The first time I distinctly remember my hair being touched by strangers was when I was 11 years old on a bus.
Two old ladies were putting the world to rights behind me, and I tuned them out until I felt my braids being gently pulled and twisted.
I didn’t know how to react so I froze.
On the last day of primary school before we finished for the summer holidays, we had an end of year presentation. It was a special year as we would go on to secondary schools, therefore we would never see each other again.
A girl in my class read out a story (in front of the whole school) about how we had an argument and when my back was turned she cut off one of my braids without me realising.
Everybody laughed – my classmates, my teachers, and even the headmaster.
I had to laugh along but I was in shock that she asked permission to read this and the teacher said it was fine.
Needless to say, I was glad I never had to see her again.
As the years went by, I became adept at doing The Matrix anytime I saw a hand reaching out like E.T demonstrating to Elliot how to phone home.
I have let friends touch my hair in the past, as they asked permission and I have felt comfortable and trusted their hygiene!
We have shared two examples in the videos.
The Black woman tells the white woman politely “I’m feeling friendly today but please don’t touch my hair”
The white woman instantly realises her faux pas and you can see her looking mortified and apologizes profusely.
Has she done this before?
In the second video, you see white colleagues touching a young Black co-worker’s hair and you can see her shrinking while forcing an awkward smile.
They are behaving as if they are in a petting zoo and it’s uncomfortable to watch.
The young woman knows that she is better off keeping quiet than speaking up about her discomfort.
This is a dangerous game they are playing. If she reacted like how the other woman did in the other video, it could have serious repercussions to her career.
I have been both those women.
It does get easier as you get older and social media has opened up much-needed conversations about Black people’s hair.
There are books, videos, and songs about why you shouldn’t touch a Black person’s hair.
As it’s never really about hair – it runs so much deeper than that, the hurdles Black people have had to overcome when it comes to their hair.
Children have been kicked out of school as they have been told that their natural hair is ‘too much’
18-year-old Ruby Williams won an out of court settlement after her family took legal action against The Urswick School in east London.
She was told her hair breached the policy, which stated that “afro style hair must be of reasonable size and length”.
“Why should I have to cut or change my hair and people can have their hair all the way down to their hips, as long as they want – but because my hair grows out I need to cut it?”
Stories like that make me so angry but I am so glad Ruby and her family stuck to their guns and took the school to court.
One of the things that I have never understood is not only the unsolicited touching of my hair but the unsolicited opinions about what I should do with the hair that grows out of MY head.
Personally, I love the variance, styles, and versatility of our people’s hair however it is possible to pay a compliment WITHOUT touching somebody’s hair!
So ‘Yes my hair is nice and NO you can’t touch it’.
Lastly, we do not own either of these videos posted.
#donttouchmyhair #keepyourhandstoyourself #afro #naturalhair #braids #bantuknots #twistouts #twostrandtwists #adeptales #stayadept #solange #goodhair
[…] Seven out of ten young Black people have felt pressure to change their hair at school, which we covered in one of our posts. […]