Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Can I Touch Your Hair? Black Women and The Petting Zoo

Hair does not mean the same thing to white women as it does to black women.  Hair for us is a physical indicator of the ways in which we are different. It is no accident that the first black millionaire, Madame CJ Walker sold hair care products. Part of female beauty has always included long flowing locks, and for black women who have  gravity defying hair, that refuses to be tamed, this can be extremely problematic. To mess with our hair, is to mess with your safety; much of who we are is invested in our beautiful audacious locks.

Many of my childhood memories involve sitting at my mothers feet as she braided my hair for the week.  Every Saturday night I would unbraid my hair, and then my mother would wash it and braid it.   I would then put on my head tie,  and go to bed thinking of how pretty I would look in church the next day.  This is a ritual that most black women can relate to. 

As a black girl growing in a mostly Greek and Italian neighbourhood, my hair often became the subject of conversation.  I was a curiosity.  People would  touch it, and ask questions about its care like my hair was some kind of pet dog.  That they were being racist, or treating me like some kind of exotic creature, never once occurred to them.

Today I am a grown woman with dreadlocks that reach to the middle of my image back.  I love them, and they are an expression of my racial pride.  What many white people often fail to realize is that wearing our hair natural is a political choice on the part of black women.  In a culture that constantly teaches that anything black, or associated with blackness is negative, to publicly wear your hair natural is to embrace blackness as a positive.  More often than not, when the media chooses to portray black women as angry or revolutionary, our hair is altered to its natural state even if the woman in question has straightened hair. The most recent example of this, can be found on the heinous cover of the New Yorker, where Michelle was depicted with an Afro and a rifle.

Natural hair equals revolutionary because it says I do not covet whiteness.  It says I have decolonized my mind and no longer seek to embrace the qualities of my oppressor.  It flies in the face of beauty traditions that seek to create black women as unfeminine and thereby undesirable.  My natural hair is one of the truest expressions of the ways in which I love myself because I have made the conscious choice to say that I am beautiful, without artifice or device.  It further states that I will not be judged by the yardstick of white womanhood.  My beauty is a gift from my foremothers who knew on a more instinctual level than we know today, that 'woman' is as beautiful as she believes herself to be.

Today I have the confidence to loudly proclaim no you may not touch my hair.  I am not an animal at a petting zoo.  I will not be your path to the exotic. Even worse than the ones that ask, are those that assume that they have right to touch me without permission.  I believe that part of this urge stems from the fact that black women like so many other WOC, have historically been denied even the smallest forms of bodily autonomy.  While white women were covered in multiple layers; corsets, floor length dresses etc, no honour was given to our desire for modesty. The black female slave at anytime could be forced to disrobe for the pleasure of her owners.

Today white people still feel that they have the right to our bodies.  It can be a small act like touching our hair without permission, to a heinous act as serious as sexual assault.  In each case it is an assault, and an affront to our bodily integrity.  My blackness and your curiosity does not give you the right to touch me.  I don't care if you smile while you do it, or whistle Dixie out of your ass.  My body deserves just as must respect as anyone else.  In answer to your question both verbalized and assumed, NO YOU MAY NOT TOUCH MY HAIR.



selkie said...

I confess, I find myself astonished that people would DO that - offensive indeed! I am not black so I've never experienced that - although for a very long time I had very very long hair - mid-thigh, very thick and wavy and truth to tell, I had a LOT of people want to touch it too - its intriguing to me that there is this whole other side to invading someone's space.

The only thing I have that I can relate to is complete strangers who want to touch your belly when you're pregnant - but then that seems to be a WHOLE other thing.

Thank you for making me think outside my own narrow perspective; I always find it fascianting to suddenly see a room from another angle (I have just never thought about the thought process, unconscious or otherwise) behind someone being rude enough to want to touch someone's hair - but it VERY much makes sense what you say ...

groovyjoss said...

