March 18, 2013

Curious Minds

When you're a white teacher working with a population of students that's about 99.9% black, whose communities are also almost exclusively black, you will be the subject of much scrutiny. Not necessarily in the ways you'd think, either.

How can your hair be curly one day and straight the next?

Why do you wash your hair every day? 

How come your hair is so silky?

Where are your tracks?

How long does it take to grow your hair out that long?

Do you wrap your hair at night?

Can you put your hair up in a messy bun? I want to watch!

Can you put it in two braids? (I said no to this request, reminding them that I'm not, in fact, 5 years-old.)

Do white people get ashy?

How come your face turns red when you cough or sneeze?

Are those contacts? (Referring to my green eyes)

I've had more conversations than I ever thought possible about my hair. Boys and girls alike are full of questions about white hair. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that my students are constantly touching mine, especially if I flat iron it. In the beginning of the year, they were seriously looking for some hidden tracks (despite the fact that I have the super thin hair), but now it's more about the texture. They just can't get enough of it. I even catch some of the boys playing with my hair as we walk down the hallway. Some of my girls even think a good behavior reward would be staying with me after school to play with my hair!

Who knew I was such an anomaly?!

Clearly, their inquisitive little minds want explanations for the differences they see in me. There are days when my co-teacher, who is black, and I literally laugh out loud when we see their reactions to what we tell them. When we told them, for example, that getting a "perm" for a white girl meant making your hair curly instead of straight, they were floored. I swear their eyes were going to pop out of their heads! haha!

I remember having a similar reaction in college when I watched one of my black friends spray grease into her hair for the first time. I couldn't grasp the concept, as my main goal in life seems to be ridding my own hair from grease. It's funny to see that my students are just as clueless!

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