Still want to touch your hair

Brenda Becker,
Brooklyn, NY.

I grew up in a white Queens neighborhood where neighbors worried that “they” would “get in,” and the cool girls had straight sheets of hair. I was delighted to meet and make black friends at my all-girls Catholic high school. It was the 70s, and even as I struggled with my mop of kinky frizz, several black friends caused a sensation by getting naturals. We white girls were thrilled with them…and petted them, and stuck pens in them, and patted them–I cringe in retrospect, but no one seemed to think it was horrible, just more of our teen-girl nonsense, although I now wonder at our friends’ patient forbearance. In college, I cut my own short and strode around ladies’ rooms with an Afro pick, feeling ridiculously “in solidarity” with kinky heads everywhere. I have never been able to lose my fascination with the beauty and variety of black hair (especially now with so many gorgeous braided styles), and it’s been painful to read how offensive black women (and men, I’m sure) find our dumb questions, hair-touching etc. I finally understood a bit better when one beautiful friend explained, “Our hair is our sacred crown.” Sacred…that I can understand. So, no more hair-touching, or even questions; I’m now even worried about giving compliments, lest they somehow sound patronizing. But I’ll always be a “recovering hair-toucher.” If you have awesome hair…yes, this fuzzy-topped white gal is wanting to touch it, talk about it, love it. Wanting to be your curly sister. There…my pathetic confession is made!


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