That Time a random White Girl Touched My Hair

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 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 my natural self and embrace my kinks. Since I’ve been natural I’ve become a self-taught coiffeuse; I’ve learned how to make wigs, braid, etc. Although the struggle is still real with cornrows.

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. Based on your melanin, gender and the racial tolerance of 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 school, got my degree and enjoyed my time there. To be honest, I wish I can do it all over again. 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 appeared embarrassment and she immediately began to apologize.

She said she wanted to touch my hair because it was so pretty.

I wanted to give her a quick lesson of personal space and bar etiquette. But the Black girl in a bar full of white people 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 pickup 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 then 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 bother to explain why touching my hair was inappropriate because I knew she wouldn’t get it anyways. A crowded bar full of drunk college students isn’t an ideal location to give a “Black Hair 101: The Do’s and Dont’s” crash course. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and touch her purse because it’s pretty. Even if someone were to ask my permission first I would probably say no. It’s not that I am not proud, but my hair is not for public display.

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? As Black people, we rarely have the privilege to react and apply reason later and it’s often times the reactions of others that situations 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.


*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.