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Asking Black Women About Our Hairstyle at Work is More Invasive Than You Think

Asking Black Women About Our Hairstyle at Work is More Invasive Than You Think

I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into work with any new hairstyle and been bombarded with curiosity. Asking me to explain how I “got my hair like this” makes a compliment obsolete, and feels almost as intrusive as asking if you can touch it. In Solange’s song, Don’t Touch My Hair (2016), she lays out perfectly the depth of sacredness that is a Black woman’s hair, which is also a great foundation to understanding why even asking me to elaborate or put my crown into perspective, can be intrusive. Here’s why: 


Being Asked to Explain My Hair is Being Asked to Explain My Blackness 

I might slick my edges in a different pattern, have my curls dancing differently, or pop up with waist-length box braids but one thing’s for sure — the questions will always come. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind sharing gems on how I achieved a look but when the questions are so shortsighted, it just feels like I’m being asked to explain my Blackness. We all see celebrities and movie/TV characters switch their hairstyles like night and day, but when a Black woman comes into the workplace with a new-do it’s so hard to comprehend? Like we haven’t all seen Johnny Depp’s switch up between Edward Scissorhands(1990) to Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) to Alice in Wonderland (2010).  This is just another added layer to the difficulties of navigating in white spaces. 


No Matter How It’s Phrased, It’s Always Inappropriate

Growth has allowed me to say ‘no’ when appropriate and conquer the idea that I need to explain how or why I do what I do, but here are some questions and/or comments I’ve experienced pertaining to the seeming perplexity that is my hair. 


“How did your hair grow so long over the weekend?” 

(or even an even more shady, “your hair grew so fast!”)


“Is it real?”


“How long did it take? Omg, I could never.” 


“How do you get it on there?”


“Does it hurt?” 


And I used to answer them. All of the questions that came and followed with every answer. I would spend time explaining what cornrows were, calling them “reverse french braids” to make it more comprehensible. I went into detail on how my hair is braided and then extensions sewn onto the braids, as they made aching faces while asking if it hurt or darted their eyes around to see if they could pinpoint the difference between my hair and the extensions. Oh, and I never called it a weave. It was always “extensions” again to make it more comprehensible in a white space. I would even lift up a braid to pin-point where and how the knot is made on a box-braid, and then proceeded to watch jaws hit the floor when I let them know the length of time it took. 

It was almost always uncomfortable. I did entirely too much too often, but now I kindly answer these types of questions with “you can just google it”. I might provide the name of the style for context, but never a how-to guide. And if I do, it’s only at my discretion. I don’t feel the need to go to depths anymore, unless I feel the desire to. 


See Also

Google is Free. Celebrate Black Hair by Learning About it

Google is free! And YouTube is even better. For learning about black hair in general, the internet is your oyster. All Black hair is so special and exclusive, that there are even articles on the different types of hair when it comes to textures, curl patterns, and porosity levels. YouTube is a great place to find videos on how exactly to achieve certain styles on Black hair from a simple wash-and-go to a closure wig or butterfly twist step-by-step tutorial. Most of the women who have recorded and edited these intricate videos are Black women, so let’s appreciate the work that they have done by providing watch hours. And when watching these videos, don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe!  


Here are some extremely informative videos on popular hairstyles: 




Sew In Tutorial: Start To Finish by Alaysia Mone’t 


How To Box Braids For Beginners|BEST TECHNIQUE EVER by Supa Natural


The list goes on. You can find different styles, techniques, beginner friendly, or expert friendly. It’s super beneficial to do your research before asking questions, and it might even help avoid some of the micro-aggressions accompanied by white “curiosity”. It may even shed some light on how to improve some of your own current styling techniques. Remember, continuous learning is only gainful. 


Yes, I Am A Masterpiece–But I’m NOT an Exhibit

But I am not an exhibit in a museum for you to stop, stare, and ask questions about. 11 times out of 10, I want to just be Black in peace. I’ll take the compliments any day, but please save the questions that follow for the search bar you have ample access to. 

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