I have dreads that are probably a couple of inches shorter than yours Renee, and I find the same thing. Especially when they were short and punky people would come up to me on the train and touch them without asking, just the other day I was at a gig and my friends had left so I knew that I didn't know anyone in the building and I felt someone pick up an individual dread and examine it.
I find that heaps of people ask me about my dreads, I am a white Australian woman and I think a lot of people I know, especially older ones, have never had the chance to see dreads up close. In Australia it is mostly white people (hippies and punks - to stereotype) who have dreads. When I was in the US lots of people would ask me about them and they pretty much always asked before touching them.
I have explained my dreads about a million times and answered so many questions, so much so that when someone asks me about getting dreads I warn them about the questions.
I think that is really interesting what you are saying about people feel like they have the right to your body, I wonder how often a white male gets his dreads touched? I also wonder if it makes a difference about where one lives or who one associates with...

The Fitness Diva said...

I find this undying curiosity about our hair just as annoying as the "but, you're so ARTICULATE" remark.
I have told folks in the past that I'm not some ethnic exhibit for them to exercise their curiosity on. The thing is, they really don't get it. They don't understand "why you're offended" when they make a big deal and fuss about your hair. I guess it will always be like that.

The latest thing in the past 20 years or so is asking if your hair is real, because now it's assumed that all black women (without dreads or naturals) have weaves.
"Is that extensions?" They feel free to ask at any given moment, in any social situation, with the same casualness as asking what time of the day it is.

Weave, extensions, wig, fall, glued in tracks, dreads, natural, or none of the above, the particulars of what is going on on another person's head isn't any of ANYONE's business. The audacity and complete social rudeness of some people never ceases to amaze me.

The touching just takes it to a whole other level!
You just have to set people straight, and quickly. And be firm and unapologetic about it.
They should have been raised better than that.
Let them know it! ;)

Talair said...

Even when I had my dreads, I never had adults try to touch my hair, but I think that's because I often have a demeanor that tends to lean toward 'unapproachable.' I did have kids on occasion touch them, and that didn't bother me because they're kids and they do that. If an adult ever tried to do that, I think a look alone would make them burst into flames - I don't like being touched without invitation, period.

Danny said...

I wonder how often a white male gets his dreads touched? I also wonder if it makes a difference about where one lives or who one associates with...
Reminds me a white guy with dreads I saw in a club a few years ago. If this guy is any indicator I'd say it happens pretty often. And I think the reason it happens is because that white guy "is not supposed to have dreads". When people encounter something not familiar to them they are curious about it.

White people aren't supposed to have dreads, braids, or cornrows. A black woman sporting her natural hair texture is "exotic". A black man with braids must either be a thug or of Carribean decent. And anyone with an afro? That's the international invitation to touch your hair.

Thats the type of rude thinking and lack of home training we are dealing with. If your hair isn't in the style that "its supposed to be in" then you are attraction.

Pookie said...

As a "light-skinned" (I SO hate that phrase!) black woman with long (about your length) dreadlocks, I've run into something that I never (before I grew locks) thought I would; it's an attitude that's a combination of what you're saying, combined with 'groovyjoss' and 'The Fitness Diva'. It's 1. How did you grow locks? You're mixed (race) so wasn't it hard for you? 2. Is it all yours? I bet it took FOREVER for you to get it that long; what did you use on it to make it grow? and (and this is the one I HATE) 3. How do you wash your hair? Doesn't it smell? Can I feel it?

I used to be amazed that in this day and age people would not only say things like that, (and actually believe them) but could not understand why I find it offensive, especially when it comes from ANYONE of color. (male or female) I've had locks for almost 20 years, (I'm 49) and it's gotten no easier as time has gone on to get people to understand that it is insulting for them to assume that I do not wash my hair; it is insulting for them to be amazed when they find out that I cannot 'comb it out', nor do I want to; it is insulting for them to assume that because it's almost long enough to sit on that it can't be all 'mine'; and most of all, it is an insult beyond measure to assume that I would have no problem with someone I don't know, who may have been doing god-only-knows-what with their hands before they saw me, someone who doesn't believe it's real and wants to prove that I'm lying, PUTTING THEIR HANDS IN MY HAIR.

