Hey! I'm Hope, and today I wanted to touch on a topic that is really important to me: touching or asking to touch a Person of Colour (POC)’s hair.
First and foremost, you should never touch another person, including their hair, without asking. It is a super basic concept that is pretty shockingly ignored at times (e.g., POC’s hair or pregnant women’s bellies) - but I think we can all agree it is SO uncomfortable to be touched without consent.
Now onto asking to touch a POC’s hair and I would like to start with a little exercise. If you are not a POC, I want you to think about the last time a POC asked to touch your hair… I’d be willing to bet this has happened slim to never.
When I was growing up I was a part of predominantly white communities and often at school, at church, and even in grocery stores, people would ask to touch my hair. Now, this really sucked, because when someone reaches to touch my hair, it signals that I am different. It may not be intended or mean-spirited but it definitely draws unwanted attention and singles me out as different.
By asking to touch a POC’s hair you feed into the stereotype that the only “normal” types of hair are straight, fine, less textured hair and that by contrast, our hair is unusual and different and so completely outside the norm that it has become a novelty! It can conjure up feelings of otherness and really make one feel like they are on display - so just really not a great feeling overall.
Now that I am an adult, I handle these situations with education, tact, and boundaries. However, thinking back to that little girl that I was, and thinking about all the other little children out there with textured hair today, I just wish there was more education surrounding the topic.
The Big Takeaway: If someone wants you to touch their hair, they will offer and you won’t have to ask.
So now you know why you should not touch or ask to touch a POC’s hair - but is there a way to express interest without causing bad feels? Of course!
If you are interested in learning about someone’s hair type or style, simply ask them to tell you about it! Open up a positive dialogue: say you think their hair is gorgeous or their style is so cool. Ask questions about where the style originates, how long it takes to style like that, how long the style will last, and so on. Real genuine interest is always welcome!
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