7 Things White People Don’t Understand About Black Hair

October 18, 2011  |  
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Black hair in any state can be down right fascinating. Whether it’s silky, straight and draping or kinky, coily and wild, or something in between, our hair has the ability to shape shift like nobody else’s. Nobody has hair like ours. So it’s no surprise when people from other races have tons of questions about our hair and the way we take care of it. They’re honest questions and if asked in the spirit of genuine curiosity, I don’t mind educating someone about black hair. Which is why I’m taking the time out to educate non-blacks about a topic that’s so near and dear to our hearts and our minds: our hair.

Check it out:

1- We don’t want you to touch our hair because we’re human beings not some type of specimen in a zoo

I have no problem with people touching my hair… if they ask. As a stranger to walk up and touch someone’s hair… or anything on their person for that matter is rude. I understand curiosity and I’m into texture so I like to touch people’s hair too. But for the love of God ask first. Don’t let your curiosity get you cussed out. I do believe Biebs asked to touch Esperanza’s hair in the photo above but still black women felt a little twinge about it.

2- If my hair is cut in a pixie cut one day and down my back the next, it’s probably some sort of extensions

This one always amazed me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say to someone “You know this isn’t my hair, right?”. It’s funny I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know about fake hair. Even my grandma had some pieces she’d slip in her head if she wanted some extra body that day. As much as mainstream celebrities rely on extensions and fake hair it’s amazing that the general population can be so oblivious to their prevalence in everyday life.

3- Our hair, as it grows out of our head, is not unprofessional

Honestly I hear this one perpetuated by whites and blacks equally. The notion that our hair, chemically unaltered, is unprofessional is simply ridiculous and discriminatory. It’s the equivalent of asking a darker complected individual to invest in bleaching cream so he or she can fit into the corporate world.

4- Wearing our hair natural is not to make some type of rebellious statement

Who knows where this notion came from but wearing our hair unstraightened is not indicative of being a member of a counterculture. It’s just who I am.

5- I don’t have to wash my hair everyday

I remember back in elementary school I stayed the night over one of my friends’ house. Before we went to bed or when we got up in the morning my girlfriend informed me that she wasn’t going to wash her hair that day and she didn’t want me to think that she was dirty. I told her I wash my hair once a week. And the look on her face was absolutely priceless. Afterward I had to have the “black hair” conversation with her. Black hair thrives on oils and washing our hair and having to replenish the oils again requires entirely too much time (and money). So once a week it is.

6- Oil is actually good for our hair

Ooo there is nothing worse than seeing someone’s hair being weighed down by oil. It’s gross. And while oil is a the arch nemesis of someone with European hair, it’s actually our friend. Black hair thrives on oil. So much so that the activity of oiling our scalps has become a romantic gesture.

7- It may take some time for it to look right

Which is exactly I won’t be coming to that pool party. Because after I spent 13 hours in the beauty shop and paid a small fortune on this do– if someone throws me in the water somebody’s going to get cut.

Please note that it’s all about love and education. Most black women don’t have a problem taking the time to explain our hair to you as long as you approach us the right way.

What questions have you had to answer from non-black people about black hair?

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