These following words are personal and specific to me. Some people may read this and relate, may read this and empathise, may read this and feel familiar. However, these following words are about me.
I’m very aware of my feelings and my reactions. I know how I feel about things. I can tell you if I feel that I am feeling this emotion too much or not enough. I assess how I react to things and that’s why I ask you in the politest way possible, please, please, don’t tell me how to feel.
A few months ago, in the space of one week, I had three strangers put their hands in my hair. No questions asked, no hesitations.
To one person, I didn’t say anything. I sat there fuming and ranting quietly; a volcano spewing ash. To the other person, I told her, point blank, not to touch my hair. To the third person, I assertively insisted and reiterated my point in a staccato form: DON’T. TOUCH. MY. HAIR.
To each person I addressed, and their neighbours, they all had something to say. They could justify their actions, they could apologise and then insert their buts, they would tell me they just really wanted to touch it, they would tell me it’d be okay for me to touch their hair. Each word bothered me. Each word was tugging on the strings of my last nerves. And then I was told, I was overreacting.
I’m overreacting about someone violating my space? I’m overreacting about someone touching me without my permission? I’m overreacting?!
Do you understand how I’m feeling? Are you familiar with what this feels like? Do you know my past experiences?
If you’re okay with people just dipping their hands into your hair, that’s fine. That’s your prerogative. But you sure as hell cannot police my feelings towards the treatment of my body.
What makes you think that it’s alright for strangers to outstretch their hands and put them into my hair? Please, explain to me why they get so confused when I tell them not to do it? Why don’t you understand that it’s a problem for them to put their hands in my hair? What stopped them from seeking consent before doing the dreadful deed?
I have never, nor will I ever just see a random person and decide to just touch their hair without their consent. The thought in itself would not occur to me. It’s a matter of decency, it’s a matter of not violating someone’s personal space and body, it’s a matter of respect. I’m not your possession or your object or your pet.
I’m tired and frustrated. I’m tired of feeling like I have to make myself quiet, I have to make myself smaller. I’m tired of fearing the angry black girl label. I’m tired of suppressing the effects of all these microagressions. I’m tired of getting that side eye from white peers, “Oh, she’s off again“, “She’s started again”. You’ve never felt my pain and you never will. So, you have no right, NO RIGHT whatsoever to tell me how to feel.
Whether it’s about my hair.
Whether it’s about my skin.
Whether it’s about my blackness.
I live this every day and God didn’t create my hair or my skin to be a burden to me. God didn’t create me with controls and buttons to reduce the volume of my thoughts and my opinions and my experiences for people that can’t deal with the reality of the world that they live in. I’m tired of black censorship. I’m tired of thinking whether this will offend or affect. I’m tired of making myself uncomfortable so that you can be comfortable. If you’ve never had to do those things around me, if you’ve never even thought of doing those things around me, why? Please tell me, why I should have to do those things around you?
I’m over apologising for who I am. I’m so over apologising for things that aren’t my fault. And I’m over being quiet about my blackness.