Thembisile

“Is THAT your real hair?” “Can I touch your hair?” “You black girls are so lucky, you can change your hair all the time.”

On countless occasions, I’ve heard those words come out of peoples’ mouths when speaking about hair and it irks me to the core.

I understand, it’s different, it’s intriguing and you can’t help yourself. For many years your people have been fascinated by mine. They studied every inch of our bodies and still, decades later you don’t understand us and you’re still asking me silly questions.

“Go on to Youtube and watch the mini documentary You can touch my hair and if that doesn’t help you, call Jesus.”

The first thing we all need to understand is the concept of hair diversity. I read an article once that suggested the reason European and northern hemisphere ethnic groups have long, straight hair is because during the Ice Age, the Africans who had migrated north evolved and grew long, straight hair to protect their necks, and subsequently their main arteries.

Short, long, I will never touch it

Those who stayed had shorter, curlier hair to keep cool and didn’t need to protect the backs of their necks from the cold. I acknowledge these differences and that is why I will never ask to touch your hair.

Many black people today argue that imitating European standards of beauty and grooming is necessary for blacks to be accepted by white culture, especially by potential white masters and employers.

For decades black women have been overwhelmed with devices, creams, and tonics, claiming to be the “cure” for our kroes hare. Don’t we struggle enough?

See, every time you ask me silly questions about my hair and want to touch it, I imagine how Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman felt back in 1810, when she was exhibited in London. Ornamentilised, as people ogled her large buttocks and elongated labia, and of course, her hair.

In 2013, three black women, all with different hair styles, stood in New York with signs encouraging people to touch their hair. The social experiment was aimed at educating and exploring the widespread fascination with black hair. Take 30 minutes out of your time one day, go on to Youtube and watch the mini documentary You can touch my hair and if that doesn’t help you, call Jesus.

Yes, this is my hair

But unlike those women, no you can’t touch my hair to curb your curiosity!

Firstly, you can’t touch my hair because I am not an animal at a petting zoo. Secondly, my black ancestors may have been your ancestors’ property, and they had to smile while being touched in ways they didn’t want to, but I am not your property, so please keep your hands away from my hair.

And yes, this is my hair, I bought it didn’t I? No one asks you if that’s your face under all that make-up. I spent a generous amount of time and money maintaining my hair. My hair is a part of me, it always has been and will always be. I grew with it. We’ve had our highs and lows and we’re still rooted together.

If you’re trying to make conversation, converse, don’t ask if you can touch my hair. Respect me. You may think your reasons for doing so are great, I don’t’.