Last month, I came across this interesting video entitled What Not to Say to People With Afro Hair. I’ll save my opinion for after the video.
If the video doesn’t load automatically, you can watch it here.
While I do agree that some of the questions posed could be inappropriate or offensive, I really don’t get this Don’t Touch My Hair philosophy. Personally, I will take a curious non-Black over a racist and biggotted non-Black any day of the week.
I grew up in a Black-majority country, which means that non-Afro hair was a minority. Even so, I am one of the few people in my maternal family with kinky hair; and had many friends of Indian, Chinese, and White backgrounds with loose curls, waves, or straight hair.
Most of them certainly wouldn’t like a stranger coming up and invading their personal space by attempting to touch their hair, but family and friends had free reign. We loved touching their hair!
I can’t imagine how offended we would have been back then, if they all started walking around with T-shirts declaring Don’t Touch My Hair! Or calling us racist because we wanted to know what curly spirals or bone-straight hair felt like.
In short, having lived on the flipside of the coin, I think the whole Don’t Touch My Hair mantra for any other reason than maintaining personal space is ridiculous. I don’t believe someone is racist because they want to see what my hair feels like.
I know my hair is fascinating and fabulous, and yes, you can touch it. You can read my full thoughts on this in a 2016 post entitled Go Ahead – Touch It!
What are your thoughts on this? Tell me all about it in the comments below.
44 thoughts on “Can I Touch Your Hair?”
I have been offended by people talking about my hair; in the past I was insulted for my hair; as a foreigner young adults seem to like my hair but normally no one ever touches my hair.
Offended by people talking about your hair? Why? What did they say?
I am white, and white-haired, living in a country with a majority of black persons. The times I have been asked to touch my hair (from babies to beauticians) is countless. Do I get offended? Of course not. It’s curiosity, nothing else. I believe that some hypes are just created to keep the racism thing going, instead of stopping it.
Please don’t touch my hair. It’s my personal space. Back when perms were a new thing I was asked so many times if my hair was natural or a perm that I finally had a t-shirt made. In college I was accosted in a museum by some lady. She came out of nowhere, grabbed my hair and started talking about it to her friend. I was not pleased. She was clueless. Her friend thankfully was not.
This is a great topic and post. I constantly get questioned about my ethnicity due to the shade of my skin, how I speak, and the texture of my hair. I’m certainly not offended because I think it’s a matter of the individual either being genuinely curious and lacking cultural exposure or plain old ignorance. Either way, I’m happy to explain we are all diverse and there isn’t a single culture that can be placed in a box. Think outside the text books, stigmas, stereotypes, and the world is quite expansive. Thanks for sharing 😀
Thank you! I get asked quite a bit myself. People can usually tell I’m Mixed, but have no idea with what. Like you, I can’t imagine why it would be an insult. I’m just glad they want to learn!
Thanks for dropping by!
Yes, I don’t see any point in spending my energy getting upset about it. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more!
I have auburn European girl hair (lol, white girl of many white nationalities) and I’ve had people touch my hair too. An older gentleman thought my white girl braids might have been weaves and instinctively reached out to touch them. I’ve felt curiously compelled to ask my coworkers if I could touch their natural hair, but I don’t out of respect.
Hair is so diverse in texture and shape and color. I used to be a hairstylist and loved, loved, loved rifling my fingers through hair. Much of our human experience is physical, some more than others. It’s not unusual to assume people want to touch each other’s hair.
But now that I work retail, I understand the desire for personal space. I don’t like people touching me unless I know them. I’m not a natural hugger. I require less and less physical connection (unless it’s from my fiance. Or my cat.) So I know why some people might get upset. Not everyone is free and physical, and I think recognizing that balance is good.
I agree with everything you said here. People absolutely have a right to their personal space. But they don’t get a pass to be racist, while calling someone else racist for trying to understand what makes them different.
We will never bridge the gap between races if we’re constantly putting up walls.
My hand is forever in my partner’s hair. He’s White. That’s his favourite way to fall asleep haha. Imagine my horror if the first time I had reached for his hair he goes, “You can’t touch my hair. And it’s racist that you want to.” That would have probably been the end of everything.
My thoughts exactly.
You are one of the few people who agreed with me on this one haha
I feel that touching someone’s hair is an invasion of their personal space. The reason it has become a race issue is because it is Black women, and sometimes men, who have been approached by Blacks and non Blacks who began touching their hair without asking. The audacity that a person must have to think they can just walk up and touch someone’s hair is astounding to me. Black people are not pets. We don’t need folks coming up to us patting our head or pulling our hair to “see if its real.” Even if a person were to ask first, it still is an invasion of someone’s personal space. I personally do not want anyone but me and my beautician touching my hair. I find it inappropriate and creepy.
I get that and already addressed it. That wasn’t the point I was pushing. My problem is excluding someone because of their race, even when they ask nicely, and even if we know them well enough. Not because our personal space is being invaded, but because we think their race means they don’t have the right. That’s what I’m calling BS for.
Personally, nobody can touch my hair, Black, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, or any other race. It just won’t happen. When Black people say White folks can’t touch their hair, it was initially meant as a joke, but people have internalized it and do tell White people they can’t touch their hair, but its not just White people that they mean that for.
I don’t think it was ever a joke. But if no one touches your hair, that’s your right. My only call for BS is when it’s race baited.
I will add that once when I was in a black hair salon in Indiana while my daughter was getting her hair done, two beauticians came over and wanted to touch my thinning brown hair. They said they had never felt anything like that. I still am bothered in general by the idea that black hair is so exotic. It comes across to me the same as “may I pet your dog?” But that’s me.
Haha — Anything that is a minority is exotic, and when you limit access to it BECAUSE it is exotic, it only becomes more exotic and curiosity intensifies.
I’ve never felt like I was petting a dog when I did it to non-Black friends, or felt petted when non-Black friends do it to me. White men are especially fascinated by my hair. Especially when dating them, once you let them in, you can’t get them out of it again haha. I don’t mind. I take it as a compliment from strangers, and affection from those I know.
Let me preface this comment with the fact that I am a wee bit older than you 😉 In the early 60’s I was in an Arizona motel on the way to visit my brother in the Air Force in California (everybody drove back then) when a teenage white girl wanted to touch my hair because – this is the truth – I didn’t have hair like any of the colored kids in her town in Texas. I was a child but even then I knew something was off there. Since then I’ve had all races wanting to touch and depending on the vibes I got from them I’d say yes or no. I see it as a personal space thing. Ask first and let me know why…. then I will answer.
I like your approach! I definitely believe if people are uncomfortable having their hair touched in general, or by people they don’t know, that’s entirely up to them. But if their reason is, oh… the other person it’s Black so they can’t, that’s racist.