“Um…thanks, Anne.” That was Allison Keyes’ response to my taped comment to her really fierce essay about how much she loathes having her hair touched.
Yup, I know. Fernham is not exactly your source for thoughts on black hair. Believe me, I know the limits of my expertise. But I was listening to Tell Me More last Monday. Guest host Allison Keyes read an essay about why she hates having her hair touched—and how often people touch it. It was far from the usual NPR fare: she was still imagining a mainly white audience, but she wasn’t gently helping her audience understand. She was irritated. And she meant for us to identify with her irritation.
I liked it so well, that I fired off a quick email comment to the show. I was one of 400+ people to do so. Imagine my surprise, then, to get an email from producer Lee Hill. Could he call me to record my comment?
Frankly, I was very surprised but mostly thrilled. Here is what I said:
Thank you so much. I am so enjoying your great piece on touching hair and just wanted to add a tiny little footnote that might amuse you: I am a 43 y.o. white woman. I grew up in Seattle where I was bused for voluntary desegration but my middle school bus was racially integrated. I'll never forget the day when a black boy pulled my long, straight hair out and passed it round as "white girl hair." It was funny. It hurt. I got it. I never touch anyone without asking. But I get why people are curious. Thanks for a sharp, strong essay.
Hill called me to confirm I had time to talk, called me back on a recording line, and I recorded my comment.
It was really exciting for an NPR fanatic like me and the lukewarm “um, thanks Anne” is thanks enough.