To use your words, I don't care if you smile and whistle Dixie out your ass, NO YOU MAY NOT TOUCH MY HAIR.

frau sally benz said...

White people aren't supposed to have dreads, braids, or cornrows.

I used to know a couple, both white, both had locks (I don't call them dreads after being scolded several times), and both were ALWAYS being bothered! It was hard to go anywhere in public with them b/c people would come up to one of them and poke at their hair, or just stand, stare and point.

emily said...

"I do not covet whiteness"

.... that gave me chills. I love your writing! Thanks for sharing this! :)

Margaret S. said...

While I don't want to disagree with your comments in any way (which I think are right on) I do want to lend some support for touching hair and sharing information as a way of expanding people's minds who are honestly curious and just don't know better.
As a white woman, and former Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa, I've had lots of people ask me similar questions about my really straight long blond hair (how does it grow so long? how often do you wash it?), and ask to touch it (and touch my skin too). While it got annoying, I usually let them - figuring that I was probably the first person they'd ever gotten to ask about it. It's a different situation, I know, but there is something to seeing yourself as a positive ambassador for all the good parts that people don't know about your "group," and dispelling a little racism along the way instead of reinforcing negative stereotypes. Of course, that doesn't apply if people are really being racist and ugly about it, only if they honestly don't know (as it sounds like some of the kids in your neighborhood really didn't).

Bob King said...

I have two contradictory reactions to this post - one is, of course, and how could anyone think they have a right...

But at the same time, I think maybe you are attributing to presumption which might be pure primate curiosity.

I bias my behavior against doing what my fingers want to do - explore a fascinating new thing that's totally unfamiliar - because frankly, I don't wish to be treated like a fabric swatch any more than you do.

But if the person who wanted to touch was a toddler, would your reaction be different? I've had to gently disentangle many toddlers from my beard, while teaching them to be gentle in their explorations.

Sooooo, well, I don't think that actually when people "grow up" they grow out of that instinct, and I don't think that we should shame ourselves for being curious about others. The real trick - and it's a tough stunt to pull off - is to be clear that the curiosity is about the whole person.

For instance - I'm a white male who chooses to go long haired and bearded - and that has certain implications to it, and some assumptions commonly made about it - which are non-identical. If you ask me, I will tell you - but then, we have to swap some cultural DNA.

One thing about me is that I've always found people who respect themselves too much to pretend to be what they are not to be much more interesting (and generally, much more likely to extend the reciprocal courtesy) than people who try and take a flat-iron to their souls.

shadowedlight said...

I'm white, and I have a fairly large tattoo across my shoulders. I have had many, many people suddenly touch it (I'm never sure what they think that will show them). A really common question I get is "Is that a real tattoo?" Is it any of their business?

I don't mind questions when I'm having a conversation with someone, but when a total stranger asks, its quite offensive.

The incident that sticks out though, happened when I was 18. A guy working in the fast food restaurant I was in asked me if it was real.

When I said that it was he responded with "no way" and POKED AT MY BACK WITH A STRAW.

I was too shocked at the time to say anything to him, but if someone ever does that again they will regret it.

I'm always flabbergasted by the way people forget one of the basics of kindergarten- keep your hands to yourself.

Livia_Augusta said...

Thanks for some interesting reflection on hair. I just had some (VERY different) thoughts about my own long, straight blonde hair, my personal/professional image and my attachment to my hair. It culminated in the decision to cut 10 inches and donate it.

My experience was very different, but I think your post is very eloquent and powerful. Thanks for giving me some new things to think about.

xxblaze said...

