Hair Touching & Children

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A lot has been written lately about natural hair and the curiosity that it brings from other people that do not possess naturally curly hair (Read about the CNN article).  Often times it leads to touching, which may be unwanted, especially if permission was not asked first.  While surfing the web this morning, I came across this post from ChocolateHairVanillaCare.  Rory is a Caucasian adoptive mother of an African American daughter and she wrote an open letter to friends, family, teachers and anyone else that may come in contact with her daughter.  In her letter, she made some very valid points, and I think that she hit the nail on the head on how touching can make a person feel.  I really feel for her and what she must go through.  I was angry for her.

Here is an excerpt:

An Open Letter to People Regarding Touching Chocolate Hair

Dear People Who Have, or May, Come Into Contact with My Daughter,

Thank you so much for your interest in my daughter’s hair. Yes, it is beautiful, we both appreciate your compliments. Yes, she’s very patient and has no problem sitting to have her hair done. She’s been getting her hair done since she was very small and knows of nothing else; her hair regime is a fact of life and she doesn’t see it as the burden that you do. Nor do I.

While asking me about my daughter’s hair, please do not start touching it. Just because I am a vanilla parent this does not mean that you have an “in” to touch chocolate hair for the first time. I have had too many people tell me, “Oooh, I’ve always wondered what their hair felt like,” while pawing my daughter. She’s not an animal, she’s a human being.

We teach our children that strangers touching them in inappropriate ways is wrong and that they should tell an adult immediately. In our opinion, anytime a child is touched by anyone who feels that they have a right to do so, against the child’s wishes and without the child’s permission, is inappropriate.

You see, every chocolate/jam/cheetos handprint on her hair from other children and/or adults is a mark on her dignity. She is small, but she does have personal space and a sense of self-worth. When you invade that space without her permission you are telling her that she has no rights to her body; that her desire to be left untouched is not as important as your curiosity.

Even if your hands are clean, they still leave a an invisible mark.

If you are sweet and kind enough to ask my daughter ahead of time if you can touch her hair, please do not be offended if she says, “No.” She is not being rude. She has no obligation to give the answer that you want. Her body is her own and if she does not want to share it with you at that moment, then please respect her rights. Don’t tell me that she’s being “disobedient” or “rude” or huff and walk away. In doing so, you are indirectly communicating that she owes you a piece of herself for no other reason than because you asked. She does not.

No, I do not do unique hairstyles for my daughter to attract your attention. I do them for her, to help foster a loving relationship with her natural hair so that she will grow up loving how God made her, hopefully minimizing any desire to alter herself to match someone else’s standard of beauty. Do not tell me that if I didn’t want her touched that I shouldn’t be doing all these hairstyles that say “look at me, touch me.” Do not blame the victim for your indiscretion or lack of self control.

If you are a teacher, please note that the first day of school is often very intimidating and making a really big deal about hair – on that day, or any day – while inviting other teachers and/or parents to come over to touch and finger-through a child’s head of hair, can be extremely overwhelming. Yes, she may be one of the few chocolate children at your school, but drawing so much attention to her will only highlight how different she is. Although I can address the issue with you while I’m present, I put my trust in you that you will protect my daughter throughout the day. Allowing classmates to put their hands in her hair or play with her beads is not only distracting to the class, it is also akin to hitting; it is a violation of my daughter’s person and I have to believe that you will do your best to keep this from happening. Just because it might not physically hurt her, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt her character.

To read more, click here.

Freelance Graphic Designer, Lifestyle Blogger, Natural Hair Enthusiast and Fitness Convert...yeah, I wear a lot of hats. :)

  • WaxingPoetica

    on my mama! i too have had these kinds of experiences. it isnt always white people either. recently i had an indian muslim woman all in my locs. it was funny to me because i indulge people sometimes and she was one of the lucky ones. I’ve never wondered what someone’s straight hair felt like and i dont understand their fascination with the ethnic hair. i wonder if they do their best to restrain themselves from touching other straight haired ethnicities or is it just us because they feel the need to put their mark on every waking portion of our being. im just saying.
    i remember one day my daughter was playing with the neighbor girl (white). they were squirting water and blowing bubbles and having a good time. then i peeped the neighbor was squirting water on mira’s hair (i had just taken out her cornrows and was letting her have a fun break before washing it). she wasnt trying to get her anywhere but her hair. when her mother noticed she told her to stop and began asking me about the ins and outs of doing mira’s hair. i
    why is it that bunny is not at all concerned about other people’s hair. she doesnt seem to want to fondle some straight hair. what she wants is beads in HER hair (i am NOT doing that).
    I remember i was 11 and this lady at the airport asked me about my hair. i had extensions at the time and when i said “this isnt my hair, its extensions” she was mortified. her face was hilarious. it was nothing but cornrows, but the idea that it was not my hair was frightening. my people, my people.