If someone asks me the following one more time… Can I touch your hair? How long did you sit to get your hair done? Do you wash your hair? How many times am I going to change my hair? Or tell me that they could never get their hair done like that. I think I may just go into a rage. Yes, I said it. Some of you might think I’m being dramatic but the reality is that black/brown women who alter their hair styles as much as they change their shoes have to deal with constant scrutiny from folks who practice safe hairstyles. Not to mention the rudeness associated with these questions, the people who ask these questions are straight out of line. Not to mention the double standard of beauty modification. Women of all hair types, race, and economic status have been engaging in beauty modifications on all levels. Most of the women who ask me these questions have been practicing hair color modifications for decades to the point that they themselves have forgotten what their God given hair color is anymore. I would never ask anyone what their natural hair color is. That is rude. It isn’t any of my business to ask such a thing. Why do some people think its ok to touch my hair without permission? Or ask me to twirl around so they can survey my hair from different angles.
Living in an age of internet access where you can google just about anything and everything, there is no excuse for lack of regard when asking degrading questions because of lack of knowledge. Google it! Watch a video on YouTube! Can you tell I’m stressed? I don’t feel that it is appropriate to have to answer this prying line of questioning in the workplace or with people whom you do not consider to be friends. However, for the sake of this blog post I will answer them. No, you can’t touch my hair. It is inappropriate to violate someone else’s personal space. Asking someone who you barely know well if you can touch their hair is out of line. Another way to quench your curiosity is to visit any beauty supply store and sample hair types if you are so inclined to learn what hair feels like. Yes, depending on the type of braids I get done, I could sit anywhere from 4 hours to 8 hours it just depends on the style, how many people working on my hair or incidentals. Yes, I can wash my hair. Again, if you are so intrigued to educate yourself on how to keep your hair clean while wearing braids google it. There are many hair products to keep your hair and scalp clean. Just to be clear women who wear braids are not the only people who may use alternate hair cleaning products such as dry shampoo. Dry shampoo products have been on the market for a while for all hair types. It’s not appropriate to ask me how many times I will change my hair style. No one has the right to ask anyone whatever they want. It’s rude. Alternating my hairstyle is my choice. If I am able to change my hairstyle as much as I can change my shoes then that’s my prerogative. Once again, I’ve said it before what happened to common courtesy? None of us has the privilege to ask what we want to whomever we want too. Google it! YouTube it! One’s lack of curiosity could cause unnecessary stress and strain relationships. Not to mention the discrimination one feels with the intrusiveness of such prying questioning that often times conveys disapproval of one’s identity.
There have been studies done to research the effects of discrimination has on people of color. “Experiences of discrimination are a form of stress that can have serious implications for mental and physical health, ranging from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to all-cause mortality and hypertension. Research has also found discrimination to be associated with, “silent indicators of poor health and premature aging,” like allostatic load and cortisol dysregulation.” (T. Lewis, C. Cogburn, D. Williams 2015) I’m not suggesting that every single time that someone has asked me about my hair has caused me to develop a mental health issue but I am stating that subconsciously people who are consistently faced with overt or inadvertently discrimination do experience stress. Unnecessary stress. The other issue is the judge of character that comes with these experiences. Some people have treated me different based on the way I choose to wear my hair. It doesn’t matter to me what you think of my hairstyle however I don’t want it to become a distraction in the work I do or take away from my merit earned position. My knowledge, character, or experience doesn’t change with my hair style.
How someone chooses to wear their hair shouldn’t have any bearing on their character. The great late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous I Have a Dream speech said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I’m challenging everyone to exercise his dream.
The natural hair care movement has gained consistent momentum and strength. Woman are feeling empowered to rock their God given natural hair unapologetically. It’s has been a liberating experience for us personally to have learned the options of wearing our hair in its natural state. We are enjoying learning to define our natural curls, the variations of braids we can choose to rock, protective styles when we want to take a break or alter our hair without any processed chemicals, as well as learning about all the natural hair care products out there. Wearing our hair in its natural state has been a personal choice. We encourage all women to do whatever makes you happy. Don’t allow anyone's lack of knowledge downgrade your self-worth. I’ve learned growing up no one could see my black girl magic but now that I’m rocking my natural kinks with pride everyone sees my melanin poppin!
Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2015;11:407-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032814-112728. Epub 2015 Jan Self-reported experiences of discrimination and health: scientific advances, ongoing controversies, and emerging issues. Lewis TT, Cogburn CD, Williams DR.
King Jr., M.L., (1963) I Have a Dream