My Black hair is not for your hands to touch


Graphic by Sophie Bruch

Sofia Ibrahim

I’m sitting in my third period, and all of a sudden I feel something in my hair. Immediately, I think, ‘please don’t tell me I just felt another person pull at one of my curls.’ For many Black people, this is the norm. 

 When I am touched like this without my consent, I feel silenced and like my humanity has been disregarded. It may feel so small for other, non-Black individuals, but it’s highly disrespectful to members of the Black community.

Before anything else, I must acknowledge the privilege I have as a light-skinned Black woman with 3C hair. My hair is seen as what is “acceptable” for a Black woman: curly, not kinky. But, regardless of my hair type, it still isn’t ok for people to touch and feel my hair—or any other Black person’s hair, for that matter, under any circumstances. 

Growing up in predominantly white elementary and middle schools, I was always the odd one out. My classmates didn’t know how to deal with my hair, and to avoid staring and comments, I’d end up tying it in a ponytail every day. I developed this defense mechanism partly so that I could fit in with straight-haired popular girls, who I viewed as beautiful, and partly to avoid as much discussion on my “weird” hair as I could. I’d wish every birthday and every Christmas for straight hair, so I could finally feel accepted within my school community. 

When I (finally) started to have more confidence in wearing my hair down, people would pull my curls constantly. This would happen every day, primarily from people I didn’t know. Occasionally, I’d find a crayon or paperclip, something small in my hair that I knew they’d put there. 

I do not believe that my non-Black classmates were doing this out of hate, but out of ignorance. Given my age and lack of confidence, I wasn’t comfortable telling them that their actions offended me. At Wilson, I was elated to see so many people with hair like mine and many non-Black classmates who had the knowledge and respect to not touch my hair. However, this is still a fairly normal occurrence. Without asking for any sort of permission, I still feel hands on my hair, hands that violate my personal space and my pride, hands that make me feel like a caged animal. 

The history and significance of hair in the Black community is centuries old. Black women have been, and still are being discriminated against for their hair; whether it be box braids, dreadlocks, a natural fro, or any other style, simply because it isn’t the western-standard: straight. We’ve been rejected from jobs, excluded from social circles, and far more, simply because of the hair on our heads. Even worse, the western beauty standard of hair has seeped its way into the Black community, displayed through terms like “good hair”—hair with looser curls due to European influence—being used frequently, especially among older generations. 

During the later years of the 2010s to today, Black hair began receiving the most acceptance it’s ever received. The same hair that was once ill-favored is now beginning to be celebrated. However, this has come in tandem with cultural appropriation. Non-Black people, especially white women, can be seen wearing dreads, box braids, and cornrows on social media and in real life. 

Except, it’s fine, because it’s just hair, right?


The significance of hair in the Black community is a perspective that hasn’t been widely respected. We need to demand our non-Black counterparts to listen to what we have to say. •