A few weeks ago, my roommate and I went to a roller disco in downtown Boston (which I think is a hilarious oxymoron).
The following is a list of things I associate with Boston:
- white people getting angry about taxes
- A “Massacre” where only five people died, but a Black guy was the first one killed (aka the first American scary movie)
- People pronouncing tuner and tuna the same way
Things I don’t associate with Boston:
- Black folks
- Rhythm: I’ve seen Bostonians attempting to clap along with “Sweet Caroline” at Red Sox games, and there’s only word to describe it.
So I was surprised that Boston annually hosts a MEGA roller disco in the heart of the city. Why? you may wonder… because Donna Summer is from Boston.
To be fair, I rarely think of Donna Summer. Probably only when I go to 80s themed parties or think of Hank Azaria singing “She Works Hard for the Money” in Birdcage. But I grew up roller skating. My Black History Club in middle school would fundraise by selling tickets to Skate Depot (one of the cooler and more unique birthday options/hangout spots in southern California). And I cried when I outgrew my older sister’s hand-me-down skates. So when the opportunity came for me to shake my groove thang while supported by eight tiny wheels, you bet your ass I was first in line.
~a short woman came running up to us, reaching out for my braids, as the mass of synthetic, nappy hair flailed on top of her head.
The temporary rink by City Hall barely had enough space for all the skaters. The pro skaters bobbed around the awkward second-date couples clenching hands and weaved past the kids weighed down by helmets and kneepads. I found my place in between. Occasionally showing off with a grapevine or two and giving a shoulder shimmy when “Last Dance” came on. After an hour or two, my roomie and I took off our skates and headed to the dance party next to the rink. And if I thought the rink was crowded, this swarm of folks eliminated the concept of personal space. It took us 10 minutes just to get in the vicinity of the DJ.
My roommate is the Queen of Disco– if by “Disco” you mean really corny dance moves like the Batusi, the Disco Finger, and the Swim (which is actually from the 50s, but I digress). In the middle of her sprinkler cycle, a short woman came running up to us, reaching out for my braids, as the mass of synthetic, nappy hair flailed on top of her head. Once I saw her sun-burned arms and pale fingers, I thought:
Oh no… they got white bitches wearing Afros out here.
And before I could covertly hustle away from her, she grabbed a handful of my blue braids. She was easily in her mid to late fifties, but then again, she could’ve totally been 42 (I forget that white does crack). Random of strands of her straight, blond hair poked out underneath her brown afro. And the Rosie the Riveter button on her bag caught the sun so it kept shining in my eyes. She scream-asked over the DJ’s shoddy transitions, “IS THIS ALL NATURAL!?!” with an open-mouthed smile.
“YUP,” I said with my speaking-to-old-white-women smile. I had to yogi breathe myself out of adding “… just as natural as your fake-ass costume clearance wig” because I knew two things:
- We were standing about 100 feet away from the site of the Boston Massacre (*see my first list of my Boston associations)
- “Hot Stuff” was playing which is My. Jam
It was a Friday night, and I didn’t want to die—but more importantly, I was lookin’ for some hot stuff, baby. I didn’t want to yell a dissertation in a crowd of hundreds of people. So I’m doing it now.
Dear White Afro Lady,
Okay, hun… First things first. Let’s use logic here.
NO ONE HAS NATURALLY BLUE HAIR. NO ONE.
I’m pretty sure the only people who naturally have blue hair are Marge from The Simpsons and the opera singing alien from The Fifth Element. Do you really think Black people are such a different species that our hair can grow in mythical colors? #BlackGirlMagic is real, but it doesn’t run that deep (if so, Black people would take birth-right trips to Wakanda, and I would currently be cuddling up next to Michael B. Jordan). Black folks are people. People—I’m saying it again just in case you can’t hear it under your wig. And I’m still a human. You obviously know my cotton-candy blue hair isn’t natural. So why ask the question… as an excuse to touch my hair?
~White feminists stop the presses when Trump advocates grabbing women by the pussy, but y’all sure keep grabbing Black girls’ hair. You may think it’s different, but it’s not.
Because, ma’am, in what world is it okay for a stranger to GRAB another stranger’s HAIR? My elementary school prohibited kids from playing Tag during recess because the game involved pointing to someone and designating them as “It.” If breaching personal space were a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the biggest breach), pointing is like a two. Hair Grapping is a freaking 2,768. You should know better. I saw the button on your bag. You’re a feminist, for crying sake (or at least you passively promote feminism). You do know better. White feminists stop the presses when Trump advocates grabbing women by the pussy, but y’all sure keep grabbing Black girls’ hair. You may think it’s different, but it’s not.
It all comes down to an issue of power: of those who have it and those who don’t.
Wearing an afro wig… Grabbing my hair… You’re trying to clasp onto Blackness: literally and metaphorically. Which I get. From the outside, Blackness is cool (we have Beyoncé and Michelle Obama). But Blackness is only cool when you have the luxury to take it off.
- To be Kendall Jenner and have Marie Claire call your cornrows “bold braids to an epic new level.”
- To take off your afro wig and access the privilege of whiteness for as long as you please.
There’s a difference between exploring aspects of a different race versus exploiting them. I’ve been in musical productions where my hair has been deemed “too big” to be appropriate for the stage. While I was growing up, asshole kids would pretend to PICK IMAGINARY COTTON out of my cornrows. Why would you want to make a fashion statement out of something that oppresses another group’s experience?
Do you know what that cheap bush on top of your head is meant to represent? Afros symbolize cultural solidarity with Blacks. They express liberation, beauty, and pride. Nowadays they represent a path to healthy hygiene for Black women, but afros (in their essence) are violent. They stand for something. And if you’re not willing to stand for this cause… for this vision, sit down… because you’re blocking the view.
The Real Afro Lady