by Madisyn Rix

Hair holds significance among various cultures throughout history. Hair can reveal a person’s marital status, social class, whether they were a warrior, and much more about a person’s identity and place in life. Learning the importance of hair diversity and the impacts it can have on various ethnic groups was the main focus of “Don’t Touch My Hair.”

Delta Xi Nu and Queer & Trans People of Color hosted the event “Don’t Touch My Hair” on Monday, October 11 in the Multicultural Center, hoping to spread awareness of the importance of hair care within different cultures and the significant impact it can have when cultures are misrepresented.

QTPOC co-president Ifeoma Anunoby, who uses they/them pronouns, explains the purpose of the organization saying, “[We] reach out to other organizations that are multicultural or aiming towards specific races and see if we can do things with them.” They further elaborate on the purpose of their role within the organization, detailing how they aid as a source of information for people in need within the LGBTQ Resources Center. Through both campus organizations, they continuously help people of color and various others, and this event was one of many that aimed to do that.

Various ethnic groups – including Native Americans, Pacific Islanders/Samoans, Nigerians, Afro-Caribbeans, and African Americans – shared details about hair’s significance in each group’s history. A notable trait that was common among all cultures was that hair played a role in identity affirmation. Hair was an identifier that allowed persons of numerous cultural backgrounds to display their pride or identity within their specific culture.

The cultural aspects of one’s hair being linked to their identity have not always been respected. There have been various occasions throughout history where numerous ethnic groups were stripped of their identity through the removal of their hair. What was seen as trivial to the dominant race was seen as a way of life to many minority groups.

“People don’t understand that there are certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed, and a lot of the time I have noticed that hair care is a touchy subject for people of color, specifically if you tend to be a race that has a curler texture. So it’s frustrating that people don’t really recognize that, especially because you don’t see them doing that to other white people in the way they do that to people of color,” said Anunoby. 

They further explain the importance of teaching the cultural backgrounds of not only African American hair care but also the hair cultures of other ethnic groups. “We live in a society that values certain things and because certain things are valued, other things are left behind, and that is very dangerous,” explains Anunoby. “I think the world gets a lot from being diverse and having different outlooks, different cultures that you can draw from, and I think that once something is seen as an idea and other things are pushed to the side things can just disappear. I think that is very hurtful to the people who come from those places.” Numerous cultures have many different and unique hair practices that should garner the respect of everyone regardless of a person’s personal opinions or beliefs. 

They also mention that they “noticed within the natural hair community that it creates a division of people who are going natural are better than the people still relaxing their hair, who are still damaging their hair.” Hair is a personal choice and everyone has the right to choose what they do to their hair. Although they encourage people of color to embrace their natural kinks and coils, they also explain that “people need to take the stance that you can do what you want with your hair.” 

Another common theme arose throughout the event: it is no one’s business whether someone’s hair is real, braided, a wig or otherwise. Participants noted that it was okay to be curious, but there was a big difference between having curiosity and being disrespectful. Anunoby commented that it is always constant questioning, saying, “They’re always wondering, they’re always asking, they’re always wanting to know and it’s not anyone’s business.”

Hair care diversity is important to all cultures regardless of the differences in each individual practice. It is important to realize that everyone’s hair experiences are different and personal, and they should be respected across all races and ethnicities. It is imperative to teach future generations the importance of being culturally aware and sensitive to all people and their various backgrounds.

“I think the best thing to do for future generations is to let people know there are options.” 

Edited by Ryan Cohen