I remember as a young teenager going to Central Mexico with the family for the summer. We were constantly in and out of pools and the ocean, so I finally got sick of dealing with my hair and had it cornrowed. I thought it looked cute, even though my scalp burned worse than usual.

Nevertheless, when I came home and went back to school, I hadn't taken them out yet. I really liked how low maintenance they were. Also, I was a fairly sheltered kid, my parents never let me watch normal television and movies (only PBS), so my perception of fads and "normal" was hopelessly naive.

In a hugely white middle school, I got teased mercilessly for the cornrows. Before long, my love of them turned to hate, and I had them taken out a mere week into the school year. What your post made me recall is the assumption that the way I wore my hair was bad and unattractive. I wondered what the odd black kid in our classes thought, although they never said anything (the bullies were almost always as white and blond as possible). Was it that hairdos that are predominately worn by the black community "bad" in the way wearing stuff from Walmart was? I couldn't comprehend why they were bad at the time, being so young.

Now, I wonder. Was the teasing I get for the cornrows manifested in racism?


the other walmart...this white women walked up to me, touched my hair and asked how i put beads on braids. (I have locs by the way!) then told me she asked because she wanted to braid her hoarses mane...and didnt know how you put beads on hair without the beads coming out...that shit was just offensive. I was with my best friend, who is white, and she said she waiting for that woman to be cursed out. lol.

I have been asked to touch my hair on many occasions. It bothers me so much. And so many times, their asking and touching at the same time. It even annoys me when some black people do it.

I remember when this white girl that i worked with told me my hair looked like...poop when I first got them done...Yup..I believe she said poop... hmm.

Maria said...

I've been thinking about this recently...although I can't remember it happening to me (the touching). I remember an instance in 8th grade where the kids (white) asked me how often I washed my hair and when I replied "once a week" they were disgusted. They asked me if I combed it up would it stick straight up.

It was then I realized just how ignorant white folks could be. I expressed to my parents how frustrating and puzzled I was. How could I know all about their hair and they know nothing about mine? My mother simply said, "Because they don't have to"

The last time I was in any situation like that was freshman year of college when my roomate (white) asked me if dreadlocks where made with MUD.

MUD! I gave her a very incredulous look. I really didn't believe she was sincere..but she was! I simply told her 'no' and stalked away in disbelief.

Maureen said...

Margaret - there's a huge difference emotionally between being actually foreign in a foreign country and being treated like an exotic stranger (especially when it's for a limited amount of time before you go back home)and getting the same treatment in your home country for your whole life.

that said, I admit that one (minor) perk of working in Africa was getting to learn about black hair without offending or exoticizing anyone, just by holding a conversation about hair with all the local people who wanted to touch / ask about mine (yes, I still asked before I touched, and only after they asked to touch mine).

Danny said...

I remember an instance in 8th grade where the kids (white) asked me how often I washed my hair and when I replied "once a week" they were disgusted.

If that is disgusting to them then they shouldn't come around me. Now that I've finally found the right combination of shampoo, conditioner, and gel I only have to wash my afro once a week.

Renee said...

If that is disgusting to them then they shouldn't come around me. Now that I've finally found the right combination of shampoo, conditioner, and gel I only have to wash my afro once a week.

Same here and I remember the disgust that they responded to that with. They were especially bothered when I spoke about oiling my scalp. They simply could not fathom it and therefore it was dirty.

Rob said...

Maybe I'm just being a naive white woman here, but I've always loved and been so jealous of black women's hair. What I wouldn't give to have a natural afro or dreads. I think it's beautiful.

Touching someone else's dreads, though, wouldn't even occur to me. That's just mind boggling.

Jennifer said...

Ugh, hair issues. Bad memories of having people - even teachers - putting their grubby hands in my hair like I was a pet. One teacher even asked me if my braids grew like that. How ignorant can you be?

