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Dreadlocked Museum Piece

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Most people don’t like to be judged by any one facet of their appearance. In fact, I think most of us want to be valued based on deeper things like kindness, empathy, a loving nature, friendliness, and so on. Ok, maybe I just went deep. I’m trying to figure out why I am so appalled when people (usually strangers) ask questions / make comments like:

 Can I touch your hair?

 Is that your real hair?

 Aren’t dreadlocks dirty?

 How’d you get your hair like that?

 That’s a weave right?

 Black women don’t have long hair do they?

 You don’t have to wash your hair right?

 Did you put perm on your locks to get them to curl that way?

 Ew, I just don’t like locks, they look dirty.

At a basic level, I don’t like to be ogled or examined like a museum piece or an animal in the zoo. When people ask questions like that it makes it VERY salient that they perceive me as different, somehow exotic. It suddenly becomes obvious that the things that I am accustomed to (e.g., kinky hair, dark skin, full lips, etc.) are considered odd. Hmm, AM I odd? Is something wrong with me? Ugh. I guess I want to be able to be myself, just BE! Not have to answer a bunch of questions to quench someone’s curiosity.

I also think that the above line of questioning is rude. Can you imagine going up to a White man and asking if you can rub his beard, his moustache or touch his head? I don’t think so. That man would look at you like you were crazy, which you would be if you did that in my opinion. So, what makes it okay to ask me? I think it’s because I come from a marginalized group that has historically had less power and been unable to protest such injustices. Instead, we had to grin and bear it and accept the fact that our lack of power made us subject to the whims of those around us. Has that made folks expect us to just be grinning, acquiescent fools who willingly answer any and all questions? Yes, that is one way to look at it. However, I can’t help but think of an alternative view. Could it be that people are genuinely curious and perhaps their lack of exposure to people who are different than they are makes them ignorant to the best way to approach folks like me? I don’t know the answer but I sure want to gain some understanding. Please chime in. Thanks!

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