So here's the thing, I realize my natural hair (afro) will always cause some attention. It's unfortunate that the way God created my hair to grow out of my scalp is an attraction to other cultures as well as mine, but you know, that's life. At first, I didn't mind those of my own culture (African descent) to touch my hair, but now it is limited to everyone. More and more I realized that people see it as a spectacle than something beautiful, and I just can't deal with that type of attention. This was made very prevalent during my stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I was already used to white people being intrigued with my hair. I've been the minority all my life, and that sure didn't change once going natural. Prior to traveling to Buenos Aires, I had some of my white friends or associates ask to touch my hair, and I would usually let them. Or I would have some that didn't ask, but I took it as playfulness. But traveling to a country where I was a minority of the minority was a whole new experience!
I realized that many Argentines had seen those of African-descent, but had never interacted with one. It was interesting because many did not believe me when I told them that I was from the United States. They were quick to believe my roommates (who were white), but always had follow-up questions when I would answer that I was American. Many asked, "No, but where's your family from?" Translation: "How did yo black ass get to the United States?" lol
I saw many Brazilians and others of African-descent while in Argentina, and many of them had curly hair or even locs, so I assumed that the Argentines would not find my hair that special. But like I previously stated, barely any of them had interacted with a black girl, and so the petting began!
My first weekend in Argentina, I went to a bar with my roommates, and that night predicted pretty much how I would be treated by Argentine people (mainly men) for the rest of my stay. Usually when I went out with my roommates, men would come to talk to me first. They found me different and unique. Of course they'd ask where I was from, tell me I'm beautiful, and then ask (but most times not) if they could touch my hair. I always said no.
I was very firm when I said it, because many did not understand why I was not flattered. And I'll admit that at first I kind of was. I would walk down the street, and hear men call out to me, La reina! La Reina! Which means, queen in Spanish, and I thought to myself like, Wow, here they think I'm a queen!
But it soon became too much. I began longing for the days I could walk down the street, and no one notice me. People stopped asking permission to touch my hair and just went for it. I specifically remember one night going out with a group of friends. It was an awesome night of dancing and drinking with other students- American and Argentine. Within the group was another African-American girl whom I became very close with during my stay. I felt so much more comfortable going out with someone who experienced the same attention I did.
We were inseparable that night, because we both knew how aggressive the men could sometimes be. We walked through a crowd, attempting to follow my roommates to another spot in the club, and while we were walking, a man tried to grab my hand. I jerked away, and he grabbed my hair, which happened to be in a puff that night. Grab really isn't even the word, he yanked my hair, because my head followed in the direction he pulled from. I started saying every English curse word known to man, not caring that he didn't know what I was saying. My friend grabbed me and attempted to calm me down. That was the most extreme example of someone touching my hair, but nonetheless has infinitely affected me. I absolutely felt as less than human, and more like a domesticated animal. This is not okay.
I realized through my experiences abroad, that there is a thin, but clear line between intrigueness and entitlement. When someone is intrigued they come from a sincere and curious approach, whereas, entitlement comes from a sense of control. I felt like the man who yanked my hair felt like he had control because he is white and I am a morena, or a black girl in his country. And this is why I refuse to let anyone touch my hair today. Yes, it's just hair, but it's my hair; and you never have been, nor will you ever be entitled to touching it.
Do you allow anyone to touch your hair? Comment below!
**And if you have any specific questions about traveling as a black women, please do not hesitate to comment as well!