It all came together one day in karate class. I was a blue belt, and this 2nd degree black belt touched my hair. And it was just newly braided so you know how tight that feels, and I swear I must've reached back to the Motherland to knock the crap out of her. It wasn't intentional - I actually liked the girl - but I didn't apologize, and I'm still not sorry.

Now I'm older, and I just give a blood chilling look to anyone who even thinks about touching my newly forming locs. And the answer to touching my hair is always, always no. Some people look startled - they ask the question with their hand half out.

BTW, I encourage all pregnant women to stomp the toes of somebody who touches your belly. UGH!!!

technipion said...

White gal from sheltered background, here.

Thank you for your beautiful essay.

Re: the hair-washing discussion, I had a couple of black roommates my first year of college, and I have to admit that it totally blew my mind the first time I observed them putting oil INTO their hair, when I spend half my life trying to get oil OUT OF my hair. That was when I realized that black-people-hair is nothing like white-people-hair.

I still can't imagine touching a complete stranger's hair, even if I asked first. Amazing!

Jessica said...

I followed to this post, and it's right on. I think that here, the act of "touching," especially without permission, is a claiming and colonizing act meant to put the person being touched in a subordinate position to the one who is acting/touching.
A person who considers another to be an equal would say, "I like your hair."
Respect for an equal means controlling a "curious" or "fearful" impulse to reach out and turn another person into an object.

sardonic sister said...

As a white woman working with black children, I do get lots of questions about my hair. My favorite was: What's that white stripe in your hair? Answer: My scalp. But, I realize that's completely different from a grown person treating me like I'm an animal in a petting zoo! The more I learn about people's racism and idoicy, the more I love my cats :)

Ordinary said...

Hear hear.

I'm white, but my hair does not conform to the "white standard" of beauty. I've got lots of difficult to control curls. I've taken crap for not straightening it, and I've had total strangers come up to me, plunge their hands into it and start asking me about it.

I choose to wear my hair natural, and though I am not affected by the political aspect as a Black woman would be, I have taken flack in the workplace. As if curls were something a "professional" woman wouldn't wear.

And in regards to the washing... I wet my hair every day to keep the frizz down, and I condition it daily. I haven't used shampoo in two years, and the cleansers I do use only come out once a week at the max. I oil my hair once or twice a week too, on the rare occasion that I brush it. (Brushing = Afro for me). When I end up in hair-care conversations with people and mention the non-shampoing regimen, they look at me like I told them I bathe in dirt or something.

nia said...
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nia said...

Ok, I have not read all the comments yet, but from what I understand this post is supposed to be about Black women and their natural hair. I am amazed at the number of white people posting comments here about having locs, tattoos, etc. and having their hair touched, basically making Renee's essay all about THEM.

This is similar to when Renee did the post about women recently and all the men came on saying "What about me?"

A white person having locs or any other hairstyle and having their hair touched or critiqued is simply not the same as when it happens to a black woman. And why are white people locking their hair anyhow? Are any of you even aware of the cultural and historic significance of wearing locs? Of its spiritual connection to our African ancestors?

sardonic sister said...

@ Nia- i don't think that people are saying 'what about me?'; but maybe, 'i've experienced something similar, and its helping me understand your post.' at least, that's where my comment was coming from. as different as it may be, i used my experience and tried to magnify that in my mind to understand what Renee's experience. i think as long as us white folks don't try to say, 'i know exactly what you mean!'; posting about our experiences helps us understand (as much as we can) the issue at hand.

nia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sardonic sister said...

@Nia, I know that I will never fully white person ever could. But what small experiences we have can help us to imagine for a moment what it might be like. This, I think, increases awareness and we can spread the word to others...I don't I being too optimistic here? I think that white people just have to find some way to connect so that we have better understanding. Like, it was embarassing when the kids at work asked me about my hair...I can only imagine what it would be like for a grown person to approach me in the grocery store and stick their fingers in my hair! I'm just using what I know and have experienced and using it as a basis to expand my awareness. But, I'm still learning... said...

