‘Can I touch your hair?’ is much more complicated question than you’re meaning to ask

Eli Torrez, Editorialist

I can’t tell you how many times in my short life I’ve been asked this question, “Can I touch your hair?” Usually, people ask at the same time they are reaching out to touch it. As a person of mixed heritage, my hair, my skin color, or the color of my eyes seem to be unexpected to some people. It can make you feel like you’re an oddball.

If you google don’t touch my hair, you’ll find tons of blogs, memes, and GIFs about the black community’s frustration with people wanting to touch their hair. It’s seen as disrespectful. I can’t remember a time when someone wasn’t touching my hair. Even my great-grandma likes to grab my curls and say how much she’d like to have curls.  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of who I am. But sometimes I feel like I belong nowhere and everywhere at the same time. I’m not fully Hispanic, I don’t exactly look like I’m part of the Black community, and I don’t relate to the White experience. Being of mixed heritage can make it hard to feel like you can fully relate to an individual culture.  I like the diversity of my family because it has given me a  broader perspective about things. 

People are programmed to categorize each other by ethnicity, politics, hair color, religion, etc, but at the end of the day, we are all human. Our differences should be celebrated as well as respected. What makes us the same and different is so much deeper than what you can see on the outside. Asking to touch someone’s hair or what their ethnic background is can make the person feel like they are different in a negative way or maybe that they stand out from the majority. I think the future will have more people like me than ever before. I wonder if they’ll feel the same way I do now.