You Can Touch My Hair!

Black hair is complicated. How a black woman wears their hair can be linked to their identity, politics, professionalism, and comfort and/or discomfort with their culture. I am proud to have transitioned over the past few years from wearing silky European looking wigs and weaves (which was largely perceived as more attractive) to now completely natural, non-chemically straightened hair (common words associated with natural hair; nappy, kinky, curly, wavy). This transition has been a long time in coming, and wouldn’t have been possible without the great help, beautiful examples and no-chemical use model of Good Hair Salon in Seattle. Having not been very active in the black natural hair community, it felt to be a courageous step walking in one day with my teeny weeny afro (TWA) – my hair was dry, breaking off and generally unhealthy. The great artists at the salon have helped my self esteem with regards to my hair one appointment at a time. The education provided about correct products to use for my course 4c hair, hair washing regimens, protective styles and overall, the non-judgmental atmosphere have been paramount in my continued decision to resist the temptation of chemically straightening my hair. One ramification of this change has been a fascination with my hair by the general public, including [mainly Caucasian] people asking if they can touch my hair – or some who seemingly cannot resist their urge to simply reach out and touch my afro without asking.

Some African-American women have stated that they feel like they are animals at a petting zoo when being asked this question. Others feel that it is a modern day representation of blacks being owned by whites, a request that reeks of racial superiority and privilege. Others acknowledge that some people may simply be attempting at a kind comment that they hope will help to heal the continued racial divide in America.

Although I enjoy and demand respect of my own personal space, I suppose if someone asked, I’d allow others – black, white, red or yellow – to touch my hair. Perhaps there is some benefit of acknowledging others’ curiosity and letting it be satisfied in a mutually consenting way?

3 thoughts on “You Can Touch My Hair!

  1. I love this post! While I admit that I have always thought you have had great taste in your hairstyles, especially your current one…I have never thought about wanting to touch your hair. People continue to amaze me. Just watch out if you get pregnant, they’ll want to touch more than just your hair! That’s where all those kickboxing classes will come in handy:)

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  2. It’s interesting that you wrote about this subject. I’ve experienced it from the other side. My teen-aged daughter and I used to help with Bible clubs in the projects, and the little African- American girls who attended were especially fascinated with my daughter’s long, straight, blonde hair. And they usually didn’t ask, but they were constantly touching her hair. She didn’t mind.

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  3. Wow, I landed here from Jen’s UNITE linky, but stayed to read your article on hair. I’ve been natural for several years, and have worn locs now nearly 10 years. I don’t appreciate people touching my hair without my permission, anymore than I’d violate anyone personally by touching them unbidden. You’ve said it though, “black hair is complicated….” a mouthful, sister.
    Blessings and good to you on the documentary.
    In peace,
    Chelle

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