Simply put, that was so well written! Thanks for helping me understand just a little bit more. I'm white, and have young dreads. I don't try to be someone I'm not, and thru my own loc journey, I've tried to remain well aware of what they mean on a much deeper level to women of color especially. Sometimes I feel like I'm "borrowing" just a little bit of something very special for a small period of my life. Keep writing, please!! Your locs are beautiful!

whatsername said...

This is such a great example of things we (white people) do without thinking that show just how much privilege we have.

The desire to touch someone's hair which is so utterly different from my own is a curiosity I have had to ignore more than once. Even though I think all sorts of hair textures are cool and beautiful, I have to remind myself that it's one of those situations where what you're feeling doesn't matter that much, the action is probably a violation.

How do you feel about white women who compliment your hair? I'm torn between wanting sometimes to give a compliment and worrying that it will be taken in the same vein as touching someone's hair without asking. An objectification, or exoticization or something. But I recognize what a political decision it is for WOC not to relax or style their hair into a white style, and I want to say "rock on sister!" when I see it.

Renee said...

@whatsername...I actually prefer no commentary on my hair whatsoever but that is just me. I certainly do not speak for all WOC. The biggest problem is that I cannot always decipher what the commentary actually means and because hair is such a sensitive issue with me, I immediately get my back up. I live by the adage less is more when it comes to WOC and hair. For white women that want to learn about our hair and the bullshit that we live with there are tons of writing by WOC. I suggest reading those rather than expecting an individual to be your teacher.

delux-vivens said...

I actually stopped wearing my hair in a style that I really liked because white women would not stop pawing me. I have had white people look me in the eye as I told them *not* to touch my hair and still touch it. I have had white people get enraged when I told them I did not want to have them touch me. These are the experiences of Black women not being able to have *any* autonomy and control over our bodies that this post was about, and still... somehow... the commentary becomes all about white people's experiences, perceptions, and analysis.

And right on about modesty and dignity, I've had complete strangers walk up to me and demand to know if my hair was 'real', how much it cost, all kinds of invasive demands for information. Some bizarre freak recently follwed a friend of mine around at a club recently offering her marijuana if she would let him touch her hair.

We really arent supposed to have any right to the word "no" when it comes to ousiders' curiosity about any parts of our bodies, I guess. White people, white women may have vaguely similar experiences but Black women are not allowed to have any sort of anger in their reactions to these invasions because *then* we are scary and threatening and pose a danger to an oh-so-innocent question what with our wild irrational rages. So we cant win, I guess.

Barry Deutsch said...

Renee, would you feel okay about it if I someday did a "don't touch my hair" cartoon, partly inspired by this post?

Renee said...

@ Barry feel free, and thanks for asking.

Tek said...

I have lox and I do let people touch my hair. Only if they ask and only if I feel like it. One commentor said "white people dont' know because they don't have to know" which is so very true. but hair touching is not limited to white people who buy the beauty myth but some black people as well.
My experience is for those who are really curious I speak of my hair with respect. Yes I wash it. Yes it smells lovely, this weeks shampoo is lavender. Yes I take care of it lovingly and lavishly. I honor those women who do take offense and respect their right to do so. Just wanted to offer up my own experience.

DJ Nelson said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I had no idea that people still behaved in such a manner. Your post has inspired me to post my own experience.

