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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