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1991 Duke L.J. 365 (1991)
A Hair Piece: Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Gender

handle is hein.journals/duklr1991 and id is 373 raw text is: A HAIR PIECE: PERSPECTIVES ON
A. Rediscovering My Hair
I want to know my hair again, to own it, to delight in it again, to recall
my earliest mirrored reflection when there was no beginning and I first
knew that the person who laughed at me and cried with me and stuck
out her tongue at me was me. I want to know my hair again, the way I
knew it before I knew that my hair is me, before I lost the right to me,
before I knew that the burden of beauty-or tack of it-for an entire
race of people could be tied up with my hair and me.
I want to know my hair again, the way I knew it before I knew Sambo
and Dick, Buckwheat and Jane, Prissy and Miz Scarlett. Before I knew
that my hair could be wrong-the wrong color, the wrong texture, the
wrong amount of curl or straight Before hot combs and thick grease
and smelly-burning lye, all guaranteed to transform me, to silken the
coarse, resistent wool that represents me. I want to know once more the
time before I denatured, denuded, denigrated, and denied my hair and
me, before I knew enough to worry about edges and kitchens and bur-
rows and knots, when I was still a friend of water-the rain's dancing
drops of water, a swimming hole's splashing water, a hot, muggy day's
misty invisible water, my own salty, sweaty, perspiring water.
When will I cherish my hair again, the way my grandmother cherished
it, when fascinated by its beauty, with hands carrying centuries-old
secrets of adornment and craftswomanship, she plaited it, twisted it,
cornrowed it, finger-curled it, olive-oiled it, on the growing moon cut and
shaped it, and wove it like fine strands of gold inlaid with semiprecious
stones, coral and ivory, telling with my hair a lost-found story of the
people she carried inside her?
Mostly, I want to love my hair the way I loved hers, when as grand-
daughter among grandsons I stood on a chair in her room-her kitchen-
bed-living-dining room--and she let me know her hair, when I combed
Copyright © Paulette M. Caldwell 1991.
* Professor of Law, New York University. An earlier version of this Essay was presented to
the first Critical Race Theory Workshop, sponsored by the Institute for Legal Studies, University of
Wisconsin School of Law, July 1989. My thanks to the participants in that workshop. Thanks also
to many others, including members of the Northeast Corridor Collective of Black Women Law
Professors, Eric Steele, Esq., Jacqueline Berrien, Esq., and to research assistants Sanya Hill and
Gilda Williams, New York University Law School classes of 1988 and 1990, respectively.

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