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New York Times article on TSA Natural Hair Patdowns


Image found at: http://www.rlc.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/tsa-logo.gif

I don’t know how you feel about airport security. I for one want to feel safe in the airport and have confidence that the plane, crew and passengers all pass the muster. Recently, however, I’ve been concerned that a lack of education may be causing natural hair wearers to receive disproportionate attention from Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) screeners. An article published yesterday on NYTimes.com (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/business/natural-hair-pat-downs-warrant-a-rethinking.html) explores this issue. The article does a nice job of addressing the notion that Black, women, natural hair wearers may experience “cultural pushback” even from other Black women. I’d add that the cultural pushback may even originate from the self. After all we are all affected by the cultural norms of the societies in which we live (you may disagree with the norms, rebel against them, decry them but you are still affected by them in some way, shape or fashion). I know I’ve had my share of personal moments when I looked at my kitchens (interesting blog about it: http://blackerberry.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/hair-changes-from-birth-the-kitchen-the-pick-pressing-hair/) and frowned, upset that I either had to “do something” to the hair on the nape of my neck or cover it up. Yes, cultural pushback is a real issue and I’m delighted that Mr. Sharkey raised this point.

I also appreciate the fact that Mr. Sharkey noted that White women with similarly voluminous hair do not seem to experience pat downs to the same degree as Black women natural hair wearers. Of course, Mr. Sharkey did not conduct an empirical study, however the anecdotal evidence suggests that there may indeed be differences in how the two groups of women are treated by TSA screeners. Wouldn’t it be great if the TSA investigated this? I guess folks would say that the TSA is too busy protecting us to protect our rights.

I also have a few issues with the article. It opens by saying that the protagonist, Ms.Nance, “has a thing about her hair” and quotes her as saying that she doesn’t use chemicals or straighteners and instead wears her natural texture. Why does this equate to having a thing about her hair? She is wearing her hair as it grows out of her head!!! Also, Mr. Sharkey refers to natural hair wearers as being defensive when they become irritated by requests to touch their hair. Now you KNOW how that can go over (insert). Hey, maybe I’m just another defensive natural hair wearer. But, I think if I asked to touch Mr. Sharkey’s underarm, mouth or some other personal area he might understand that it is human to negatively respond to violations of personal space. This is not something specific to natural hair wearers. It would have been great if Mr. Sharkey had drawn this parallel.

All in all, I would submit to a TSA screener patting down my hair but I would be asking questions the whole time. I know, some of you might think that I should keep my mouth shut. Hey, I can’t do that, this is me pushing back on culture.

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Crazy Hair Questions

Yesterday I blogged about my sensitivity to people touching my hair. That made me start thinking about the questions and comments folks have made about my hair during my natural hair journey.

· 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.

These are but a few of the questions and comments I’ve heard many, MANY times over since I locked my hair. The thing is, most of the time the questions were asked by people I didn’t know. That’s right, strangers making comments about my hair hygiene. Of course, plenty of folks I do know have made similar comments but I know them so it has a different feeling to it.

What about you? What are some of the crazy things that folks have asked you or said about your hair? I’d love to compile a list of questions and have you all post your answers. This could be fun! J

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