Melaninated
March 1, 2017

That Time a random White Girl Touched My Hair

don't touch my natural hair

*This post was originally posted 12/22/2015 and later restored, reedited and republished. Read about that here. It may or may not contain original photos used.

For some reason I never thought about the issue of people touching my natural hair until it actually happened. People I know do it, but what about when it’s a stranger—who’s white?

In the five years I’ve been natural I’ve felt beautiful, ugly, insecure, nappy, good, bad, #flawless, and flawed. However, without a doubt, accepting my hair taught me how to love natural self and embrace my kinks. Since I’ve been natural I’ve become a self-taught coiffeuse; learning skills such as the art of wig making and hair braiding. Although the struggle is still real with cornrows. One of my favorite wigs was a curly fro with bangs. #RIP curly wig with bangs, we had some fabulous times. It wasn’t about passing off hair that I hot glued onto a cap as mine, but trying different looks without permanently changing my own. The joy of wigs.

Here’s what happened…

A year ago my friends, my wig and I, decided to celebrate our Auburn defeat downtown with some bar hopping. Saturdays downtown in Athens, GA are typically a fun-hot mess. But depending on your melanin, sex and the racial tolerance of the “security” working the doors, you can have yourself a good ole uninterrupted time.

I obtained my undergraduate degree from a public white institution (PWI), meaning I was counted in the minority before the majority. Personally, it didn’t bother me. I went to the University of Georgia to get my degree, got that degree and enjoyed my time there. I wish I can do it all over to be honest. But I have to admit, attending a PWI gave me the biggest lesson in self-control.

While I was holding a conversation at a bar I felt something in my hair and turned around. There she was: some random white chick with her fingers in my hair. Her facial expression changed rather quickly; she appeared embarrassment and immediately began to apologize.

My hair was just so pretty she had to touch it.

My inner hood Black girl wanted to give her a quick lesson of personal space and bar etiquette. But the Black girl in a bar full of white people under a slight Tequila influence smiled, told her it was okay and thanked her for the compliment. That same night as a Black dude squeezed by me, he touched my hair and said, “needs more conditioner.” I don’t know if that was his attempt at a pick up line but I had to let him know he TRIED it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as to the things Black women go through with this new wave of afro love. I went from having my hair touched because it was admired to being a butt of a joke.

I get it, afros are cool and pretty. Black people are cool and pretty, but we’re not on public display as much as society finds our culture indispensable. I’ve had people compliment my hair, but I’ve never had someone who I didn’t know touch my hair prior to this incident. I learned at a young age to not put my hands all up in people’s hair or in/on their face, so, I expect that same level of respect in return. However, I understand we all don’t share the same upbringing and what may be a culture norm and common knowledge to me isn’t even considered by my non-melaninated sisters and brothers.

Over the summer, actress Teyonah Paris, recounted an incident with an older white man on Twitter who touched her hair because he found it “stimulating.” The vent session prompted director, Ava Duvernay, to share the time she missed her train which ended in the police being called all because a random white man touched her dreadlocks.

 

I agree with what Teyonah said about that man leaving “clueless” because I felt the same way about the chick who touched my hair. I didn’t express to the young lady why it was not okay to touch my hair, but I also felt she would not have gotten the point even if I tried. A crowded bar full of drunk college students isn’t the most ideal location to give a “Black Hair 101: The Do’s and Dont’s” crash course. It’s no different then someone walking up to me and touching my purse because they find it pretty (and) interesting. “Okay. Now get your hands off my purse.”

Even if someone were to ask my permission first I would probably say no. It’s not that I am not proud, but because my hair is not a petting zoo. If you want to stroke an afro that bad, take a stroll down the wig section in your neighborhood hair store. If I want my hair touch by strangers, I’ll go to a hair salon.

The moment I caught her in my hair, I had to be aware of who I was and where I was. A neck roll or a head tilt would have tagged me with attitude. Although what she did was not okay, I had to tell her it was okay just to make her relax. I became the friendly Black-girl-with-the-objectified-afro-because-a-white-chick-found-it-amazing-and-couldn’t-resist-touching-it.

Attending a PWI will put you in situations where your first instinct is not to react but to reason. How will I look arguing with a white girl? Would I be the aggressor? Then if I do react, there will be people who think I overreacted and next thing I know I am being escorted outside. As Black people, we rarely have the privilege to react and apply reason later and it’s often times the reactions of others that led situations to go extremely left. Even though I wanted to grab her hands and in a stern voice say, “Don’t do that”, I had to apply reason that maybe my hair just looked that damn good.

 

Kay

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