All Voices Matter: not your Barbie doll

In+her+weekly+column%2C+All+Voices+Matter%2C+staff+reporter+Aviance+Pritchett+gives+her+take+on+social+and+cultural+issues.+
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All Voices Matter: not your Barbie doll

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.

Prachurjya Shreya

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

Prachurjya Shreya

Prachurjya Shreya

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

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A year ago, I wrote a column about my complicated relationship with my hair as well as my discomfort with people touching it. After a recent experience, I thought it would be nice to revisit it.

I went to Walmart with my mom to get some things for my aunt, since Thanksgiving is only a week away. While my mom was looking at the piles of yams that were on display, I was just looking on my phone, minding my business, until a white man came out of nowhere and got extremely close to me–it scared the daylights out of me. Like, we were pretty much shoulder to shoulder. He took one of my braids and stroked all the way down, like he was petting it or something. He asked me, “Can you do my hair like that?” and he was smiling.

He didn’t mean any harm by it. My mom couldn’t see my shock or discomfort, and I didn’t want to make a scene. I played along, joked around with him and said goodbye to him as he made his way out of the store. My mom laughed and said, “He was complimenting your hair. Wasn’t that nice?” I just nodded and changed the topic. I didn’t bring it up after. The response to this would naturally be, “Why?”

Why didn’t I tell him to stop? Why didn’t I tell my mom that I was uncomfortable? Why didn’t I say anything?

I was so anxious. In this country, in a state like Texas, black girls like me don’t know what would’ve happened if I responded. Whether I responded rudely or politely, after seeing on social media and on the news of how black people have been shot or arrested for doing simple things like walking or standing on the street, my main worry was if I was putting myself or my mom in danger. I should feel a little less worried, considering how Plano, where I live, and Frisco are generally inclusive of all backgrounds.

I could be overreacting, yes. But how could I not be based on our history. My mom and I were harassed out of our own apartment by our white landlord because we were black. I remember them walking into our home without even knocking. I remember the landlord and two other buff white guys behind her, yelling at my mom and throwing baseless accusations at her, and threatening to call authorities so they would take me away from her. It’s incredibly hard not to be afraid.

It’s hard to explain my feelings or provide an explanation as to why I didn’t do anything, besides the fact that I was just scared. You’d think the man would have decency to say something to me before he touched my hair instead of startling me and getting into my personal space. It’s basic decency to ask before you touch someone or something that belongs to them.

Don’t touch my hair. I don’t care if you want to compliment me. Do it away from my personal space, at a respectable, conversational distance. You don’t touch someone’s chest out of nowhere because you like their shirt. Don’t touch my hair because you like it.

I’m not your Barbie doll. I’m a sixteen year old black girl who takes two AP classes, eats strawberry cheesecake almost everyday, and enjoys playing video games at 3 a.m.

I’m a human being who demands basic human decency and common sense.