I almost don’t want to write anything about this incredible book, because how could my words do it justice? Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain) is required reading (foreword by Jessica Williams, heyyy). My new life goal is to convince as many white guys as I possibly can to read it. I honestly think that, unless they are some woke-ass dudes that campaign for Hillary and listen to 2 Dope Queens in their spare time, there are lessons in this book that they most definitely need to learn.
You Can’t Touch My Hair, Pheebs’ ode to the experiences of black women, opens the door to what she calls “Black People Secrets” in order to present herself, and all black women, as the multi-faceted people that they truly are when unbound by harmful stereotypes such as the “Angry Black Woman Myth.” The book playfully and humorously exposes the ways in which women of color fight discrimination on multiple fronts. I mean, shoot, she gets attitude about her favorite band being U2, but no one questions my devotion to Kendrick Lamar? Ra ci sm. All joking aside, Phoebe tackles this unsavory topic with such finesse that by the end of the book, you’re cry-laughing and toppling the patriarchy simultaneously.
This book could not have arrived at a more appropriate time. Just a month out from the 2016 Presidential Election, the rhetoric surrounding race, gender, and sexual violence are as nasty and divisive as they have ever been (thanks, Twitter). I have seen Facebook comment sections that literally have comments reading, “UGH there is no such fucking thing as white male privilege.” LI TER AL LY this was a thing I actually read. I have to believe (for my sanity) that these comments are the products of sheer ignorance and not malice. I understand that, to a poorly educated (and by “poorly educated” I don’t necessarily mean not-having-attended-college so shush) white man existing in a situation that doesn’t exude privilege (i.e. financial not-so-good times, temporary layoffs, scratchin’ and survivin’) it can seem like he lacks the mystical pot-o-gold called “white male privilege.” But privilege is not the same as fortune. It is a privilege to drive a car in this country (not a right), but no one hands you a Tesla along with your renewed ID. (Men like cars, right? This is a thing?)
When faced with the realities of the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, the many recent fatal police shootings, and the appalling lack of representation of people (especially women) of color in positions of authority and in the government, the above understanding of privilege becomes even more crucial. If white men (and women, let’s be fair) can use this knowledge critically, they will learn that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by hearing and valuing the stories of people of color.
This post was supposed to be about Phoebe’s book and not my #feels, but as they say the personal is political. Phoebe (loosely) frames the book’s narrative around hair, and throughout, hair becomes a beautiful metaphor. Hair is other. Hair is unique. Hair is something seemingly universal (almost everybody grows it, right?) that can impede or empower. Hair is heavily racially coded. Maybe if we can understand the implications of that, we can look at the bigger picture and move forward as a nation. Maybe this just reads like a feminist Twitter thread. Who knows?
Anyway, tl;dr, Phoebe’s book is a modern masterpiece and you should purchase it with money and then build an altar around it. Love you, mean it.