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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  • md.amjad ali

    my age is{25} became white why any parblam any trement

  • That's crazy yo! This would never happen in NYC, but I do kind of get it – in vermont, barbers had no idea how to deal with kinky hair, white or black, so I would understand a quality warning if it's just not a barber's expertise, but to deny cutting hair altogether is cold.

  • kando

    Why would any person of color want a white barber to cut his hair anyway? I guess this black doctor who thought the title doctor will make him special in a idiot racist eyes or he wanted to fatten up this white nut wallet instead of his own kind. Good for this doctor's azz, Maybe one day he might run into this barber on the road and this nut needs a doctor's help and it will be great for the doc to say he not expert on whites!

  • LADYDAY777

    Do you know how many black people can not do black people hair. No one is doing a protest in front of their shop

  • binstar

    why in the world would this idiot try to go to a white barber to get his hair cut?

    c'mon son.

    • Jenny

      Exactly!! Why do black folks care!! We just need the acceptance of the whites so badly don't we! We run to their businesses, beg for them to take our money!! Please Massa Cut my hair, just touch me it you can't cut it!! Meanwhile we have nothing, own nothing, and have no where to call home. Damn Fools. Disgusting

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  • ApprxAm

    This is precisely what Carter G. Woodson wrote about nearly a century ago. Educated Negroes still in search of WHite approval, but in this case simply turned into race-baiting foolishness.

    Don't we have real problems to deal with as a people? Who cares if this elitist crybaby couldn't get his hair cut in New Hampshire?!? What next, murder-suicide in England because he can't find collard greens?

    Our struggle is simply too great to cater to rich, supposedly educated whiners with seriously low self-esteem. THIS IS A WASTE!

    Wow!

  • Training is important in any business, if you are going to serve all clients, learn to work with everybody, by catering to everybody need. A good business will learn the trade to please all people, you want the money. You see that's why the Asians have black hair in their stores, good business minds make money. Now do you want to say that's racist, they are making money with what is popular. I live in a town where spanish and black men and women learn to cut black, white, asian, spanish male and female hair. And it's a barber school, and it's not expensive, I've seen alot of people graduate from there and go on with their skills. This man only need to be trained to do other styles of hair, just improve the skills to make the money.

  • C.

    I live in Alabama and the same thing has happened to me. I am biracial and my hair texture is fine with moderate curls. I walked into a hair salon and was told by a white stylist that they dont do black hair. I was insulted but oh well by the looks of her own head she didnt do "white" hair either. smdh…

  • Jasper McMillan

    We need to pick n choose our battles more carefully. This latest incident reminds me of the white lady who chooses to fly her Confederate flag in a black neighborhood and our reaction.

    With our young people killing each other like flys over nothing, our young women becoming pregnant by the thousands by young men who have no idea of what manhood is, never mind fatherhood, with the free black male becoming an endangered species, with the Republicans re-enforced by the Tea Party intent on invalidating many of our rights as American citizens, with American commerce, finance and manufacturing institutions intent on keeping us on the lowest rungs of society, there are far more important and bigger battles to wage. Personally, I dont want anyone cutting my hair who isnt sure of what he or she is doing. Dr. King and those before him, taught us through their own suffering and sometimes dying, that progress demands sacrifice. Sacrifice is often unpleasant and sometimes, downright dangerous. If we arent willing to risk ourselves, our dreams and our futures, to rise up off of our do-nothings and vote even in the most obscure and little known local elections (bought and paid for through much blood), if we, as a people arent willing to come together and unite for the common good despite the associated hazards and hardships, ALL for the sake of overcoming adversity and attaining our fair share of the American dream, then…we dont deserve ANYTHING.

  • Frances P

    This is nothing new when it comes to whites dealing with ethnic hair . I.ve been in this field for thirty years, and I was determined that I would learn how to cut everybody's hair. Carcasian hair was difficult, but I was determined to master it. The way I look at when you limit who hair you cut you also limit your money. I've been a Manager and a business owner, and I didn't even hire you if you had certain types of hair you would do. Suppose I turned down every carcasian person that wanted me to do their hair I would be short of money and limiting myself also. Thank God thats a small town and maybe thats best because he probably wouldn't survive in a larger population. I think it's good to learn to do all types of hair, they had to learn the basics in beauty school.

