By: Kristen Topp
I work at a school that is K-12, giving me a chance to work with children of all ages. It’s a small school and I’m one of the three black staff members. It’s a pretty expensive private school with a low percentage of students of color. Therefore I get to be the black ambassador for my students, here to answer awkward questions about race and hair…a lot of questions about hair.
I had one student that was clearly a sociopath with no empathy. And I heard more horrible things come out of that 12 year old’s mouth than I ever have heard from an adult. Thankfully, that student is no longer at my school and my life is so much easier for it. Other than that terrible human being, I assume the kids ask these questions because they are curious, not because they are future racists.
-A student asked if I was from Egypt because of my hair.
-A little blonde girl had a series of questions about why my hair looks the way it does (my hair is in locs). After several questions she concluded “I wish you had hair like mine” with a smile on her face.
-A boy walked up to me and started petting my hair. I told him it was not appropriate to touch someone without permission. He responded that “he just wanted to touch it”.
I should also mention that I work at a Special Ed school, so often students have a hard time understanding what is and what is not appropriate. I’ve been asked my age, marital status, pay, etc.
I answer the questions calmly and will patiently explain why my hair is different. However I have a lot less patience for adults. I don’t know how many times someone has walked up to me and started touching me without asking. I hate that. Does this look like a petting zoo?? And god forbid there is liquor involved…so many men at gay bars have just started stroking my hair saying how much they love it. Thanks for the compliment bro, but don’t touch me. Did you wash your hands? Do I know you? I think not.
This doesn’t even touch on the backhanded compliments I get, stating how “articulate” or “well spoken” I am. I guess, given a choice, I’d rather answer these kid’s questions now. Better that then years later you’re the asshole in the bar asking “why are black people so fast/loud/poor?” Don’t be that asshole, dude. Google it and stop embarrassing yourself while I’m trying to enjoy my cognac neat. And no, I have no idea why black people love cognac.