New York City just elected a new mayor and a surprising ‘issue” has taken center stage. It’s not whether Bill de Blasio will emphatically abolish stop and frisk, nor about the incoming mayor’s plans to address the needs of the city’s growing poor, who continue to be pushed further and further out to the outskirts if the city’s boundaries by gentrification. What everyone is talking about, including President Obama himself, is the de Blasio family’s hair–particularly Dante de Blasio’s not so teeny afro. Of course not everyone thought Dante’s hair was appropriate enough (or even clean enough) for the son of a mayoral candidate, but for the most part, his sweet afro has received positive media attention.
Editor’s note: Full disclosure. I’m very much here for Bill de Blasio. As a transplanted New Yorker, I voted for him, largely because he visited my church in Harlem (First Corinthians Baptist Church woot woot!) and gave the most spirited prayer I’ve heard a non-pastor pray. My first thought was well dang that man has the fear of The Lord in him, you’ve got my vote (Chris rock link)! His family then joined him on stage and I gasped aloud to see him accompanied by black folk! The fact that de Blasio was married to a deep skinned black woman pretty much secured my vote, and I thought their interracial marriage was going to be the topic of non-politics related discussion of the mayoral candidate during his campaign. And while the news has mentioned de Blasio’s black wife and biracial children, Dante’s hair–to some sources–is what won de Blasio the mayoral seat in the first place. I think it’s fascinating that hair–perhaps as a less daunting euphemism for race–is the focal point of stories about the de Blasio family. And for the record, I did eventually look at various candidates’ platforms and make an informed decision when I cast my vote, but my heart had decided on de Blasio and just needed my rational mind to confirm the decision.
Aside from the writer’s side-eye deserving choice of the word smart (what do non-smart dreadlocks look like? Maybe like Tiana Parker’s?), this article in the Washington Post’s style section–of all places–is the most mainstream media source to politicize the entire de Blasio family’s hair:
Wife Chirlane McCray’s long dreadlocks are often pulled into a smart, flowing ponytail. Son Dante’s famously large Afro stands triumphant. His daughter, Chiara, wears her loose, kinky locks framed with a band of roses. For a rare instant in the nation’s electoral history, the African American hair politic is on full display.
Last week, Steven Thrasher wrote a great article that talked about the afro as a political statement, using Dante de Blasio as a springboard for a history that begins with the Civil Rights Movement and focuses on iconic afros of black political figures such as Huey Newton and Angela Davis of the Black Panthers. Thrasher, a biracial man like Dante, talks about his own personal desire to wear an afro, and his battles with father about getting a low cut to be socially acceptable, and relates the tension between wearing your hair as desired and resisting the “angry black man” stereotype as one common to black men, including Barack Obama. Informative, thought-provoking, and with enough of a personal touch, this is a must read.