Last week we were all cap­ti­vat­ed by the images in the Atlanta Jour­nal Con­sti­tu­tion of a white dad — Clifton Green — who learned to take care of his adopt­ed Ethiopi­an daughter’s hair. (Click this link for the AJC slideshow: http://projects.ajc.com/gallery/view/living/braids/) I was so amazed that I tracked Clifton down and asked if he would do a BGLH inter­view. He agreed! Clifton is a pro­fes­sor at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty in Atlanta, Geor­gia. He has shared his per­son­al pho­tos of him and his daugh­ter, Miri­am. He did all the styles you see on his baby girl!





The entire fam­i­ly

Clifton: Let me first speak as a white adop­tive par­ent of a black child. We know that love alone is not enough to raise our daugh­ter. She will have expe­ri­ences as a black per­son that we can’t relate to as white par­ents, and we need to reach out to the black com­mu­ni­ty to help us raise our daugh­ter into a wom­an that is proud of her cul­ture and her­itage. We live in Atlanta, and we have black friends in our lives and go to a church that is rough­ly half black, but we didn’t antic­i­pate the sup­port we’ve received from the online com­mu­ni­ty. It’s been real­ly nice.

BGLH: First off, we thought it was cute that you were using a fork. I’m assum­ing it dou­bled as a comb?
Clifton
: I used to use a fork to make Miriam’s parts. The rat tail comb I had at first wasn’t very pointy and I was more hap­py with the fork. I thought it made nice, sharp parts. I have a bet­ter rat tail comb now and I’ve got­ten used to it so I’ve done away with the fork.

BGLH: How often do you do your daughter’s hair? And how long does it take?
Clifton
: On aver­age we wash her hair every 10 days, but some­times it’s once a week or every two weeks depend­ing on what we’ve done that week (like play­ing in the pool or the sand box). I often re-do the braids or twists dur­ing the week depend­ing on how they’re look­ing (small­er braids last longer) .

BGLH: Where/how did you learn how to take care of her hair? Why did you learn to take care of her hair?
Clifton
: We’ve always had black babysit­ters, and I loved it when Miriam’s hair start­ed get­ting long enough for our babysit­ter to braid or twist (Miri­am came home at 1 year old with very lit­tle hair). Our babysit­ter moved away and our new sit­ter wasn’t com­fort­able doing hair, and I missed how nice Miriam’s hair looked. My wife and I start­ed doing it but grad­u­al­ly over time it became my thing, at least par­tial­ly because we also had a baby boy that my wife was breast­feed­ing. We learned from books like “It’s All Good Hair,” from oth­er moms, and of course prac­tice which I’m still doing. Our goal has always been to help her fit in among oth­er black girls and to feel good about her hair. I’m not an expert, and we’re always open to advice and sug­ges­tions :)

BGLH: Emo­tion­al­ly, how was the process of learn­ing to take care of her hair? Was it ever frus­trat­ing or dis­cour­aged? Or was it a joy?
Clifton
: Learn­ing about hair care and styles has been a joy. Some­times the doing can be frus­trat­ing :) I would say the worst has been my attempt at corn­rows. They look like they’re two weeks old as soon as I do them, and when I spend an hour or longer on her hair I want it to look per­fect. So I haven’t tried them for awhile.

BGLH: If you could describe your daugh­ters afro tex­tured hair in three words, what would they be?
Clifton
: Curly, coily, boun­cy.

BGLH: I’m assum­ing you’ve been around cau­casian hair all your life. This may be a kind of sil­ly ques­tion, but what to you, is the most strik­ing dif­fer­ence between the tex­ture of your daugh­ters hair, and the hair you were used to?
Clifton
: I would say per­haps the most strik­ing dif­fer­ence is how dry her hair can get. In my expe­ri­ence, white people’s hair tends to get oily between wash­ings; with Miri­am her hair dries out instead.

BGLH: Do you find any­thing unique­ly beau­ti­ful about afro-tex­tured hair?
Clifton
: My favorite is the way it looks with two strand twists. It seems unique­ly black and beau­ti­ful to me.