  • Rodney

    You have to know how to cut black hair. If you don't know, you can seriously mess it up. This Dr. is just being a jerk-off and using race as the backdrop to gain attention to his story in order to try and shame another human being. My wife is a hairstylist of 14 years and of Puerto Rican race, her father has an afro, and she doesn't even do black hair cause she doesn't feel comfortable enough doing it. It's something that you have to do on a daily basis in order to do it justice. It's about comfort level. Hey Doctor Fisher, you're black, I'm mexican and the barber who didn't have the skill to cut your hair was white, BIG FREAKIN DEAL! GET OVER YOURSELF! Your dumbass-self should've gotten your haircut before you left your town and you should have known that a predominately "white" small town was probably not going to have someone that could cater to your needs in the hair department. You claiming that this WHITE BARBER was being a racist on the grounds that he didn't serve you, is just a stupidly ignorant attempt at capturing headlines to get your 15 minutes. Now you got it, so do your jig and get off the stage!!!!!!!!

  • D

    He should've just been honest about it from the start, but maybe he was worried about refusing to cut a black guys hair and how it would look and thought it would just be easier to lie. I'm sure if he just said, well, I don't have any experience in this but I could try if you really want me to, there wouldn't have been any problem. He should've let him decide if he wanted to risk it or not.

  • wecare000

    Sorry, but I do not see what the uproar is about. The barber did him a favor. Had he cut his hair and jacked it up, he would have been mad about that, too. So it's a lose/lose situation. People need to lighten up.

    • Lisa

      I agree with you. Sometimes we need to pick our battles and stop overreacting. Hell if the town is that void of black stylist and barbers, the people protesting would have better use of their energy opening up a black barber/beauty salon and make that money. I would have preferred for the white guy to lie to me like he did, than to do something to my hair that can't be reversed. Besides, the Dr. was bold because most people don't just allow any old person to touch their hair.

  • rene

    Really? Hopefully the white barber doesn't know how to cut his( Black curly) hair,and it is not a case of racism. Pulease!

  • Monster Bob

    This is hilarious! Everyone from around here, we all call him shaky-Mike.. and therein lies the true irony; no one who knows Mike and cares how they look afterward would get their hair cut by Mike Aldrich.

    Dr. Fisher, Bellows Falls is not racist, we just happen to be surrounded by quite a few ignoramuses.

  • Joe

    I think the barber cshould have told him he didn`t know how to cut his hair. However, the doctor should have got a haircut before he left home with someone who is used to cutting his hair. I never go out of town without going to see my barber.

    • janeyre

      Being Black, I know for a fact… Men should have their own Barber. Even Black's don't do a good job with every guy who comes in. Of course, our texture is different. It can be coarse, straight, kinky, wavey etc… I don't think the Barber was a racist. He just didn't have the skill to do something different. What if he had cut the Dr's hair? I mean, messed it up? I agree with the person who said: You should get your hair cut, before leaving home.

  • newgarbagetruck

    You guys don't understand. I recently moved to New Hampshire and there are no black barbers or hair stylists. I haven't seen one and none of the black women I see have their hair done.

    I have extremely curly hair. It's soft, but still intimidating to a white salon stylist. They see a black woman coming in here with a huge head of thick curls, it's completely out of their norm.

    Last night, out of desperation, I made an appointment at the local hair salon. I've walked by it a couple of times before, but I had a fear that they wouldn't be able to "handle my hair". Once she became comfortable with my texture and realized it was not has difficult as she thought it might be, she and her co-workers were repeatedly commenting on how they were so shocked that she managed to get my hair straight. They all came over and touched my hair. We even joked about them petting me. They were so shocked that it was soft and straight. The stylist was quite pleased with herself afterward. I didn't want to tell her that I could get it straighter myself, but she did a good enough job and they were nice.

    I am from NYC, I'm used to going to the local dominicans, but that isn't a luxury here anymore. Though, I remember one time, a white stylist in Manhattan (23rd street) told me that she didn't "have anyone who could do my type of hair" and referred me to another location.

    Anyway, we blacks, need to realize that most of us have difficult hair. White stylists and barbers aren't used to it. I don't know how long I will live in New Hampshire, but I have to get used to white stylists doing my hair and they will have to get used to my hair.

    I'm sorry that the doctor felt that it was racism… that barber could have been honest about it, but it is what it is. Enjoy the roughness of your hair or get a perm. lol

    • ApprxAm

      38th st., & Sixth Ave: You go upstairs and there is a line of about 25 chairs, loud rap music, Jet Mags on the wall and we all love and know. Except something is wrong. The guys cutting your hair are Koreans!

      It's the funniest thing I've ever seen. But man, they cut your hair (high top fades: this was the early 90's), they were fast and they were priced reasonably. The only place I saw so many brothers at one time in MidTown Manhattan.

      • Sarah Zitmann

        That's so funny.

    • BLACK

      Really you can write a law but you cant change peoples hearts, grow dreads its a lot simpler