Natural Curly Hair, Please Don’t Touch

So..I’ve been natural for about three years now and the journey has been filled with challenges. I can’t say that I will never go back to the creamy crack, but I don’t see it in my future. I’m quite satisfied with the way that I can style my hair in it’s natural state and to my surprise it’s more manageable. Now that I’ve prefaced my love for my hair, time to get down to business in terms of a particular issue that I’ve been encountering lately.

Even before I went natural, people have always wanted to touch my hair. My college roommate from Booneville, Missouri. The lady at the gas station in Hammond, Indiana. Even the little Indian lady who I sat next to for two hours on a flight to Baltimore. When I receive the “can I touch your hair question,” I’m usually very polite. Most of the time it’s from white people and I understand the curiosity. It’s important to note that these folks, the polite people who ask, is not the reason why I’m writing about this.

Lately, I’ve encountered a less mannerable group of people. Those individuals who don’t ask, who just take, or shall I say touch my hair after making a couple of quick comments. “Oooo you got some good hair.” or “girl, how you get your hair like that?” as they reach for it. It’s not like a light stroke either. They dig into it like you would a bowl of popcorn at the latest Tomb Raider flick. And you know what? I don’t like it. It feels like going to the doctor for your yearly checkup only to find out that a medical student will be performing the exam. You want to trust them and believe that they’re going to do the right thing, but something is unsettling about the whole ordeal.What’s interesting is that most of the time, the offenders are black.

Perhaps it’s because they are African American that they feel like it’s okay to do it. Like “hey I’m black too so I get a free pass. Those whites and others have to ask, but I’m a sista.” No. Being a member of the same race doesn’t excuse you from being rude. I understand that we have a variety of different textures and everyone’s curl pattern isn’t the same. I understand that you get excited at the sight of  a natural hair style that you haven’t seen before. But would it kill you to ask me if you can touch my hair? Most likely I will say yes if I’m up for my head being treated like a science experiment.

This baffles me because most African Americans are very particular about their personal space. When we deal with someone who comes from a culture that does not include the three foot rule, we’re looking at them sideways and backing up when they approach us. But when we see a curly fro, there is no hesitation of not only invading personal space, but grabbing someone’s hair.

The experience that I’ve had with my hair is comparable to the double standard regarding the n-word. The common argument is that blacks can use it freely among each other. Some even regarding the use of the word as a term of endearment. But let a white person rap the word in a song and they are getting cursed out. The argument for this double standard is that we are not saying the n-word version with “er” at the end. We’re changing it to “uh.” That way we’re “empowering” ourselves and reclaiming it. There’s something wrong with this mode of thinking. When you’re really reclaiming something, everyone is entitled to say it. There is no division. So until everyone either agrees to say the n-word or not say the n-word, don’t touch my hair without asking. This may seem like a silly comparison, but perhaps I want to show just how silly it is for one group of people to feel like they’re entitled certain privileges over others because of the color of their skin.

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