Hair, deception, entitlement and more

First, just watch the clip:

Question #1: Did you find anything wrong with what you just saw? (Answer it in the comment section below, preferrably before you continue reading).

I can’t remember when the fact that this occurs was first pointed out to me, that many black women have had the experience of people asking about their hair and then touching it without permission. I’ve had dreadlocks and funky goatees and people have asked about it, but I would certainly be weirded out if they just reached out and touched or pulled on my facial hair!

A couple things to point out here. First, the deceptive idea about hair. At some point one learns that some women use hair extensions, ‘weave’ and straightening or curling irons to do their hair. An even deeper secret is that most women in their 30’s (even some late twenty’s) are already greying and regularly dye their hair to cover up that fact. And then there are plenty out their who wear wigs, hair plugs, and all kinds of other things. When I first learned of some of these things it saddened me that we live in a culture that does not embrace ones natural beauty, whether it be cultural or age differences. So, along these lines, why is it that a black women is often confronted about her hair, when it is no more curious then the thousands of women dying their hair to met our “youthful” cultural standards. “So do you dye your hair?” (I ask as I comb through to take a close look at the roots)

Second, there is the issue of entitlement also needs to be dealt with here. Commenter, gatamala, puts it well on Mixed Media Watch’s post about the video:

I think it is a sense of entitlement/ownership masked in “curiousity”. It is dehumanizing to have someone poke/prod/pull to ostensibly check you out. I guess some people can’t put the auction block of the mind away.

Finally, there is the issue of us. Does seeing things like this, hearing people rise up and say something about it, or just letting it fall by the wayside change things? How do we make this world a better, more caring, more informed, more loving, and more real place for all of us?

3 thoughts on “Hair, deception, entitlement and more”

  1. as instructed i have only watched the video. i have not read your commentary. so, is there anything wrong with it? no fundamentally….no. however, it makes me think a few things. barabara wa-wa has a touch of “hair envy”. it is obvious that she is thinning on top and she remembers the days when her hair was thick and beautiful. it also makes me think that she walks with an aire of superiority and that she feels she can “pet” others when she feels….treat them like pets, perhaps. deeper still it makes me think that she is fasincated with this obvious sign of ethnicity as one would be fascinated with seeing people up close that have plates in their lips or bones through their septum. the very idea, however, that she would ask “is this your real hair” is a bit obtrusive. she has no reason to believe otherwise yet on national TV she asks. now that i think about it…..there is something rotten in wa-wa’s denmark.

  2. I’d be careful to say it’s just black woman or has something to do uniquely with them (except that biologically they are able to have really cool hair…). My old roommate has very curly hair, and that gets touched and pulled all the time by strangers. My brother has really curly hair, and had a fro in highschool. People would grab his hair, and ask him if he had a perm. And another roommmate got long brown and blond weave put in while in Europe, and that got touched all the time by strangers! In fact she was identified it (oh, your roommate is the girl with the cool braids? is that real?). My hair for example is stick straight, and won’t hold a curl no matter how much spray/gel I use. So I’m intrigued by woman who have really unique hair-dos. There is also something admirable about the second woman who had such bold hair! Although my mom raised me better than to reach out and touch a stranger…

  3. First thoughts before commentary.

    Touching the hair is major faux pas because of two reasons.
    1. Personal space issue.

    2. People are trying to look nice on television. Touching hair is either inconsiderate of the other person, or ignorant of how african hair behaves (ie in a lot of cases, the hair doesn’t just “fall” but tends to stay where placed)

    After comments:
    1. On the appropriateness of “is this your real hair”. For Brandi (the first woman) part of her whole schtick was having very elaborate braids and such so I could see that coming up. For the second woman, that’s an inappropriate question, and then to start yanking it is worse, because if it was a wig as Barbara suspects, then it may just come off.

    2. I’m curious if Barbara always touches people without asking or if she seems to do it mostly in cases like these.

    3. One of the interesting lines to walk as far as cross cultural communications go is how to communicate a genuine curiousity about things in a culture that you are not familiar with. Sometimes people seem to get offended by the “stupid questions”, but on the other hand, it is also problematic to ignore the question, or to assume an answer based on your own frame of reference.

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