Black hair is complicated. How a black woman wears their hair can be linked to their identity, politics, professionalism, and comfort and/or discomfort with their culture. I am proud to have transitioned over the past few years from wearing silky European looking wigs and weaves (which was largely perceived as more attractive) to now completely natural, non-chemically straightened hair (common words associated with natural hair; nappy, kinky, curly, wavy). This transition has been a long time in coming, and wouldn't have been possible without the great help, beautiful examples and no-chemical use model of Good Hair Salon in Seattle. Having not been very active in the black natural hair community, it felt to be a courageous step walking in one day with my teeny weeny afro (TWA) - my hair was dry, breaking off and generally unhealthy. The great artists at the salon have helped my self esteem with regards to my hair one appointment at a time. The education provided about correct products to use for my course 4c hair, hair washing regimens, protective styles and overall, the non-judgmental atmosphere have been paramount in my continued decision to resist the temptation of chemically straightening my hair. One ramification of this change has been a fascination with my hair by the general public, including [mainly Caucasian] people asking if they can touch my hair - or some who seemingly cannot resist their urge to simply reach out and touch my afro without asking.
Some African-American women have stated that they feel like they are animals at a petting zoo when being asked this question. Others feel that it is a modern day representation of blacks being owned by whites, a request that reeks of racial superiority and privilege. Others acknowledge that some people may simply be attempting at a kind comment that they hope will help to heal the continued racial divide in America.
Although I enjoy and demand respect of my own personal space, I suppose if someone asked, I'd allow others - black, white, red or yellow - to touch my hair. Perhaps there is some benefit of acknowledging others' curiosity and letting it be satisfied in a mutually consenting way?
- 'You Can Touch My Hair' Public Interactive Exhibit Knocks Down Walls Of Black Hair (blackamericaweb.com)