Sometimes a little awareness goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

I am a Native American woman raised in a predominantly white family. I can completely relate to the idea of decolonizing your mind. I grew up thinking of myself as white because I have light (but still olive - I have never gotten a sunburn whereas my white brother frequently got third degree sunburns for the same sun exposure) skin, but my facial structure is clearly non-white. So my conclusion for many many years was that I was ugly, because among other things, eye makeup never looked on my eyes the way it did on white girl eyes (because of my epicanthal folds), my cheekbones are so much higher, and my hair is different. So even though I think people usually put me into the white box because they (and I) didn't have much exposure to people of Native American ancestry (because white people KILLED US ALL!). People, not just white people, are always trying to figure out what I "really" am - thinking I must be part Chinese or Japanese or Hispanic or Turkish) they would still come up and not even ask, just start touching my hair or telling me I have a big nose (when really I just have an anglo nose that stands out against my flat face). Nothing has helped me decolonize my mind more than painting, because it forced me to recognize the fact that just because I don't have typical anglo features, it doesn't mean I am ugly - it just means I'm not white. My self portraits never came out looking like me until I stopped thinking of myself as white - and then suddenly, I could draw my diamond eye sockets and my high cheekbones and my almond eyes, where before it was like I physically couldn't see myself, I was so brainwashed by white supremacist beauty standards. I am lucky that my hair is straight and that I get the privilege of having incidents of hair grabbing be few and far between. I cannot begin to imagine how enraging and frightening it would be for me if I always had to worry about suddenly realizing some asshole white person's fingers were in my hair. It's hard enough getting over the self-hate even as someone who can usually pass as white.

White people have no freaking idea what it's like, and they need to stop comparing their decision to grow their blonde hair out and receive frequent compliments to the reality of non-white women's lives: the self-hatred, the fear, the harassment, and most of all, the hassle of dealing with idiot white people.

butterflywings said...

I don't like being touched without permission either.
I'm white and short, and have had people pat me on the head condescendingly.
I used to touch my grandmother's hair as a kid - we're both white, but it's very curly and coarse.
When I'm travelling in the middle East and south-east Asia, local women would often touch my hair - even more so for blonde travellers.
It's just curiosity, that's all, and it isn't always meant to be rude. Not that you have to put up with it if you don't like it, but I just can't see that it's racist.
And men don't get this as much. Generally, everyone feels they have access to *women's* bodies.

butterflywings said...

And also, my hair is also pretty frizzy and curly. I choose to straighten it. My choice. Because I like it that way. Not buying into 'white supremacist' beauty ideals.
Before I was old enough to style it, lots of people would comment on how curly it was.
I wouldn't comment on anyone's appearance, much less touch them, who I didn't know well.
Just saying.

Anonymous said...

For a time as a young man, I had long blond hair, and people liked to touch it. Later when I grew a beard with reddish tinge to it, people liked to touch that too. Now I'm balding on top, and people touch or pat my bald spot even more than they did my hair or beard. I'd venture to say that bald guys get touched by strangers and casual acquaintances more often than anybody else! Is it thoughtless and even presumptuous? Sure. But I think it's due to curiosity or an awkard effort at friendliness more often than real disrespect or disdain.

Anonymous said...

I'm a black female with unprocessed hair. Mine is quite coarse and short.
It's really annoying when the choice to touch without permission is defended in the name of "curiosity is natural". Or "what if it was a kid?" or "Well even us grownups are all kids at heart?" or "But you can be an ambassador for your kind?"
The need for a toilet is natural too - but we exercise self-control and don't relieve ourselves in the living room.
How about - I want to choose HOW I am an ambassador for my kind: through conversation or dance or whatever!
How about - yes, to experience curiosity is natural. THe DESIRE to touch is natural. The ACTION of touching without asking permission is inexcusable. The ASKING is an inappropriate burden.
People love to talk about their 3rd world country experience where they have a "similar experiences."
I'm in AMERICA. I'm being treated this way by the people who are my colleagues and neighbors! The social dynamic we experience when FELLOW AMERICANS do this to us is not the same as being a white person in a 3rd world country!
I understand the resentment some posted here about the white respondents 'appropriation' of the story. But, I've enjoyed reading all of that commentary because it seems to me that all are participating in the conversation. So now, we're doing more than just ranting - our tales are being shared and maybe with the very people who can help change the story?

Anonymous said...

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