2 Reasons You Need To Stop Asking Black People If You Can Touch Their Hair

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There was an article published in Forbes today about just how important it is for people to stop asking black people if they can be allowed to touch their hair. I thought Janice did a great job of breaking it down and I wanted to post some of what she said here.

Before I do though, watch this clip:

And now watch this one!

The level of audacity is beyond my wildest imagination in both instances and according to Forbes Aside from the sanitary concerns that come with people touching your hair, the act of touching a coworker is wholly inappropriate and unprofessional. Even asking “can I touch your hair?” is inappropriate and should be prohibited. ‘I don’t understand what is so egregious about asking an employee to touch their hair’, you may wonder. You may also be thinking ‘but I really like her braids and want to see how they feel’ or ‘I’ve never seen an afro up close and wanted to see what the texture was like.’ It is an invasive and a micro-aggressive behavior to ask an employee if you can touch their hair. The only thing more offensive is assuming that it’s okay to touch a person’s hair and proceeding to touch it without getting permission. Below is a list of three reasons why you should never ask a person to touch their hair, much less a coworker.

1. Sanitary concerns.
Research indicates that only 66% of Americans wash their hands after using the bathroom and a study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that most people (97%) fail to correctly wash their hands. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) keeping your hands clean is one of most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. In addition, the CDC indicates that “handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections.” The unfortunate truth is that most people are not washing their hands correctly if they are washing them at all, which leads to the spread of germs and illnesses.

2. Perpetuates inequities.
If you are a non-Black person reading this, ask yourself this: how often have your coworkers ever asked to touch your hair? It’s likely that as a non-Black person the number is low, if ever at all. For most White-identifying employees, the idea of a coworker asking to touch your hair is incomprehensible. Asking to touch a Black person’s hair when you do not and have not ever asked to touch your White counterparts’ hair further perpetuates inequitable treatment and makes the presumption that Black hair is an aberration.

By asking to touch a Black person’s hair, you are feeding into the narrative that White hair is the norm and anything outside of it abnormal. When you assume that White hair is the default, you are furthering the divide that Black employees may feel and creating a hostile work environment. If you are interested in learning more about a coworker’s hair, simply ask them to tell you about their hairstyle because you are intrigued and want to learn more about it. But keep in mind, no employee is under an obligation to educate you on their hair, the significance of a particular hairstyle or why they decided to rock a particular hairdo.

Read the rest via Forbes here.


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