White Barber’s Refusal To Cut Black Hair Sparks Racial Debate

November 10, 2010  |  

By Brittany Hutson

How would you feel if a hairdresser refused to service you because of the texture of your hair?

That’s what Dr. Darryl Fisher experienced when he walked into a barbershop in Bellows Falls, a town with a population of nearly 3,500 people located on the Vermont-New Hampshire border. According to the Associated Press, a month ago Fisher, a Black physician from N.M., was in town visiting medical practitioners. He walked into the barbershop of Mike Aldrich and asked if the barber was in. Aldrich said no and Fisher left.

But when Fisher walked past the shop an hour later, he noticed Aldrich cutting the hair of a white customer.

Fisher wrote about the incident in a letter he sent to the editor of the local newspaper, The Brattleboro Reformer. In it, he wrote, “I am very pleased to know that I would not want to work or live in Bellows Falls with the above behavior of your local businesses.”

Aldrich admitted that he honestly does not have the expertise to cut black hair, a problem that is nothing new for black folk. How many hairdressers or barbers have we gone through just to find the right one who knows our hair? Aldrich told Fisher there was no barber available to avoid embarrassing himself and Fisher due to his inability to cut his hair.

If one thinks of the situation from another view, Fisher may have been better off. It sure would have been a waste of his time and money to walk out of that barbershop with a messed up haircut.

But granted, there was a much better way Aldrich could have expressed his discomfort and inexperience in cutting the doctor’s hair. In fact, he has handled a similar situation before. Aldrich told the Brattleboro Reformer that three months ago, a black man came in and asked if Aldrich could cut hair. Aldrich responded, ‘No, I’m very sorry,’” and the gentleman thanked him and left.

How simple was that? So why couldn’t Aldrich have done the same for Fisher? As Aldrich’s interview with The Reformer continues, it’s clear that he thinks light of the situation and felt that Fisher was blowing the incident out of proportion. The paper reported that he didn’t hesitate to use the word ‘Negro’ more than once and that he believes black people are more racist than white people.

But other residents of the town took the situation more seriously and organized a protest outside of the barbershop this past weekend. According to the Reformer, residents were concerned that because of one person’s actions, that the rest of the town, which is 97 percent white, would be declared racist.

Fisher said he was impressed with the protest and will not be “so nervous walking up and down the street” going forward.

Read more about the town’s protest and resident responses here.

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