It’s common for people of all nationalities to think of a kid’s hair as open to public scrutiny and hands-on admiration. This is a sadly invasive misconception. If you must, then sure, tell someone their hair is beautiful, let them know you like their curls but never ever touch a child’s (or adult’s) hair without permission. Despite what you may hope, one’s hair is a part of, not independent of, the rest of their body.
A few kind parents from our Facebook group were nice enough to share their uncomfortable and unwelcome experiences when strangers invade their kid’s personal space. Have a story to share? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When our daughter was around 18 months old her father and I were playing with her at a neighborhood park. An older white woman came up to us and commented on Amaka’s beautiful hair, touched it, instructed the young white children who were with her to touch it, and then said, “Doesn’t it feel so strange, just like a dog?” When our daughter was a baby and toddler I wanted to write a pamphlet to hand out to white people whenever they called her beautiful or commented on / touched her hair. Just yesterday it happened again (now she’s 5), and I thought I need to finally write that pamphlet. Perhaps Hold the Line can help!” – KW
“We told Eliana she’s welcome to tell people (politely) not to touch her hair. A family friend had her hands all up in it once, and Elie shot me the “MOM. NOT COOL.” look, but I could tell she wasn’t brave enough to tell this woman to back off. So I intervened and then we a) had a talk about it being ok to tell people not to touch her and b) practiced. Repeatedly.” – JW
“We reiterate to our child regularly that her hair is part of her body, and that she doesn’t have to let anyone touch it or or her without permission. We have incorporated ‘touching hair’ into our discussions about honoring personal space and take it very seriously.” – DD