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A couple of months ago, a group of African American women held an event in New York city, which also included a documentary, about how black hair attracts the attention (often unwanted) of white people.
The difference is that this time instead of wearing t-shirts with the legend “Don’t pet my afro” the women were carrying signs with the phrase “You can touch my hair”.

Although I respect and understand their message, I don’t agree with the idea that black people should allow any random person to touch their hair.
First because any person regarding race, should have a certain amount of private space around, we don’t go touching people on the streets just because we are curious. Second, because hair touching implies a certain level of intimacy, like a hug or a kiss. Third because of the background of black history in America and the western world in general. Africans have been used, abused, denied freedom, etc., so they more than deserve our respect.


I’ve never been in the position of a black woman who is constantly harassed by people trying to touch her hair, but I have three black children who are constantly touched by friends and strangers alike, and I don’t like it at all.
When we go out and get into a crowd, I know for sure that sooner or later some white adult will extend his arms to try to touch my son’s head and it makes me furious.
They don’t even ask, they rub their hands into my son’s hair as if it was some kind of good luck charm you need to stroke, much like the belly of a laughing Buddah statue.
Regarding my daughters, the same happens, and it’s usually more intrusive. People no only touch but grab and pull their hair, asking all kinds of annoying questions.
Some days when my older daughter comes from school, her hair is totally messed up. The neat braids or cornrows she left with in the morning are in complete disarray.
She complains that her “friends” start complimenting her hairdo, but later, star to tug her hair, and more than once have torn away pieces of it.
I have instructed my kids to tell other children not to touch their hair and if they persist, to tell the teacher, but I think white people don’t take the matter seriously.
I wonder what they would think if others were touching them all the time…
Apparently black people don’t  deserve a “bubble space”, not according to the white population.
And that is what mostly alarms me, the repeating pattern of considering that whites own the space of blacks.
I’m white but I’ve never touched other people’s hair outside my close family, not even friends, unless they invite me to do so for some reason.
Want to know how it feels like?
Go to Africa and see how black children will try to touch your hair. In the beginning is king of flattering, but over time becomes overwhelming. And I’m talking about children who mean no harm and only are curious. Let’s reverse the roles, the children become adults touching you, a child… scary.
And in case you wonder, my hair has never been touched by any Ethiopian adult while in their country.
So, I’m in the “DO NOT touch my hair, please” group.


BTW, watch the funny episode of The Unwritten Rules: "Let’s Talk About Hair"

You can touch my hair, a short film (part 1, part 2, discussion panel 1, discussion panel 2)
Un’ruly website
Why You Can Touch My Hair by Ijeoma Oluo – Jezebel
No, You Can’t Touch My Hair Los Angelista