Saturday, September 19, 2009

Entitlement, Ownership and Boundaries

I just finished reading the blog entry at swpd by writer Los Angelista about her encounter with a white woman who got angry and revealed her racism after a request to touch her hair was turned down. Like many of the commenters I've had such an experience. With me however as is usually the case, the person didn't ask. They just went ahead and touched it. Funny enough it was the same hair I had on at the time. In both cases I pulled away before the gesture was perceived as welcome. The people were involved also like the white woman in the above account expressed disdain at my withdrawal. What's wrong with touching someone's hair when this is prohibited. Everything. How dare someone come out of nowhere and feel entitled to try to touch another's hair without even asking? I see it was racism because hey presto, the dummies were both white. If you recognised a common humanity with someone else you would treat them in a manner you yourself would like to be treated. Respectfully and with the correct decency and dignity.

I try to put myself in their position. If I were a person who has been told all my life that I am superior. That I am entitled to do as I please as those who share my ethnicity often do and consequently get away with. Wouldn't I feel it alright to approach a complete stranger, a person of colour who I know nothing of aside from the fact that they happen to be in my immediate vicinity and touch their hair without any permission given on their part. What stupidity! There is nothing harmless about this. Yes touching a person period is an intimate act. To try to reach a level of non-consensual emotional intimacy with a stranger who does not welcome your advances is harassing.

I rarely personalise these events. There people's perceptions are quite obviously jaded by their cloak of white privilege. I maintain my dignity and use these as noted results from experiments in social study. It's the stance I take in order to survive. They like to treat me as their objects why not use them as my own guinea pigs upon which observations can be made. Haha. If I had to dwell on all the things that racists articulate and gesture toward me daily. Here on the African continent even. Probably worse because they picture themselves as beacons of civilisation against the backdrop of a black "savage" population. Yet it is the racism itself that is savage and heinous. I witness acts of sheer hilarity. The ignorant white person's condition of believing that he can do all he or she wants is something I'll never truly fathom in my mind. I just can't. I'm not being self-righteous but what does it really take to get to the point where you on longer see another human as human. What they are. Simply what they are. Equal and human as you are.

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