At my predominately white school, I have been asked many questions regarding my hair by non-Black people. Whenever I would get my hair straightened, I would face the same question: “Is that a wig?” Not only is that question extremely disrespectful, it is also just very unnecessary. Why does my hair concern you? Something I have realized is that anytime someone asks a question like this, it is not coming from a place of concern and care, it is condescending, as if they want you to admit something. Even if I was wearing a wig, what’s wrong with that? Wigs are only seen as cute and quirky when white girls wear them but as soon as a Black girl wants to wear one we are seen as “ghetto” and “ratchet”.
Many of my teachers have also made very inappropriate comments about my hair from “It’s almost like it grew overnight” to “Is that a weave?” Ignorance from kids is one thing but ignorance from grown adults is unacceptable– educators need to be educated about micro-aggressions and their language when talking about Black hair.
I decided to interview my good friend Micayla Green about her experience with non-Black people making comments about her hair. She stated that “It feels like I’m in a museum, constantly being watched by others.” This quote emphasizes the sad truth for many Black girls, as our hair has to look perfect at all times to look “presentable”. She describes another experience when someone said that “It looks like someone is having a bad hair day” when her hair was just in a bun. People with straight hair can wear cute messy buns but as soon as a Black girl doesn’t feel like spending a long time getting ready, her hair doesn’t look “good.”
I then asked my older sister, Maryam Pate about micro-aggressions she has faced about her hair and she described an experience when a white friend told her, “You should straighten your hair more!” Although this may seem like a harmless “compliment” the girl was basically implying that her hair looks better when it fits society’s beauty standards–straight and thin hair.
I have never fully understood white people’s obsession with our hair. Whether it is a passive aggressive comment or touching our hair and calling it “poofy” they ALWAYS have something to say. Our hair isn’t “exotic” or “fake,” please just stop because me and many other Black girls are sick and tired of the never-ending scrutiny.
Black women’s hair has been looked down upon since the 18th century when British colonials said that Black women’s hair was closer to sheep wool than human hair. Today, Black girls are still being sent home from school because their hair isn’t presentable. Enough is enough.
Art credits: Khia, @khiascanvas on Instagram
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