Have you ever seen a girl, or a guy, with curly hair and had the impulse to reach out and take a fist full of it?
Yeah I know, we all do. It’s a child-like response to something interesting. But as an adult shouldn’t we be culturally aware of the human bubble? You know, the invisible bubble around your body that people know better than to pop.
On the topic of hair, m y recent post, Why I Don’t Wear Braids, inspired me to continue the conversation regarding elements of beauty in conjunction with racial identity.
My close friend from Rwanda just recently went natural. In other words she cut off her permed straight hair and now has a TWA (Tinnie Winney Afro). Her new due is adorable and works with any snapback or beanie she owns.
One day, before church, a group of us were waiting for our ride when one of our white friends came over and placed her palm on my friend’s head—to feel the soft freshly combed hair.
“Don’t touch it!” my friend squealed pulling away quickly. “It took me thirty minutes to get it like this.”
While the white girl laughed playfully, I could see the self-conscious anxiety in my friend’s face. She gave me a look that said “You don’t just touch someone’s hair.”
Could I blame the white girl? It is actually quite common among some girls to touch each other’s straight hair. As kids, during movies or sleepovers, my friends always asked, “Can I play with your hair?” It should be noted that I did not grow up with a lot of black people and apparently neither did this white girl.
As we continued waiting for the church van to arrive, another white girl appeared.
“Did you cut your hair?” she asked my friend. “It’s so cute!” With that, another oily hand put a dent in her fro.
Why don’t black girls like when you touch their hair? Aren’t you complimenting them in noticing their beauty? Aren’t they just being overly sensitive? I mean, come on, there’s no harm in complimenting someone’s natural beauty.
Some would beg to differ.
The responses to having one’s hair touched involve more than the encroachment on one’s bubble. The experience is the impact of a microaggression accompanied by feelings of dehumanization, and unrepresented beauty in society’s media.
The importance of not touching a black girls hair relates to the historical components of black women in America. Born into a society where their kind have been victims of objectification, and dehumanization for decades, black women are faced with daily reminders that they are unrepresented and degraded in everyday life.
The unknown and often unrecognized aspects of black women conjures curiosity in white people about hair texture and skin color. These inquiries such as, “You moisturize a lot. Do you just have really dry skin?” or “You hair is so pretty can you show me how to make mine do that?” categorize black women as objects of interest.
In her article on the 8 justifications of touching a black woman’s hair, Maisha Z. Johnson says the texture of black hair is interesting to white people because it is unrepresented in pop culture.”I understand the curiosity. But do you know why you’re so curious? It’s because the texture of my 4C hair is often invisible in mainstream society.”
Telling a black girl that her hair is so cool or interesting and running your hands through it reminds her that her beauty goes unrecognized.
Hopefully anyone guilty of touching a black girl’s hair doesn’t receive my approach negatively. I’m not trying to shame, rather to educated and inform so that the infringement on someone’s personal space is avoided. If you’re curious, then do some research. Just think about it; would you mind a strangers hands running through your hair, or would you too feel dehumanized?
Leave a comment below if you’ve experienced someone touching your hair.