It seemed like a regular Sunday lunch after church; but conflict was boiling under the appearance of peace and harmony. Her mother-in-law had some personal beef with something she had done.
And when all hell broke loose, starting a huge family conflict, she was left with many questions, especially one: all of that just over a hairstyle?
She was really proud of the work she had done on her daughter’s hair. Her daughter was delighted with it; she wouldn’t stop showing off in school and telling all her friends.
But apparently, someone had a problem with it: her mother-in-law found it offensive. She warned her to give her daughter a different hairstyle, or there would be consequences. So she turned to the Internet for a second opinion; she couldn’t help but feel baffled at the responses she got.
The protagonist of this story is a woman we will refer to as Issy. She shared her story on Reddit, where she asked other users about their opinions on what happened.
She had nothing but the best intentions; she couldn’t fathom how something as innocent as a little girl’s hairstyle could have caused all that discord and hostility.
As you may know, one concept that’s usually debated on social media is what is called “cultural appropriation”. Some people perceive it as offensive, disrespectful or insulting when elements of a certain culture, such as music or clothing, shouldn’t be used by members of other cultures.
For example, some people may find it offensive or disrespectful if a white person wore a traditional Indian dress just because it looks good on her, even though she’s not Indian herself. But that’s not all there is to it.
You may have your own view on the matter. But there is no question that many people have really strong opinions about this sort of issue; and sometimes, it’s the object of heated debates, both on the Internet and in real life.
One of the topics that are usually argued about from the lens of cultural appropriation is black hairstyles and whether white people should be allowed to sport them or not. And that’s what caused a quarrel within Issy’s family.
Issy had two daughters. One of them, Nia, is biracial: she’s the daughter of Issy’s current partner, an African-American man. Her other daughter, Rachel, is from a previous marriage, and she’s white.
The two little girls are of similar ages; and from the day they met, they got along beautifully. It was like they were destined to be soulmates. However, at one point, they were at the very center of some nasty disagreement.
Before Nia was born, Issy started wondering what it would be like to raise a biracial kid; she asked her mother-in-law for advice. Among other things, she taught her how to take care of textured hair.
That’s how Issy found a new passion: she discovered how relaxing and fun it was to do different hairstyles. As Nia grew up, she had multiple chances to practice and experiment. The little girl loved to sit down with her mom and wait in excitement for her hair to look somehow new. But she wasn’t the only one.
Rachel also loved to have her hair taken care of by Issy; but given that her hair was really straight, she didn’t have such a wide range of options as Nia.
But one day, one particular style that Issy did on Nia’s hair caused a great impression on Rachel; so much so, that she asked her mom to do the same hairstyle on her.
From the first moment Rachel saw Nia sporting some box braids Issy had done on her, she wanted the same thing. At first, Issy was worried that they would damage her hair.
But after doing some research, she found the proper way to do it. And soon enough, the two girls were wearing matching hairstyles which they absolutely loved. They couldn’t stop flaunting their matching styles in front of their friends at school. But some people had a problem with it.
It happened on a Sunday, right after church. That day, the whole family was together for dinner at Issy’s house. The kids were playing while the adults cooked and set up the table, and everyone was having a good time.
But suddenly, as she was cooking, Issy’s mother-in-law approached her with a concerned expression. What could have happened?
When the first words came out of her mother-in-law’s mouth, there was nothing in the world that could have prepared Issy for that.
At first, she thought that something concerning or alarming had happened. But when she heard what her mother-in-law had to say, she couldn’t help but feel bewildered. This is how she recounted it on her Reddit post:
“In front of everyone, she basically told me that I needed to undo my daughter’s braids because it was offensive and upsetting to her. She said she hadn’t taught me to braid for me to give her culture away to a white child and asked how I thought it was appropriate.”
“She told me that I needed to teach Rachel now what was and was not appropriate and that when Nia grew up, she wouldn’t have a sense of culture because she had to share it.” And that wasn’t all.
Issy’s mother-in-law also threatened her with some consequences if she didn’t do what she told her. In Issy’s own words, “she told me if I didn’t fix Rachel’s hair, she’d leave and not ever come back.”
The first person Issy told about the issue was her own husband, her mother-in-law’s son. He thought her mother was blowing things out of proportion, but he suggested changing Rachel’s hairstyle to avoid conflict. Then, Issy went on Reddit and asked people for their opinions. ANd this is what they said:
“These are kids with no concept of appropriation or hatred. Your MIL is the one who is trying to introduce that to them before the world even has a chance to harden their hearts. Intent is everything, and there’s no malice here to poison said intent,” said one user.
“They’re children. It’s hair. Your MIL was the AH & should apologize. Honestly, I would be leery to have her around my children for fear she would treat them differently,” said another. However, other users were siding with Issy’s mother-in-law.
As of today, we don’t know if Issy and her mother-in-law have reached an agreement about the issue. But according to Issy, “She has been causing a fuss since then. Also, my husband and some of my in-laws have been after me for making her leave our dinner.”
Hopefully, they will end up getting over this conflict and reconciling. But what do you think about it? Do you think Issy is in the right here, or does her mother-in-law have a point?