Don’t Touch the Fro! Allison Keyes on NPR

posted on April 8th 2010 in Fro Related & Living & Sharing with 7 Comments


Check out this 4 minute audio of NPR show “Tell Me More” guest host Allison Keyes discussing the topic “Keep Your Hands Off The Hair”-


A “Pick Fros Not Fights”topic for REAL! If you rock a fro, or locks even, you probably know what its like to have someone just wanna touch your hair. This happens to me quite a bit, “it looks so soft, so fluffy” -but I have to admit, most folks DO ask first before I get a pat down (I mean, I’m 6′ tall & ain’t skinny, so folks generally approach with caution!).  And to be honest, I’m usually left understanding their fascination because, my fro IS (usually) tight :), but still, to quote Allison Keys: “Its a Race issue as well as a personal space issue.”

Full transcript below:

March 22, 2010

Today, we hear from Tell Me More guest host Allison Keyes.

This week we’re going to talk about hair. To touch — or not to touch, that is the question.

And as far as I’m concerned the answer is nearly always, no.

OK — let me explain why this really annoys me.

I’m African-American, and I wear my hair natural. That means in an Afro, or in twists, or some other style that showcases my kinky hair in the tight curls in which it grows from my scalp. It is not chemically straightened. In other words — think India.Arie — NOT Beyonce!

And for the past few weeks, I’ve been rocking an Afro puff: a round fluffy puff perched atop a braided or twisted up-do. It is fierce!

And I must admit — the texture does look inviting to touch. But walking up and palming my puff?! Particularly without permission? Can I Just Tell YOU — speaking colloquially — that is not cool.

I think it is a race issue — as well as a personal space issue. The space issue seems obvious. I see it as a violation as unwanted as those who approach pregnant women — hands out — and start rubbing their bellies.

The race issue is a little more tricky.

For example, I was walking one day recently, puff held high, when a white woman walked up and just grabbed it — cooing, “Oh that’s so cute!”

Fighting back my impulse to grab her wrist, I simply stepped back and growled, “Don’t touch my hair!”

She reared back, offended, “Well, I don’t see what the big deal is!”

That response is exactly the problem.

In what realm of reality is it OK to walk up to a person and — without her permission — lay your hands on her body?

I took a look around Google, wondering about the basis for this distaste that I and many other African-Americans have to acquaintances, co-workers or — most infuriating — strangers, just walking up and grasping away.

On blog after blog, black women railed about the rudeness of folk just walking up and touching their hair.

On another site, womanist-musings.com, in an article called “Can I Touch Your Hair? Black Women and The Petting Zoo,” the author noted, “Today white people still feel that they have the right to our bodies.” She went on to say, “My blackness and your curiosity does not give you the right to touch me.”

Let’s have a reality check here. For hundreds of years, whites had permission to do anything they wanted to black people, and that includes things far worse than touching our hair.

Even now, there are still those pesky signs of disrespect, like a white person calling a woman old enough to be their grandmother by her first name. Is it because she’s black and therefore doesn’t deserve the respect of a title? Don’t both acts send a signal that black people are still objects to be treated as one pleases — all without said object’s permission?

One Web site actually suggested that blacks try humor or self-deprecation to assuage the hurt feelings of the offended person who has just forcibly touched them. But I think, what you ought to do, is keep your hands outta my hair, unless I invite you to touch it. Whether it’s a $1,000 hair weave, a 10-inch Afro or an Afro puff … watch out! There could be a mousetrap in there — or worse!

That way, no one’s fingers will be injured.

afronista. frolaborator. creative do-er. void filler.

currently there's 7 comment(s)

  • sarsaparilla

    commented on April 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Although I hate it when people touch my hair without permission, (even other black women) I hate the message that black womens’ hair can NEVER be touched even more. I like it when some people touch my hair or message my scalp, my natural hair is soft and it does not contain any hidden dangers. We all just need to respect each others personal space.

  • Mikki

    commented on May 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Honestly, I think it’s never cool to touch someone else’s hair without their consent first–it doesn’t matter which race, ethnic background or even relational tie you have to that person. I think respect is paramount when dealing with others and supersedes all of those factors. Personally, I’ve found the worst offenders to be other black women–who, for some reason, seem to be ridiculously fascinated with long hair like they’re so provencial that they’ve never seen it before. I haven’t actually had any issues with whites touching my hair without asking (or even asking to do so). Black women or men have touched my hair without asking and gotten offended (or worse physically assualted) when I said I didn’t like it. I despise attitudes of entitlement from anyone…no, we are “not” cool like that! One can never assume…always ask; that’s showing some level of respect. Even better is for a person to show restraint despite his or her curiousity.

  • Todd

    commented on April 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I have to say I never really wanted to touch anyones hair before or at least as far as I can remember. Having the hair that is brownish I usually fall into the white majority I am from. However at one point I had decided to go bald and suddenly other people wanted to touch my smooth head. At first I just ignored it and made excuses as it seemed to not be a big deal. However as time went on it got irritating to have people do this this to me. At one point after a friend had touched my scalp I decided to jump on his back to make him stop. I didn’t want want to be called baldie or even worse ‘Nazi’, or jar head for that matter. But people either didn’t care or didn’t see it as a big deal. I was in high school after all. (Still wasn’t nice to disrespect my boundaries). So in a way I can relate to people being jerks about personal space.

  • Todd

    commented on April 12, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Sorry about the post I left earlier, this is about Fros and not about a white guys bald head.

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