A half-read through “White Girls Are Peculiar People” by Gwendolyn Brooks discloses a hysterical, cunning homage to irrefutable “white girl” idiosyncrasies. As a very peculiar, very Caucasian girl myself, I can attest- her words are nothing short of biblical (go to any Starbucks and you’ll easily scope out at least ten white girls with their hands glued to their hair like a tongue to a frozen pole.)
However, a deeper venture into the true depths of the poem, extending beyond that of the surface-level status of Brooks’ jeering language, reveals a tribute much more profound- a tribute to her roots- her culture, that is.
From Brooks’ understanding, white girls simply don’t comprehend the importance of hair- they “shake” it around and tamper with it as though it didn’t take an extensive, nine-month long coagulation of genes to craft. In this way, “white girls are peculiar people” to Brooks because their blatant disregard for their hair stands in such stark opposition to the innateness that is the connection between the black community and their hair-“white girl” hair does not reflect an imperative component of culture like “black girl” hair does.
Speaking of connections, while analyzing “White Girls are Peculiar People,” the synapses of my brain sparked an almost instantaneous association between the poem and a song that I heard for the first time literally no more than an hour prior to reading it- “Don’t Touch My Hair”- the ninth track in Solange Knowles’ fresh-out-the-womb studio album, A Seat at the Table. Personally, I believe “Don’t Touch My Hair” perfectly attests to the sentiment laid forth by Brooks decades prior.
The beginning of the Pre-Hook, “They don’t understand/What it means to me”, where, assumedly, “they” refers to white people and “it” refers to her hair and the culture engrained within each lock, precisely coincides with Brooks’ prideful “us versus them” mentality in regards to white women. Essentially, both Knowles and Brooks outline that hair is a very important asset to the black community- it’s “the feelings they wear,” their “soul,” their “pride,” their “crown”- the literal root of their culture, if you will; yet, even more importantly, it is something that white people will never be able to control or emulate (as they’ve attempted to do with pretty much everything else is regards black culture, quite honestly.)
To include yet another parallel, like Sandberg’s poem “Skyscrapers” isn’t necessarily about the external casing of the skyscrapers themselves but rather the people and souls that float within them, Knowles’ and Brooks’ feelings are not necessarily tied to their hair; rather, they are more so referencing the culture behind their hair and what it means to them. Both pieces are beautifully orchestrated pledges of personal identity that I think are not only extremely inspiring, but also extremely important works in regards to the modern era- a time in history where black women are being fired from their places of work for simply wearing a hairstyle native to their culture, such hairstyles are being deemed “dirty” and “unkempt” by people who couldn’t care less about black culture, and black individuals are still being undermined because of the pigment of their skin. (Savana Robinson/CoS Student)