BGLH: Do you think the care you take in nur­tur­ing your daughter’s hair is hav­ing an effect on her self image? If so, in what way?
Clifton
: Miri­am is 5. Right now I think we’re lay­ing the ground­work for when she’s old­er and starts to think about her iden­ti­ty as a wom­an of col­or and what that means.

BGLH: And final­ly, I saw you have a young son. What does he think of his big sister’s hair :)
Clifton
: Our non-adopt­ed son is 4, and although we have dis­cus­sions about skin col­or (they refer to it as brown skin and yel­low skin), we haven’t talked much hair specif­i­cal­ly. Although he says it’s beau­ti­ful some­times, right now I would say he loves Miriam’s hair main­ly because he gets to watch TV when I fix it. He also likes for Miri­am to fix his hair with her bar­rettes and hair balls, and he’ll sit still to let her do that. Our 2 year old son also enjoys Miriam’s hair stylings. We’re on the wait list to adopt again from Ethiopia (anoth­er girl). So I’ll have more chances to prac­tice my skills, and hope­ful­ly the girls can appre­ci­ate each oth­ers hair and prac­tice styling on each oth­er as they grow up.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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95 Comments on "BGLH interview with Clifton Green"

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yours truly

swear i am so proud of him for this inter­view. she’s a beau­ti­ful lit­tle miss. and he is the poster guy for good par­ents every­where. love love love his mind­set on par­ent­ing, espe­cial­ly when it comes to chil­dren of colour.

SA

Awww! I read the sto­ry when it first came out in the AJC and it’s still one of the sweet­est things I’ve ever read. I just want to give them all a big hug. :)

Jadeite

This is such a great sto­ry. I love that he’s real­ly try­ing, and that her hair is on point.
This goes to show that many more white par­ents of black and bira­cial chil­dren (that means you, lady on Tyra’s :Good Hair Bad Hair”) can adapt to tak­ing care of our lit­tle brown babies. <3

Brie

I thought the AJC sto­ry was great but this inter­view just takes the cake! It is real­ly a love­ly sto­ry and I’m sure Miri­am, when she gets old­er, will tru­ly appre­ci­ate every­thing her father did to make sure that she always looked her best, and there­fore, felt her best.

Milan

Awww, what a won­der­ful inter­view! I luv that they learned how to care for and style their adopt­ed daughter’s hair. You go man!

I also luv the father’s descrip­tion of her hair. More pos­i­tive than what some black peo­ple would say about their own children’s hair.

Olivia

He seems like a very car­ing, pos­i­tive man. I hope the best for his fam­i­ly! I am glad he is so involved with his daughter’s hair and does not see it as a bur­den, but a beau­ti­ful gift.

p.s. i love her lit­tle twists, she’s beau­ti­ful!

soukho

Waw, this is such a nice sto­ry, I am new on your blog and I am lov­ing it, I went nat­u­ral a few weeks back so I am going to read more posts of yours. Best wish­es.

rox

I love this inter­view! I real­ly like that Mr Green is doing what he can for his adorable daugh­ter to know where she comes from cul­tur­al­ly. I wish him all the luck in his wait for the upcom­ing adop­tion!

Moni

I love this inter­view! I was going to email you and sug­gest you con­tact Pro­fes­sor Green for an inter­view, but obvi­ous­ly you’re two steps ahead of me! She’s a very lucky girl to grow up with par­ents who will teach her to love her beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral hair.

Sheila

Leila, you have done it again! Won­der­ful inter­view-I think he is doing a fan­tas­tic job with his daughter’s hair. Its refresh­ing to read about his approach in regards to want­i­ng Miri­am to iden­ti­fy with her cul­ture.

Vixen

So beau­ti­ful! I think this is the most heart­warm­ing thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

...:::BEAUTIFUL...BROWN...SKIN:::...  Bianca
...:::BEAUTIFUL...BROWN...SKIN:::... Bianca

This was a tru­ly beau­ti­ful and touch­ing sto­ry. I real­ly com­mend him for shar­ing his sto­ry and par­ent­ing a black child. I absolute­ly love this post!!

Anonymous

So great…aww i’m try­ing not to cry.

Anonymous

Awwww. Cute sto­ry!

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