The hair of a woman of color is not for your entertainment

No, you can’t touch my hair


(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

By Isabelle Marseille, Collegian Correspondent

“Wow, I’ve never seen this type of hair before! I have to touch it.”

“Can I touch your hair? It’s just so nice.”

“That’s not your real hair, right?”

These are things I hear all the time, and sometimes the person doesn’t even ask- they just go ahead and touch my hair. Lately, there has been a lot of backlash on women of color for being upset when a person not of color asks to touch their hair. As a Black woman myself, I can say that our reasoning is not to intentionally anger others – it is because we want to feel like human beings ourselves.

Our physical characteristics have come to develop today because of our ancestors- this goes for everyone. Those who lived in colder climates had lighter skin tones because they weren’t exposed to the sunlight very often, and they have smaller facial features to help block some of the cold air coming in. As for the warmer climates, darker skin tone resulted from constant and intense sunlight, as well as larger facial features. These are all things we learn in school growing up, but hair isn’t talked about as often – probably because it comes down to the genes of your specific family tree rather than general scientific fact.

There are so many hair types out there, but with Black women specifically, curly, wavy and kinky hair are common. Throughout the entire spectrum of types of curls with Black women, people not of color seemed to be fascinated with the look of our hair. While there is nothing wrong with giving someone a compliment, there are boundaries – especially if you are a stranger. Wanting to play with our hair makes us feel like we are on display for your entertainment, or an animal in the zoo that you want to pet.

“I don’t ask you to touch your hair, so why are you petting me?” said Rajaiah Jones, a junior communication major at the University of Massachusetts.

Madeline Gloade, a legal studies and English junior, said she had issues with other students touching her hair while she was growing up.

“My school was majority white, and whenever I would tell the kids to stop touching my hair, they’d say I’m just an angry Black girl,” Gloade said.

Another large part of Black women’s hair is protective hairstyles. Protective hairstyles include wigs, weaves, box braids, crochet, etc. Black women often invest in protective hairstyles, which helps give the natural curls a break from constantly styling, heat damage and more.

Specifically, braids trace all the way back to 3500 BC, which helped with tribe identification. It continues to be a prominent expression of style for women of color, as well as provide protection for their natural hair. While the natural hair rests in the braids, it’s given time to grow and repair without daily manipulation of hair products.

Women not of color have caught on to the cultural trend, and the overall response is negative, deeming the trend “cultural appropriation.” Cultural appropriation is defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

Applying this to the hairstyles of women of color, it seemed the history behind it is ignored, while women not of color adopt the trend as their own – most of the time without acknowledgement of its true background.

This goes into the ongoing argument of people not of color admiring the features of minorities, and going so far to physically change their bodies to match. Some common characteristics of women of color include wider noses, full lips, full hips and curves. As cosmetic surgery continues to be on the rise, the natural features found on women of color seem to the be the new template for a physical adjustment.

Although there is never anything wrong with changing your body to your liking for your own happiness, the hatred of the same features women of color are born with is still prominent. They are considered ugly, while others are praised.

Of course, this isn’t pertaining to every single case, but it seems to be more common than not. There needs to be more appreciation for women of color and their qualities, especially Black women.

As Malcolm X once stated, “the most disrespected woman in America, is the Black Woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black Woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black Woman.”

As we younger generations continue to become more open minded, we need to stay educated as well.

Isabelle Marseille can be reached at [email protected]