Monday, July 25, 2011

Race Relations

Tonight I read this article regarding the "fascination" people have with African-American hair. I can say that it honestly has never occurred to me to reach out and grab someone's hair just to feel its texture. First, that's just a weird thing to do, but it's also a bit presumptuous, as well as rude. Why not just compliment a hairstyle and ask questions in such a way that can be perceived as flattering? ("Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful your hair is. How do you style it?" Although I suspect that anything asked could be misinterpreted negatively.)

I do understand it might be preceived as a racial issue if, as a person of color, it is mostly white people who are trying to touch your hair; yet the automatic presumption of racism gets tiresome. (As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, "If I like their race, how can I be racist?")

There were two responses in the article I found especially irksome.

The first was an African-American woman's response to a woman's surprise and questioning as to why she she was not permitted to touch her hair: "Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors' property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn't want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so yo'd best move your hand away from me."

Does this woman realize that not all white people come from a slavery-owning background? That many white people had ancestors who hadn't even been in the country during the Civil War? That many white people themselves came from a background of slavery and servitude? Sometimes curiosity is just curiosity, no matter how badly misconstrued.

The second was a comment I'm assuming was left by a person of color, although I could be mistaken: "I swear white folks don't think anything is racist unless a black person is hanging from a tree." Broadly speaking, white people maythink less about race than do people of color, but that does not mean that everything said or done is a response to someone's race. At least, it's not in my case. (At least, I hope it's not in my case.)

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