This book is something I began reading at the start summer. As the title of the book suggests this is an issue that Phoebe is tired of continually having to deal with, but it’s not just an issue faced by Black women – men, and children experience it too.
To be clear, you shouldn’t touch anyone’s body, including their hair, without permission. This is about consent. So does it make a difference if you ask before you touch a Black person’s hair? Phoebe recommends you don’t do that either. ‘But why? i’m just trying to give a compliment’. This is where we get to the nub of the issue. For a lot of Black women having their hair touched is a form of microaggression, which is a form of subtle racism.
Fascination with black hair often comes from a place of ‘othering’ or exoticising Black women. Even if you don’t think that’s your intention. There are a lot of negative portrayals of black hair in society. This is the context that needs to be considered when asking to touch someone’s hair.
“When something is mysterious, people fear it. Fear the Afro, for he who wears it is going to start a revolution! Fear the dreadlocks, for she who wears them must be a drug dealer! Fear the kinky twists, for he who wears them must be an unstable vagrant! And so on and so on.”
“I wouldn’t mind anyone touching my hair”– And some people don’t mind at all, it all comes under the bracket of consent. Everyone is entitled to have their personal boundaries respected and it shouldn’t offend you if someone would prefer you didn’t touch them. There might have been a time where someone else let you stroke their hair and there might also have been a situation where that person just wanted to avoid any issues or arguments. There are plenty of situations where someone could feel pressured into being nice enough to let others touch their hair.
FERN O’ Carolan