very good care of her.  V tells me these things and I'm only a little surprised.  Why would they trust us?  They don't know us at all.  And we're white.  I told V, "Prejudice goes in every direction, between all kinds of people."  "They aren't prejudiced," she said, perfectly serious. "They just hate white people."
I think they have enough battles of their own, with kids dying, and all the rest of what goes with poverty.  But I have to admit, it's a pretty strange feeling.  It's not about being who I am, but what I look like, that makes V's extended family feel this way.  And there's nothing to be done about it. It's weird to be on the receiving end of unwarranted malice, but God knows who we are and what we are.  Relinquishing the rest to Him---that's the only thing to do.

No comments: