Stereotypes Most Think Are True

I was in the nail salon the other night and the technician, asked me, "Is that your real hair?" I replied, "yes".

She said is it naturally curly like that, and I replied "yes". Then the mother of all offensive questions came next, "do you mind if I touch it". Then she said, "it's very soft and pretty" and proceeded to talk in another language to the other technicians. Whoooosah.

But after sitting there for the next 30-45 minutes trying to rationalize what had just taken place, I started to think about all of the stereotypes that people (not just other nationalities) believe about black hair. In my example, the technician addressed three common stereotypes that most people believe about black hair. (1) We all wear weave (2) Our hair is hard and (3) Our hair is not naturally curly.

I know you guys are wondering what I did or said to her. Trust me I wanted to lay into her, but I kept my calm and answered every question politely. I even allowed her to touch my hair. See, I've decided to no longer take offense to every ignorant question or stereotype but rather use those moments a time to enlighten.

What are some of the stereotypes have you come across? Please share...
12 Responses:

It happens. It's derived out of a lack of understanding (or desire to). It's easier for people to stereotype than it is to actually learn about the person. That's just lazy.

I've been stereotyped...but when have I not been? Outside of a class, I was talking with a classmate, who was black. She asked my ethnic background and I explained it. She responded that she knew I was "some kind of black." OK...So you're saying I'm "black, but not really though..."

1) We don't have to be mixed to have curly hair. I know plenty of "all-black" girls that have the same hair I do, and even looser textures.
2) Looser textures don't equal better hair. It doesn't necessarily make anyone prettier and people need to stop forcing themselves to have "type 3" hair if they don't have it.
3) *Flip it* But understand that someone asking if your hair is "real" should be taken as flattery. It's just because your hair is so nice and that person acknowledges it. Don't meet it with opposition. Everyone doesn't mean to stereotype...sometimes, they mean to compliment.

I know it's frustrating to come across people like that. Being multiracial, I often get the oh-so-offensive question "what are you?" or "what nationality are you?" Um, American. Anyway... people generally DON'T MEAN HARM. They just don't know. I think it's best to be polite and not hurt their feelings back. 2 wrongs don't make a right. Hopefully they are learning the answers to the questions they have and it will erase the stereotypes in their mind.

I completely know how it is...I'm in an international program and for some reason the Asian students keep asking me about my hair. Whenever its braided or twisted they ask things like "how did you attach that [braid] to your head" assuming I have in extensions. "How do you get your hair like that" (to curl)...and this one is the kicker " It looks very complicated"- that comment I got when I braided my hair...Moreover beyond girl asked me if my entire body was black
Sometimes I just shake my head
Sometimes I get upset...but at the end of the day I realize it's best not to lose my cool

Anon- They just DON'T know. I've been to Asia a few times. There are NO black people there. At all. They have no idea. I know their questions my seem rude, but it's because they want to KNOW more. They just don't realize that their questions are rude. Especially coming from a different culture and not fully understanding the racial HISTORY that we have here in the US. You are right to not lose your cool. Be polite. (o:

(would we rather people NOT ask awkward questions and just keep on with the stereotypes? I say we educate!)

I think anyone who's Black with natural hair gets asked such "interesting" questions, to say the least. It's truly amazing what people believed (including myself at some point) about natural hair. I hate that most think I'm (or anybody else with natural curly hair) thinks that you have to be biracial. It's insulting. I am medium to dark skin; my mother is of lighter complexion. She NEVER gets questioned on whether she uses a texturizer. I, on the other hand, was "grilled" like I was in a damn holding cell. LOL It's ridiculous. I do not believe the stereotypes will ever go away. The best we can do is not get upset and try to "enlighten" the masses. I think you handled the situation quite well.

When this has happened to me sure I wanted to get mad at how stupid the questions are but I really don't think everyone means something bad by asking them. Some people really don't know about all the amazing ways our hair can look especially without being straight. Growing up I always got the "Is that all really your hair?" question & now that I've been transitioning I get that and many more questions. I just don't like when people just touch it like its theirs. I just try to answer their questions politely & figure I'm educating them on hair a little bit.

I am newly natural and I am amazed by the comments people make and the looks of amazement I get in response to my hair. Recently, a guy I've been dating said to me quite randomly - you've got pretty long hair to be natural, most girls who are natural cant grow their hair must be the latina in you - *blink, blink, blank stare*. Mind you this is coming from an embrace the naturalness of all things brother with waist long locs. I then proceeded to enlighten him about all of the beautiful natural women I've come across with hair of all lengths and textures - of all backgrounds/nationalities. Just goes to show you, ignorance is widespread. Definitely allow these to become "teachable moments" and share your knowledge with those less fortunate!

I always get the question, if my hair has chemicals in it; like a texturizer. I just smile nicely and say the only chemical is my hair color. I normally get this question from other black women.

Since I grew up in a predominately white area I'm used to people asking silly questions about my hair, asking to touch it and touching it without asking. *Sigh*
The most interesting thing to me since going natural is the number of people who ask "What are you?". It's as if my curly hair powers suddenly transformed me from being a black girl to something more than or greater than black.
I just try to keep my cool and teach one person at a time.

This caucasion lady at my work asked me one day "did you burn your ends?" LMSO!!! She thought she knew somethin but did not. I told her politely ....if I had burned my ends I would not have any hair left. (I had my natural hair twisted) and I let her touch it and like you she said "oh your hair is so soft" Im for the nation (SMH)

I think the nail tech was quite respectful in asking if she could touch your hair. Most people would just reach up and touch your hair as if you were an animal at the petting zoo. So yeah, she was curious. I too am annoyed sometimes when people are so surprised that my hair is "so soft."

i've spent some time in asia and i would often get stares, especially in regards to my hair. it's a difficult situation because you don't know whether to educate people or curse them out. also, we come from a culture where its rude to ask certain questions, which is not the same for many other cultures. hair is a sensitive subject in the black community. however, this is not the case with many other groups of people, so their lack of sensitivity to the subject is some what understandable, especially if they come from a very "racially" homogenous country like most of the countries within asia. although it's a touchy subject, i think, as black women, we just need to understand that many people are ignorant and either don't care to learn or don't have the opportunity to learn about us. they've never had exposure to us. does this mean it's our job to educate them on the matter? certainly not. however, it is in those rare occasions that we do have the opportunity to address those stereotypes and we could use it as an opportunity to address any stereotypes we may have of other races. it's unfortunate, but it's almost like we have to be diplomats for our race and people base their perception of us on one or two encounters. with all this being said, i just think it's up to the individual on how they should approach the issue, but i do think it could potentially be an opportunity to dispel myths.

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