In the summer of 2008 I cut off all my chemically straightened hair. No one warned me that my transition to a natural mini-fro meant I’d be flipping on a neon sign that would flash across my forehead, inviting curious white people to have a cultural experience with my hair but without my consent. Since then, I’ve been called everything from a snob to a black bitch for saying “no” to people who’ve asked to touch my hair.
Sometimes they don’t ask. They just snatch and grab—and then act shocked and angry when I don’t respond positively.
Given my experience, maybe I should’ve warned my 13-year-old son what he was in for when he decided last fall to grow his hair into an afro. After seven months, he has a breathtaking halo of hair—one that’s flashing the same undevised “touch me” message to his white peers. And he can’t take it anymore.
“I want to be bald. Completely bald,” he told me one recent morning while picking his hair out in the bathroom.