Don't touch our hair!

Ne touchez pas à nos cheveux !

It's a fact that we cannot deny: the hair of black/Afro-descendant women and men is fascinating in its beauty and versatility!

However, despite the wonder it may cause, there is one thing you should never do: touch the hair of a black/Afro-descendant person , at least without their permission.

A curious beauty

Often the gesture comes simply from curiosity, which can push certain people, often white, to touch Afro hair.

This is an aspect that is completely understandable, frizzy hair is not highlighted enough , without adding that society even places very little value on it. Pro-Western beauty standards push the emphasis on white beauty, masking all the wonders of black beauty. It should also be added that the majority of black women visible in the media are much more likely to have straight or wavy hair than kinky and densely curly hair.

So when we find ourselves faced with a person with this type of hair worn naturally, it can make us want to see it, to touch it, in short to explore it more closely.

In this way, frizzy hair finds itself invisible and unknown to the battalion and this invisibility often sends the following message: frizzy hair is not attractive , nor beautiful, and this reinforces the old-fashioned concept that a black/Afro descendant person is lower.
In addition to being a curiosity, it can be difficult to feel good about ourselves when beauty standards are in no way aligned with our own physical attractions.

Never touch the hair of a black/Afro descended person!

This may seem extreme, but yes, Afro hair remains unknown to the general public, and can cause unprecedented hysteria when a person encounters it for the first time. In the most extreme cases, some people do not ask for permission, even if it seems to be a basic politeness.

Having Afro hair is today often seen as an affirmation and acceptance of our hair that is different from the accepted norm. The latter requiring special care and attention, it is all the more frustrating and shocking when a foreign hand ventures there. Apart from the fact that the latter transgresses the personal space and privacy of others, it is a condescending and disrespectful gesture and far from being hygienic.

Touching a black person's hair only accentuates the gap between what is considered the norm and authenticity. This also echoes zoo animals; although Afro hair is different, wanting to touch it gives the impression that the black woman is a beast, a curiosity to be tamed.

Asking permission, although it may seem polite, can on the contrary create discomfort in the person concerned. Certainly in fact: it can authorize or refuse, but analyzing this in more detail:

  • By refusing, the person may fear projecting a negative image expressing rejection, resulting in potential frustration.
  • By authorizing, the person no longer meets their deep need, that of maintaining the limits of their privacy, and very often submits reluctantly for fear of hurting.

A historical reminder

Well beyond the hair aspect, touching the hair of a black/Afro-descendant person sadly echoes a certain period in History.

At the time of slavery, when the black man was considered an animal , frizzy hair was considered dirty, unruly and responsible for the profusion of lice and other hair atrocities. In order to deprive them of any cultural identity, black men and women in particular were forced to shave their hair or hide it with a turban. Other information also suggests that white men at the time were very attracted to this difference. Out of fear of adultery, wives gathered and protested to force black women to hide their hair.

Slavery also aimed to strip black men and women of their belonging, in order to control them and submit them to their will. Behind Afro hair there is a heavy and rich history , it is not only a question of care, but much more than that. Moreover, this is all the sadder with the advent of relaxed hair, a guarantee of integration and social success.

The black/Afro-descendant community has for decades been deprived of its identity ; a simple gesture only repeats history. While not as extreme, and even unconscious, it will still have a negative connotation despite having an emotionally charged legacy.

Between historical revelations, hygiene and unfounded beauty standards, touching the hair of a black/Afro-descendant person is not an appropriate gesture and should be prohibited. It is not rude to ask a few questions (without prejudice) or compliment Afro hair, as long as it is done with respect.

Article written by Melyssa B.
and edited by Aminatou B.

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1 comment



ma fille métisse (3 ans) a des cheveux en tire bouchons et tout le monde se permet sans demander de fourrer ses mains dans ses cheveux. Souvent des hommes, presque toujours par derrière, sans demander, sans se présenter, sans même montrer un visage et lorsque je dis de ne pas toucher ses cheveux, les gens refusent et disent qu’ils font ce qu’ils veulent, cela a lieu toute le temps où je suis à l’extérieur avec elle, elle en souffre et n’ose pas crier non, elle se réfugie chez moi en s’agrippant à ma jambe. Merci pour cet article car je ne trouve quasiment rien sur le sujet.

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