Identity – all of the things that indicate who we are – is a crucial part of how each of us engages with and understands the world.  It impacts everything from the way we dress to the way we vote.  Our identities (biological, situational, chosen, etc.) often indicate similarities and differences between people, and can promote the formulation of groups.  These groups can serve to strengthen our self-understanding and enhance our sense of community; they can also serve to separate and divide us from others who do not share our identity.

When we’re divided by our differences, xenophobia can emerge.  Additionally, we tend to remain ignorant of our commonalities and thus resistant to collaboration toward collective betterment.  Ignorance is often at the root of fear, fear is often at the root of anger, and anger is often the trigger for violence.  By learning more about one another, we can begin to alter this progression toward violence.

However, being asked directly about one’s identity can often feel invasive, rude, or even threatening.  To explore our respective identities, it’s important to find entry points that are revelatory without being too invasive or otherizing.

I believe that hair is one such entry point.

Hair can reveal a great deal about our identity.  Its texture and color; the way we cut it and care for it; how we wear it or hide it… it all demonstrates something about who we are.  Hair is also something that everyone has (or, in the case of my dad, something that everyone has had).  Consequently, conversations about hair are accessible to all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Approaching an exploration of identity through the lens of hair enables us to engage in a dialogue that promotes learning, celebrates diversity, and bridges cultures.


3 thoughts on “Why

  1. JenniferG says:

    How do you feel about hair as an obstacle for relationships with others? I feel that on many occasions people judge me and don’t approach me, because “a woman with purple dreadlocks CAN’T be an intelligent person, surely she does drugs and has a prison record for vagrancy.” I do get a lot of dirty looks, from men, women, people of a different race, people of the same race… Is this just my opinion of how they see me? Is my hair my defense mechanism because I am a shy person, and I don’t want to be approached? Do people think I have my hair like this for attention? Or is this just really how people see me? And if it’s really the way people perceive me… Why? And the main question is: why do I care? I do. I just don’t want other people to care… I love my hair.

    • JenniferG, let me just say this by you’re truly amazing. I appreciate you so entirely. People judge. Sadly we know this. Sadly it’s normal. And sadly to some people, it’s not big deal. Use your amazing hair and stand out. Not just with your HAIR but with your WORDS. Show those people that give you dirty look how intelligent you really are. Show them how much POTENTIAL you have. And I promise you those dirty looks with go away and be replaced with a smile and shame. Shame because they were so quick to judge you without even knowing your story. So, keep your chin up. You’re a beautiful person. And don’t ever give up. Stay strong. ❤

  2. Dad says:

    I actually do have some hair around the sides … though I recently had a new ID card done and the clerk tactfully pointed out that the entry about “brown” hair in the computer needed to be updated to “grey!”

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