I was in a discussion the other day with a few colleagues, and I mentioned a book I was reading by Phoebe Robinson – No you can’t touch my hair and other things I still have to explain, where she deep dives into black women issues, hair, being called out for “acting white” and so on.
Going off on a tangent here about black hair revelations first…
As a side note, I had NO IDEA black women had to do so much to their hair. I was blown away by the following points she explained:
- They go every 6-8 weeks to a salon on Saturdays starting from when they’re young, and basically lose a whole day to HAIR
- Once their hair is straightened, they have to avoid all kinds of water – shower caps in the shower, tight hair covers when they’re outside and it’s raining or snowing, and NOT SWIMMING are all normal things to protect their hair
- When you see them patting their head, it is because they can’t itch their scalp if it’s itchy, as it causes a lesion in the scalp and the next time they straighten it, it BURNS and turns into a scab
- When they lean up against a wall with their hair, it takes the shape of the wall and they have to re-pick it out
- When they sleep they need to oil their hair, twist it, and then tie it up in a cloth so it doesn’t become a tangled hot rat’s nest mess the next morning as they are sleeping and moving about…
- You do not, ever, EVER ask to touch their hair (not that I ever would), but also, it may be because they have a weave in, and you will NOT be able to run your hands through their hair.. #BlackHairEtiquette #RespectTheWeave. See below:
(By the way, the entire Twitter Rachel Lindsay thread is both hilarious and enlightening as well..)
I already knew about the societal/cultural/professional implications of wearing “natural hair” and very rude implications that wearing dreadlocks means you’re a druggie, etc… but the above points about the CARE that goes into black hair?
I HAD NO IDEA. NO IDEA AT ALL. #Respect
I personally just wake up, don’t bother with a brush or a comb, flip my hair around, tie it up in a ponytail or do a bun if it looks like it dried or settled weirdly, and head out the door.
I was my hair, and then let it air dry. I don’t bother or own a hair dryer or any hair products except shampoo and conditioner (which I rarely use)…
I feel so.. incredibly lucky. I let my hair do its thing — if it looks like a curly mess, I leave it. If it is stick straight I wonder what I did…
Anyway, back to the original topic…
I was talking to colleagues the other day about race and cultural things I had no idea existed, and somehow we went off down the road of people saying:
Well it’s really rude when people tell me:
You all look the same! .. BECAUSE WE DON’T.
…to which another colleague replied: Hang on, wait! Let me explain…
This is what she said:
See, it sounds rude when a white person says for example: You Asians all look the same.
However when I first came here, I had never seen a white person before in my life.
For the first few months of my life, I could not recognize or tell apart white people. They all looked the same to me.
A blond guy looked like another blond guy, and so on.
It wasn’t until I got used to their faces and visually my brain started saying: ohhhhhhhhh …. that I was able to see their faces individually.
So I can empathize that if you aren’t used to working with or being with any certain race or group — Asian, Black, Indian, whatever… they can all “look the same” for the first little while if you aren’t really used to seeing them.
To which everyone just paused and let that sink in.
Coming from a non-white person, it was interesting to hear that, because if you’re a white person saying that, it sounds racist, but the other way around, it doesn’t have the same impact, I guess.
I’m curious to hear if anyone has experienced this personally or can agree / attest to this.
Don’t try and assume you know what culture they’re from…
Also, this Asian co-worker said that she stays away from guys that come up to her saying Chinese greetings, ASSUMING that she is Chinese when she isn’t, and finds THAT offensive to assume all Asians are Chinese.
They say things like:
Nihao! (and/or adding) ‘CHINA GIRL’ at the end…
..and she replies back:
I AM NOT CHINESE! EFF OFF.
She also hates it when guys come up to her and try to hit on her as a conversation starter by telling her things like:
You know, I dated a Japanese girl once….
And then my next girlfriend was Chinese. I really like your type.
Are you f*#*%ing on a mission to collect Asian Pokémon Girlfriends or what??
Get away from me!
LOL. So … don’t use that as a pickup line. It’s ignorant.
..and don’t insult people by assuming other things about their upbringing
A friend of mine the other day called me completely in a vicious rage.
This one jackass told me at work that I was REJECTING my heritage and culture of being Japanese because I didn’t speak Japanese and hated eating natto.
WHAT THE EFFF??
I’m all like: Back up girl, give me some context…
She then explained that they were talking in the hallways the other day and a guy (Egyptian I think?), overheard her saying to another colleague that she hated natto, a kind of slimy fermented soybean thing, even though it is a thing that Japanese people seem to like to eat. (I feel like they may be the only ones, that stuff is really slimy, I tried it once and gagged.)
Natto looks like this, by the way:
From Serious Eats….
He then said to the other male colleague beside her, NOT EVEN TO HER DIRECTLY:
Oh is she one of those people who rejects her culture and refuses to acknowledge that she is Japanese?
WHAT. THE. EFF.
The other colleague saw the disbelief in her face about to explode into rage as she was struggling to control it, and said gently, and very quickly:
NO. NO. She is NOT one of those.
She doesn’t do that.
Not at all. *nervous*
… then she said she gritted her teeth, calmed down and replied:
I would never deny that I am what I am.
I’m PROUD of being Japanese.
Just because I hate eating a certain food from my culture doesn’t mean I deny who I am.
[With a softly implied: “EFF YOU JACKASS” in her tone of voice]
…and then she left it at that and stalked off, fuming until she called me.
I felt really sad on her behalf and upset as well.
Why do people assume these things? Not everyone is the same just because they’re ethnically Japanese. People are born in different cultures all over the world and while they may look one way, they may act another way completely.