I am a server at a restaurant in Tampa, and last weekend at work I got asked numerous questions about my hair. Normally, getting asked about my hair isn't a huge issue for me, but it was the comments that were said after, as well as the look of disbelief in this person's face when I answered them.
I walked up to greet my table. Two elderly couples were coming in for drinks and dinner. Putting on my best customer service voice and smile, I introduce myself. As soon as I finish, one of the gentlemen looks at me and says, "WOW. Is that all of your natural hair?" I smile nervously and assured him that this was the hair growing out of my scalp. He then proceeds to add a comment saying,
"It's so big. It looks like you stuck your finger in something and got electrocuted."
I had to sit and pause for a second after hearing this. I think my facial expressions could tell how I was feeling, because his wife jumped in and tried to compliment me on the thickness of my hair, envying it because she didn't have as much hair.
After such an experience, I decided to conduct an Instagram poll, to see what other people's opinions were about this incident, and if it's ever happened to them. Based on the results, people with naturally straight hair don't get asked if their hair is real or not, compared to those with naturally curly hair. Out of those with naturally straight hair, about 76% of the people that voted, have not experienced someone question the authenticity of their hair. On the other hand, of those with naturally curly hair, approximately 82% said they do get questioned about the authenticity of their hair. As a result, 66% of that 82% with naturally curly hair, are of African-American decent or mixed races.
So what's the big deal?
Naturally straight-haired people rarely ever get asked if their hair is real, however, once someone comes along with naturally curly hair and happens to be a person of color, originality is questioned. Why does a certain category of people get asked more often if their hair is real or not? Stereotypes? Ignorance? Genuine lack of knowledge?
Whatever the reason may be, it needs to stop. Wigs and extensions are extremely common in this day and age, but they also aren't restricted to one race of people. Even celebrities of fair skin wear wigs and fake hair.
Whenever I get asked about the authenticity of my hair, people look astonished when I tell them it is all mine. Why would anyone think the hair growing out of my scalp is fake? It is a known stereotype that people of color do have more coarse and curly hair textures, but that also isn't the case for everyone. We need to stop putting people in categories based on stereotypes. This applies to more than just hair texture. Especially when interacting with strangers, you cannot assume things based on what you've heard or any prejudgements you may mentally make. Asking someone if their hair is real or not, is just as bad as asking someone if they got a nose job or breast implants. What if you ask them and they say no? It can be more offensive to that person than you think. I understand there are cases where the person genuinely is uneducated about other hair types, but either way, those types of comments or questions should not be vocalized. As a society we need to be more considerate of the things we say, as well as get rid of stereotypes and negative prejudgments. At the end of the day, we are all the same species. We may look completely different than the person next to us, but that's the beauty of it all.
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