Chelsea Asare

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“It was the third day of my junior year at SUNY Plattsburgh, which is a predominately white institute, and I was heading to work for my regular shift at the library. There happened to be two older white women on the elevator with me. Within two seconds, they began bombarding me with questions and comments about my hair. At the time, I had large jumbo braids as a way to maintain and protect my hair for the first quarter of the semester. They began with: ‘You’re so beautiful, honey. Where are you from?’ Then, they started to ask more invasive questions and finally began to actually touch my hair. ‘Your hair is beautiful, and so long. How long did it take you to do this?’ While it was happening, I was at a loss for words, so I just stood there awkwardly with a crooked smile on my face. On the inside I was angry, but it can be hard to express that without being labeled as ‘an angry Black woman’ or ‘intimidating.’ I recited Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ song in my head the whole time. I felt as though I was some sort of exotic toy, and what made it all worse is that I couldn’t correct them in the moment. I was left voiceless, which upset me because I knew so many other Black women have experienced the same thing.” — Chelsea Asare

Ed. note: Quotes have been shortened and edited for content.