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It’s Just Hair

26 Jul 2011

written by Carolyn

walker

I was honored to be profiled this week by two extraordinary beauty bloggers, Afrobella and Curly Nikki, as part of their “Naturally Professional” series.

It was quite a day for natural hair. On the same day that my “Naturally Professional” profile went up on Afrobella and Curly Nikki, this video and article appeared on CNN.com about the experience some black women face from women of other cultures who want to touch their hair.

What do you think? Do black women who wear their hair unstraightened face greater challenges in the corporate environment?

Has anyone – whether of the same race, or of a different race – ever touched, or tried to touch, your hair without your permission? How did you respond? Is this an issue that transcends race, as some CNN commenters have suggested? Is it racist for a black woman to refuse to allow a white person to touch her hair?


3 Comments on It’s Just Hair

  1. Relando Thompkins

    As I wrote in my response to the cnn article, for many, society does hold a view of a “certain kind” of look that defines what is “right” and “professional” and, in this writer’s opinion, many people of color can find themselves outside of that defined standard.

    As a result fears both real and perceived about being discriminated against based on outward presentation can lead some to think, say, or do things which (although sometimes harmful to ourselves or others) are meant to minimize the instances and impact of that discrimination.

    If you wish, you can check it out here: http://wp.me/p1ti5x-lN

    I also posted your article from the professional series. Great job.

    Although I’ve had that experience myself, I too work against the false and long held belief that wearing ones hair in a natural style — including locs, sisterlocs, and loose natural hair — makes a person somehow not professional enough for a corporate environment.

  2. Elita @ Blacktating

    I definitely think some people still believe that dredlocks and afros look “unprofessional.” Remember it was only a few years ago that a magazine editor gave a speech at a law firm about what was “appropriate” at work and this white woman made sure to mention that afros and dreds were not! Although I wear my hair naturally, it is naturally curly and I think this is somewhat less “offensive” to folks, although I do think that my curly hair makes me look young and girlish, so I typically blow it out before interviews for that reason.

    I have had white people try to touch my hair and look shocked when I’ve told them that no, you can’t touch. I had to have a physical before being offered my last position, and the doctor at the clinic I was told to go to asked if she could touch my hair and when I said, “No” she got indignant and asked why not. I reported the incident to the corporate headquarters for the clinic and they were apologetic and said they would speak to her about it. But yes, whenever I bring this up, some white person is quick to say, “Oh, I don’t think it’s about race, you just have nice hair, I’ve had black women want to touch my hair too.” EYEROLL.

  3. Be On It

    It is not racist for a black woman to refuse to allow a non-black person to violate her personal space. We would rightly call out a man for grabbing a woman’s body without her permission, we should do the same when people grab a woman’s hair without permission. Especially when the grabbing is tinged with a ton of “othering”.

    I’ve had black men touch my fro, white people touch my braids (when I used to wear them), and have had toddlers grab my hair when I let out my bantu knots or wore “geometric” hairstyles. The only people that don’t/didn’t earn a sideye and a rather unpleasant reaction were the children, because they didn’t know better. Keep your hands to yourself is a kindergatrten concept.


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