Our Hair is Fabulous, People Wanna Touch, So What???

This topic is spawned from a CNN feature I recently read about but this is really a commentary about a phenomenon I’ve seen for years. Black women tend to be standoffish about people touching our hair….why?

The above is simply a nice video on the natural movement and accepting ones features fully, the article that follows it can be seen here and discusses how uncomfortable most black women are with people touching their natural hair.

Here are two excerpts:

She missed by mere seconds, she was actually going to grab my hair as I walked past her,” recalled Winfrey Harris who runs the blog What Tami Said. “I turned around and she said, ‘Oh, your hair is neat.’ It just floored me because who does that, just reaches out and touches strangers?


Blogger Los Angelista explained her response to a woman’s incredulous “Are you serious, I can’t touch your hair?” by writing that no she couldn’t, “Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors’ property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn’t want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so you’d best move your hand away from me.

When it comes to this subject I definitely have first hand experience, big Afro hair can often be a spectacle and I have had my hair touched by strangers quite a few times. I know that the general consensus is typically to go off on a tirade on how horrible/annoying it is, however on this subject, I’ll just be the odd woman out as usual. I honestly don’t mind or care that much when people come up and touch my hair. I usually get a good laugh or a sweet compliment that adds a little pep to my step.

I will say one time that really caught me off guard was when I was sitting on the train on west 4th st, chillin rocking curly crochet extensions and this white young lady walks in, reaches right into my hair, bounces a curl and said “I just had to boing one!” I was shocked at first but then just had to laugh at it. Folks act like they had an out of body experience and had to touch.

I’ve noticed that often Black American’s tend to be standoffish about pretty much any kind of personal contact, even with their significant others, for a large portion of Black women, even their husbands are prohibited from touching their hair. Personally, I’ve always been pretty expressive and affectionate in general so its not jarring when someone wants to get near me or touch my hair. I also think this kind of reaction feeds into the “belligerent black woman with an attitude” stereotype.

Honestly I don’t mind it, and it doesn’t cause me to go off on soliloquies regarding the plight of my ancestors.

Comments 16

  1. Deandra

    I felt the same way (and still do, as the article stands). That is, until I read the FULL account of Los Angelista’s experience. It was taken radically out of context, I think.

    From her blog: http://www.losangelista.com/2009/09/no-you-cant-touch-my-hair.html

    Her explanation (via bglhonline.com) :http://www.losangelista.com/2009/09/no-you-cant-touch-my-hair.html

    The TL;DR synopsis includes being called a “b!tchy black woman” as a response to being told that “no” she did not want her hair touched.

    I work with students in a pretty racially mixed elementary school. And I allow them any opportunity to touch my hair, cause it is cool and they (white AND black kids) have almost no experience with hair like ours, even though that is how it comes out our head! If the mystique is removed then there will come a time when people don’t need to touch our hair. Plus, human contact is not always the worse thing. It, you know, humanizes us.

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    Exactly Deandra, if it will remove the mystique, why not? We wont melt or anything lol thanks for the helpful links!

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    Wow, okay upon reading what a train-wreck of a day los angelista had, I can understand why she reacted the way she did, plus that person wasn’t just a regular, genuinely curious lady, she was spiteful with a superiority complex so she deserved the reaction she got.

  4. Deandra

    Yeah, that article totally got people going in on her, but her comment was warranted. Me? I don’t know I would have been able to respond at coherently.

    Otherwise, I totally understand why people can’t help but touch our hair. *I* can’t keep my hand out of mine and I have seen some heads I was just itching to touch because they were so gorgeous. For example, yours. 😉

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  6. Janna

    When people do this though it lacks of social grace, which is why I think that people should understand how uncool it is. TBT I find white people more standoffish than Black. Blacks are quicker to hug and touch while talking. My experience anyway.

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      Thats an interesting take on things, I agree that it may lack of social grace, but it also sends the message that your hair is so irresistibly fascinating that a person can’t help but to feel it lol

  7. Andrea

    Here’s my two cents:
    I never used to mind people touching my hair because people never really used to do it where I’m from. The only two people who touched my hair were my stylist and I.

    However, when I went to college, I had this one experience that changed my philosophy. During my long-and-swinging relaxed days, I was at the dining hall with a friend of mine, and we saw a mutual acquaintance, whom I’ll call M.A. for the sake of this story. All three of us were having a conversation about hair, and the two of them admired mine. Suddenly, M.A. just reaches over with her dirty hands and YANKS a section of it. Let’s just say that the dining hall heard my West Indian mouth.

    As a result of that, my philosophy has changed drastically, especially now that I wear locs. The way I see it is this: If you ask me first, touch away! But if you just come up to me and start pulling on my head as though I’m some sort of side show without any by-your-leave, don’t be surprised if I tell you off.

    P.S. As for the white people and personal space thing? Where did you grow up? The White people I know are HUGE about their personal space, and they don’t let you forget that. Hell, if you even want to hug them…they ask “Why?”

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  8. Samantha

    I LOVE my personal space as do MOST Americans. It’s not a “white or black thang”, it’s an AMERICAN thing. If you go to other countries (I lived in Europe for 2 years)…they are not as big about personal space. But Americans, um no…you will NOT stand THISCLOSE to me in line….LOL. And that goes for my hair. I don’t want ANYONE touching my hair, my pregnant baby belly, etc…unless you ask first or you know me. I don’t mind if family and friends touch my hair because these are individuals who have loved me and taken care of me (and vice versa) since before I can remember. But random strangers, who I don’t know and don’t know where you have been or what you have or what your TRUE intentions are???? NO THANKS! Ask first then I MIGHT let you touch me. Otherwise, HANDS OFF! And not all black women are weird with their men touching their hair. My man just told me the other day that he loves the fact that I don’t wear a ton of makeup and he MOST DEFINITELY loves my natural locks because I actually *gasp* go swimming and let him touch my hair all he wants. 🙂 Interesting subject. I am usually pretty open-minded and chill on many things but on this topic, I have to honestly say…to each his/her own.

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