Monday, July 02, 2012

All the hair in the world.

All right homies.

If you've read me for a while you know this already but for those of you who don't know me well my hair is a thing. See some of my posts about my hair here.

I don't want to talk about the aesthetics of my hair right now except to say that I am no longer a red head and have gone back to my Old Goth forever love of deep dark jet black. Pictures to come.

Today I want to talk about how not to interact with me or any other person of color regarding their hair ever.

I will say that yes I get that a lot of people think Black hair is all sorts of interesting. I am fully aware of how silky, soft and frankly amazing my hair is.

Here are the rules.

Do not ever just walk up to me with your hand out to get into my hair. More so if you're a stranger.

The fact is that White people tend to show less caution and manners in trying to get their hands in my hair than they do when approaching a strange dog.

Seriously think about that.

Most people with a shred of common sense don't go walking up to dogs they don't know and pulling their ears or tails. Watch people in public and how they approach even tiny relatively harmless looking dogs. Voice low, hand out, slow, make sure the dog sees you're coming.

I on the other hand have had hands coming at my hair from behind, fingers digging into my bun, people stroking and petting me and exclaiming Oh my GOSH it DOES feel like wool etc.

I have slapped hands, yelled in faces, etc and to a one anyone who has done this to me has acted shocked that I would take issue with them touching me.

Really think about what this is saying.

These people treated me as less than a strange animal. Less than.

That is rooted in the type of racism that comes from assuming that if you are White you are always correct and that I as a person of color have a duty to entertain your fuckery because you're white and may not "know" better, or you know you're just "interested".

Think about that thought process.

Think about what happens in the mind of someone who would never touch a strangers pet, but who would expect me to be perfectly happy to have their hands in my hair.

Most people absolutely know better. They don't touch other peoples children, they don't walk up to strangers and grab their asses or try to hold their hands.

To understand the attitude I'm talking about watch this clip from The Color Purple if you can.

Basically this is the scene where Oprah's character Sophia has her children fondled by a white woman who then offers her work as a maid, she responds by saying hell no. A man comes along and hits her for sassing the White lady and Sophia knocks him the fuck out and winds up going to prison for 8 years.

The idea of getting arrested on my way to work is the only thing that ever keeps me from laying out every person who treats me like this.


YES it does in fact happen people.

What galls me the most is that there is rarely a moment when another White person will say, hey HAY don't touch her.

Instead I get the evil eye and people mutter, "gosh that was mean." after I have said loudly DO not touch me.

Am I saying that every white stranger who tries to touch me is racist?


I'm saying that they are acting on long standing racist beliefs that it's okay because they are just curious, have never touched a Black persons hair before,  want to know if it's really like steel wool, want to see if it's like a Brillo pad, etc. They want to prove or disprove every shitty racist thing they think about Black hair and then have the nerve to be upset when I don't want to be their test dummy.

This is what it means to be coming from a deeply privileged and racist place.

This sort of thing and me telling you about it is important because the more we expose ourselves to hard truths about our experiences, the more we can deal with them.

Once upon a time I excused this behavior. I bought into the idea that of course White people didn't know any better. I thought it was a compliment to me that some random ass White person would want to touch my hair and I would take them marveling that my hair didn't feel greasy, or nappy, or OMG EEEEEE I JUST TOUCHED HER HAIR as them praising me.

What these people were praising was that I did not appear to be as far from their comfort zone of White beauty as they thought. What was being praised was my apparent steps towards looking less Black.

Now that my hair is natural I've run into this more often.

I have to confess that because of this behavior I don't enjoy my hair as much as I could. I don't wear it down often because most days I just don't have the spoons to try and have ninja like reflexes to slap hands and bob and weave away from fingers wanting to know if my hair is real, or if it's mine. I don't have the patience or the wherewithal to answer questions like, "OMG how does your hair DO that". I don't want to deal with strange White ladies walking up to me to ask me eleventy million questions or using air quotes at me to ask if it is a "piece".

Sometimes when I need hair products that are not marketed as Black products, I send my White partner to get them because I don't want to deal with the amazed people saying, "Oh wow you can use this too?"

Sometimes even if I can find a product where I live that is made for Black hair, most of the time the mark up is so much I don't want to pay it and would rather pay for shipping, or things get sold out because only one store in a 15 mile radius sells a line of products that are available everywhere goddamn else but WA.

I just don't have the energy to deal with the surprised tones of White people when they see that I have beautiful hair. But instead of saying wow your hair is pretty they say, "oh that's neat!" ask your POC friends, there is a certain tone of bemused surprise that many White people use any time they think a non White person has done something awesome, looks pretty etc. It's hard to describe in text.

