Black Hair Etiquette Guide
The Angry Black Woman’s Guide to Hair Etiquette or Stop Touching My Hair, White People!
I’ve noticed that my hair post from a few weeks ago gets the most hits from Google. I’ll throw my keyword analysis up here sometime to show you the kind of messed up queries that lead people here. Many seem to be people looking for hair care options or just looking to understand certain things about black people and hair. I hope this post will be equally informative.
I first thought of making a post like this back when people mentioned on the blackfolk and sex & race communities that Barbara Walters had a hard time keeping her hands off black guests’ hair while on the air.
Best Week Ever blog brought it to our attention:
A couple of weeks ago R&B singer Brandy dropped by The View. Judging by the way Barbara Walters teased her and pawed at her hair, you’d think Barbara had never sat next to a black woman before. Well, not by choice, anyway.
I was willing to brush the hair pulling aside (no pun intended) and write it off as an isolated incident… but that was up until Tanika Ray came in today. Now I know it wasn’t a one-time thing. It’s an epidemic. And Barbara Walters must be stopped.
The original post has links to the video.
LJer implodes had a similar reaction to mine:
Oh my sweet BEJEEBUZZ! Look at how she just grabs at them like they’re damn show dogs or something! “Oooh…look at the unusual coat of these exotic Negresses right over here…”
LJer karnythia says straight out “My hair is not an exhibit”
In no reality would she walk up to a white woman, grab her hair and ask “Is this real?” with any expectation of a polite response. It simply would not occur to her to even attempt that behavior. But with black women? Apparently not only does she feel it’s okay for her to touch their hair, in the second situation she actually pulls hard on this woman’s hair.
You should also check out the letter she sent ABC.
This is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. Ask any black person you know if some white person has asked to touch their hair, or if it was real, or went ahead and touched/pulled it without permission and I’ll bet all of them can regale you with a story or two (or a hundred).
As previously mentioned, I have hair that curls in coils. People just love to pull my curls and watch them spring back. Most times people ask permission. Most times. When I was young and had long hair (briefly) people would ask if I had a weave. Often, people ask me if my hair is natural (expecting me to say no) or just go right for the kill and ask what I do to my hair to make it look this way. 9 times out of 10 the other party is a white person.
I can’t count how many times I’ve silently cringed upon hearing some white woman go on and on about a friend’s dreds. How do they get like that? Is it true you can’t ever wash your hair? Can I touch it? It feels so weird!
White people feel they have some kind of right (or privilege) to paw at our hair. It’s like they can’t believe in it or something. A desire to learn more about people who aren’t like you is a fine pursuit. But most of the time I feel more like a fascinating exhibit than someone involved in a cultural exchange.
To further educate the masses, I’ve decided to write up this handy list:
The Angry Black Woman’s Guide to Hair Etiquette
1. It is never okay to touch, pull, or stroke a black person’s hair without permission. No matter how different, cool, or fun their hair looks, you just don’t.
2. It is never okay to ask a casual acquaintance or a perfect stranger if their hair is real. It doesn’t matter how curious you are or how incongruous their hair is to your expectations. Don’t do it.
3. Realize that, in asking if you can touch a black person’s hair, you are objectifying them in possibly uncomfortable ways. That person may consent to letting you touch their hair just to be nice, but rarely is it because they enjoy having your hands on them. The most polite thing would be not to ask until such time as you know that person well enough to know if they won’t mind the request. This is not the Petting Zoo.
4. Think before you make any comments expressing surprise that a person’s hair could look any certain way without a lot of help from chemicals, products, or professional stylists.
Print this, carry it around with you, tell others. I know I will. Because the next person who touches my hair without permission is going to come out of the encounter with several strands of their own missing (with root tags attached).
Tags: Black Hair, Black People’s Hair, White People Touching Black People’s Hair, Don’t touch my hair, Barbara Walters, The View