All Voices Matter: don’t touch my hair

In her weekly column, All Voices Matter, staff reporter Aviance Pritchett gives her take on social and cultural issues.

In her weekly column, All Voices Matter, staff reporter Aviance Pritchett gives her take on social and cultural issues.

Black women possess many different types of hair. There’s straight, curly, and kinky, and we all have a type as well. For example, I have curly 3b hair. To many, I have “good hair”, and people assume that I’m mixed with another race since my hair is apparently better than other black girls, and I have light skin.

Dark-skinned black girls often face what is called colorism, defined by Alice Walker in her 1983 book “In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens” as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” That, however, is another subject entirely.

Throughout my life, people have always touched and complimented my hair. When I was young, I thought it was pretty much an honor, and I had pride in myself. My mother would scold me and tell me not to let anyone touch my hair because who knew where their hands had been. Of course, I didn’t care for what she said and let people touch it anyway. But that all changed.

Girls would say, “Your hair is so ethnic”, “I wish I had your hair”, “You’re pretty for a black girl, especially your hair”, “Your hair can’t be that nice, is that weave?” and even worse “You can’t be black with that kind of hair–it’s too nice!” It grew to the point where I stopped wearing it down and in buns or ponytails, because I thought it would stop people from touching it. But it didn’t. When people said those things I would ask myself, “Are black girls not pretty?” and “Does my hair define me?” I felt insecure.

Black women often have to use certain products and techniques to manage their hair. We even have brands exclusively for black women and our hair, because women of other races don’t have to use what we use.

When non-black people cried about how much they wanted to have hair like mine, six-year-old me felt pride, but now I feel anger. Do you want to get touch-ups, where your scalp will most likely get scabs from being burned so you can keep things managed for a few months at most? Do you want to spend loads of money on products just so you can manage your hair into one single hairstyle you want? Do you want to feel pressured to straighten your curly or kinky hair so you can look like other girls, and not feel like you’re an outsider?

I used to cry because I thought my hair was the only thing that made me pretty. So did other black girls. I remember telling my hair that I wanted white girl hair, which meant having silky, straight hair, and not have to wake up extra early to pull it into a bun. Now, I only say one thing: don’t touch my hair.

Just like Solange’s song, don’t touch my hair. It is not your property and it is not your pet. I don’t care how pretty you think it is, how badly you wish to have hair like mine, or how it’s impossible to have my hair because you think that the only black girls that have your standard of “good hair” are the mixed ones. Black girls are not your personal black Barbie dolls.