The problem is when those friends and strangers just feel the need to touch my hair and not accept no for an answer. Not only do I not understand why you’d want to touch someone else’s hair (“Oh, is it soft?”—Opposed to what? A brick?), but it seems to be only white people who do this—at least to me. Black women seem to be capable of admiring it without wanting to finger it. In fact, most white women do too (the previous mentioned person who walked pass me, just to come back was white).
But the ones who are not content to admire my hair are always white. This is not happenstance, of course, white people generally feel more entitled to infringe on other people’s spaces. But, I won’t get into the historical and political aspects of why blacks hate this. There have been post, after post, after post on the matter, and even a guide here. They aren’t hard to find.
The main issue I have is that in this day and age, people should know better. Any information you wish is just a click away. Don’t believe me? Check google: “why not to touch a black person’s hair” or “touching black people’s hair.” See all those links? They are real. They are written by real people with real feelings. (In fact it has been written about so much I almost didn’t bother to post this. But it’s obvious some people just haven’t gotten the memo.)
There are so many reasons not to touch or ask to touch people of color’s hair. Some of them include: offensive, dehumanizing, rude.
But let’s get to the meat of it, show of hands. How often have you gotten you hair done just right, in that up-do, or curled just so for that special occasion and someone then come along and ran their fingers through it? How annoying is it? Very? Really? Well imagine being on display like this all the time, 24-7.
The most recent incident came when I was with a group of friends, sitting at a table and a woman walked over and said, “Oh, your hair is so pretty.” Then she stretched out her hands as if she was just going to touch it (without permission) and when I moved out of her way, she looked shocked. “Oh, I just wanted to feel it,” she said.
“No,” I shook my head.
She looked puzzled. “No?”
I smiled, and said nicer than she deserved, “I’m having dinner with friends, do you mind.”
“Well, EXCUSE me.” She said, as if I had offended her and not the other way around—as if I had the nerve to refuse her natural born right to touch me. I stared for a moment and watched her walk away. My group of friends were mixed company, but they are pretty awesome women.
“Bitch.” Someone said—I refuse to say who would say such a thing (besides my friends are like the mafia, snitch and you’ll wake up swimming with the fishes).
Listen, I’ve heard all kinds of excuses about why this is not a race issue. They seem to mainly be: “I am a white female with blonde hair, and on more than one occasion, someone has touched my hair.” But, I’ve learned along the years that I can’t decide when someone else should be offended or why they get offended. Neither can you.
In the end, The Stuff White People Do blog put it best. You’re not allowed to touch my hair:
“Because I’m not an animal in the zoo.”
“Because this is my body and I don’t have to let anybody touch any part of it, EVER, if I don’t want to.”
“Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors’ property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn’t want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so you’d best move your hand away from me.”
And I’ll add one of my own: Because you live in a different world from your mothers and fathers and you have the opportunity, no, dare I say the responsibility, to research and find out the views of other people before you make an ass of yourself, and before you offend someone with your ignorance.
‘Nough said. Got it?
- Mood: aggravated
The Angry Black Woman’s Guide to Hair Etiquette
1. It is never okay to touch, pull, or stroke a black person’s hair without permission. No matter how different, cool, or fun their hair looks, you just don’t.
2. It is never okay to ask a casual acquaintance or a perfect stranger if their hair is real. It doesn’t matter how curious you are or how incongruous their hair is to your expectations. Don’t do it.
3. Realize that, in asking if you can touch a black person’s hair, you are objectifying them in possibly uncomfortable ways. That person may consent to letting you touch their hair just to be nice, but rarely is it because they enjoy having your hands on them. The most polite thing would be not to ask until such time as you know that person well enough to know if they won’t mind the request. This is not the Petting Zoo.
4. Think before you make any comments expressing surprise that a person’s hair could look any certain way without a lot of help from chemicals, products, or professional stylists.
Print this, carry it around with you, tell others. I know I will. Because the next person who touches my hair without permission is going to come out of the encounter with several strands of their own missing (with root tags attached).