So here are the rules White folks, feel free to share them with your friends. Please check yourself if you do, say or think any of the following:

  1. Oh LOOK that person has an afro, I want to touch it. Don't. Ever. 
  2. OH look, curly hair. I should ask how they make their hair do that, but wait isn't all Black people hair like nappy and stuff? Don't.
  3. OH that person has dreadlocks, they look nice I'm so surprised most of the time those just look dirty and make me think of bugs. Don't.
  4. Isn't that interesting this person has a hawl/other non Black associated hairstyle, how ghetto. But OH look a hipster with dreads SO COOL. Don't.
  5. Hey, random person can I touch you- shut the fuck up.
If you want to talk to a Black person about their hair don't act like we are alien species.

It's okay to walk up to someone with a big glorious afro and say simply, wow your hair is really beautiful. Then walk away. 

Say, your curls are AMAZING and gorgeous. Then walk away.

If you can't bring yourself to leave Black people and their hair alone, at least act like you might with a strange dog with big teeth.

Fuck around and you might get bit.

Got it?

Now my darlings, just a reminder that you can use my handy linky link to shop Detrivore's 10 for 20$ sale here. 

Click here to visit detrivore cosmetics

Also you can right this minute spend ONE dollar and get some hetero flavored dirty dirty words. Right here.

Holy crap right?

Now my darlings Homo Out for now. I have some big plans for the rest of the summer so you all stay safe in the freaking heat that is everywhere but here. Seriously, remember to stay hydrated. A cheap trick is to use soda bottles or other plastic bottles and fill them partway with water and freeze them. Boom, you have a supply of ice water or ice blocks to rest against hot spots without a mess or a lot of extra cost.

Rotate those bottles when they melt and stay cool.

Be careful out there my homies and haters, the heat waves are a mother fucker.


Guyanesesista said...

Love this post. Back in '08 I had a conversation with a white man in Whole Foods about my hair. I was wearing a fro, he said it looked soft and asked if he could touch it. I said no. Yea he asked and all but I don't walk up to random white people asking to touch their hair. I don't care about their hair enough and I think it's rude. It was like he was asking to pet a dog in my opinion. Also I thought about that underlying racism related tone that you mentioned above.

I've also had black people try to throw their hands in my head to the point where I've had to do the matrix. Again, do I look like a pet? So I don't really care who you are, groping my hair is like groping my ass.

Anonymous said...

Melissa Harris-Perry had a segment on black women's hair a few weeks ago and I was a little surprised they didn't get into how many people do what you are describing and what that means. They did explore how it can be political and various other issues and answered many questions that white ladies may have. It was an interesting discussion. I wish you had been at the table!

Veronica said...

"[...] there is a certain tone of bemused surprise that many White people use any time they think a non White person has done something awesome, looks pretty etc. It's hard to describe in text." Oh. Yeah. That sounds ... unpleasantly true. *Frowns* And I'm really not liking the thoughts that pop up as an explantion for why this might be. This requires further thought!

witchyvixen said...

Really? Really really? I can't imagine that anyone would be so rude as to walk up to a perfect stranger, invade their personal space, and actually put their hands on them without invitation. How the hell did anyone ever get the idea that this might be okay? I'm fucking outraged. Keep your nasty old hands to yourself you jackasses.

Garen said...

this is so true, and it gets worse when you do something drastic to your hair.

I cut my hair off shortly before Easter this year, and while most people have been awesome, there have been a select few who are suddenly piqued by all things Black Hair.

Google is your friends, guys. Come on.

maggiemunkee said...

*sheepishly puts her visa card back in her wallet*

*whispers* i had to buy detrivore eye shadows. 10 for $20 PLUS a summer sale discount... eep. but there will be fabulousness. and maybe a reorganization of makeup.

i also went through your specific link. whee!

LAT said...

First, I am proud to be one of your homies. I love your writing and enjoy this blog a lot!

Second, I cannot imagine touching someone else's hair, no matter how cool it looks! WTF are people thinking? The only time I even remember remarking on a friend's hair was when a black friend of mine had her hair cornrowed with a red piece of yarn in each one, and it was so gorgeous! But I wouldn't even ask her if I could touch it, and I *knew* her!

Orodemniades said...

Yeah, that's totally happened to me. During my freshman year in college, in Ohio, which was...interesting. Also where I decided that black culture and myself were not destined to be As One.

On and off again through the years, and then a couple of years ago, some of my customers got rather touchy feely. One lady who just reached out and grabbed one of my side braids - her daughter looking on in horror.

Thankfully it hasn't happened since then. Still though, no!

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