Being a black woman, everything about me is a conversation starter, good or bad. Each day I have to be conscious in all my decisions, especially appearances. Spaces outside of my home are not held for me to be my authentic self, ranging from the work place to social events. Although society does not hold space for black people just to be people, one would think that my own personal space would be considered. My personal space is from the top of my hair to the bottom of my feet and 2-3 feet in width. Somehow there is always a reach into my space, followed by the words, “Can I touch your hair?” It is always more of statement than question, because there is a hand reach before the answer. This phenomenon is so disturbing and ridiculous to me.
Not only is someone wanting to touch my hair perplexing, but to receive discrimination because of what naturally grows out of my scalp, an uncontrolled occurrence, is beyond words. I do not understand. Do my ear lobes hang too low or not low enough? Will my ear lobes become a future problem? Help me understand the problem with my natural makeup.
To all non-black people, how would you feel if you were constantly asked if your hair could be touched? Or what if you were denied work, schooling, and many other opportunities because of your hair? Take a look in the mirror, at your hair that is growing out of your scalp, now imagine being rejected or others constantly being invasive for wanting to touch your hair with the same hands that are probably unclean. How would that make you feel? Let’s go one step further: what if it was your child?
As an adult, I can maneuver these ongoing situations, but often times these situations come with really big emotions that children have yet to solve. And why should they? These situations should not occur. It should not be a thing, but yet here I am blogging about it.
Why is it a thing? Why can’t hair just be hair? Why can’t people honor others’ personal space? Why are people sucky about your natural born attributes?
I remember when Aria was three years-old and we were visiting the Atlanta Zoo. We were in the Gorilla Exhibit and Aria was so consumed with the Gorillas that she did not notice this other toddler reaching to touch her hair. Before I could speak, my hand shielded Aria’s hair with a head shake of no. The child’s mother quickly approached to offer reason such as the child was simply curious. NO. No reason is enough reason to touch someone, especially if you are just “curious.” No, you cannot touch my child’s hair and I do not care that you or your child just may be curious. By all means, feed into your curiosities, but black hair is not one of them. Keep your hands to yourself. Honor other people’s personal space. Teach your children to do the right thing.
Now both Aria and Hayes are in the midst of their loc journey, and I constantly worry about the situations they may be placed in because of their hair. By the way, locs are in reference to dreadlocks but I do not see anything dreadful about their hair, so it is locs. I think of the children who are humiliated, dismissed, denied, and bullied by adults over opportunities. Are you familiar with the story of a child who was given the ultimatum of graduating from high school or cutting his locs? Or what about the child that was humiliated during a wrestling match by having his locs cut off or being forced to forfeit? This discrimination not only happens with locs but with many other black hair styles. Have you heard of the story about the young elementary child who was denied taking school photos because of braids? There are plenty more stories just like the ones mentioned and that has me fearful. In addition to talking about the color of their skin, now I have to add hair, another thing that is out of their control.
Although I wish it could be just hair, it is not. For some reason, black hair causes a lot of commotion. The commotion is so great that states are passing laws to forbid natural hair discrimination. USA Today covers the states and cities passing such laws in regard to Ethnic Hair. Yes, laws stating that you cannot be discriminated against because of your hair. Who would think that this would be such a thing, like as if there were laws forbidding discrimination against the color of your natural born skin? Next thing you know, there will be laws forbidding ear lobe discrimination because people cannot seem to stop being so sucky and judgmental of others who look different than they do. Yeah, ear lobe laws do not make any sense; neither does hair laws.
It should not be a thing, and you still cannot touch my children’s hair.