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“Don’t Touch My Hair White Boy” (Diversions)

Apparently, something called the Grammy Awards aired on TV over the weekend. Never heard of it :D

I heard a lot of pubescent girls (also known as Bieliebers) were pissed off that their darling Justin Bieber was unexpectedly upset in the Best New Artist category by jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding. They then defaced Spalding’s Wikipedia page, including some racially insensitive epithets, suggesting some sort of a war between fans of both artists, peaking the curiosity of outsiders like myself.

And now, this video below surfaces, adding fuel to the fire that seemed to be almost squelched. It shows both Bieber and Spalding backstage after the Grammys. I found it (and the above image) on the Racialicious blog with the title – WTF Files: Justin Bieber Touches Esperanza Spalding’s Hair. Of course you can imagine what follows. If not click HERE to read it. And leave your thoughts (is there anything more to what we see here, or is it much ado about nothing?):

63 comments to “Don’t Touch My Hair White Boy” (Diversions)

  • blkchik

    Much ado about nothing, Esperanza didnt seem bothered at all. There is a group of overly political hair obsessed sistas on the internet.They are offended by everything, they need a hobby

  • blkchik

    Spalding’s hair–regardless of the complimentary intention behind it–and the vituperations towards her win are linked in the exercise of white privilege: both attempt to made Spalding an object to touch and to dismiss (if not erase) her as a talented person.

    Is this writer serious, if a 16 year old boy got that much power over you than just jump off a bridge. By the way I have natural hair too, but some of these women are making this way too political, its not that serious

  • It’s a big ‘ole steamy pile of ado. In the meantime, can I have that graphic? I’m thinking about getting that done as a lower back tattoo.

  • NothingButAMan

    I agree that the incident spoke to a certain degree of white privilege and disrespect, but most of the content on Racialicious, and the spin they put on things, is extremely whiny and reactionary. Methinks some of those writers need to mature a bit and gain some perspective.

    • BluTopaz

      I have not read the piece yet (the site is down), but agree with you about Racialicious. When the John Mayer incident happened there were Black women fans of his over there ready to slit their wrists, and doubly upset because they wanted the site to be their “safe place” to cry. Gag.

      I’m natural also and have had White people hover over me with the intent to touch, so I sure know what the issue is about. But i don’t think Bieber was being disrespectful, just being a kid and Esperanza did not seem to mind.

    • Well, let me pile on this rabbit. Racialicious has proven to me to be avery controlled site. Unlike S & A that lets the chip fall where they may, I’ve noticed they will not pass through a comment that’s in direction opposition to the host post. Check that, if the dissenting opinion (in my experience) is “too” strong, it will not hit the board. It appears (imo) to be a “safe” like thinking tank. Strong disagreement is not welcomed.

      See, that’s one of the joys of this shit. At times, some folks have taken shots at S & A and it’s crew, yet if the complaint has merit (and if not), the “crew” will come back and give it as well as take.

      I’ve noticed that Racialicious will shake the tree, but refuse to pickup some of their rotten apples.

      • Opps (lol), I meant “the joys of this *site*”, not sh*t. Damn, what joy is there in a pile of sh*t. *ashamed*

      • BluTopaz

        “Strong disagreement is not welcomed”

        You got that right. I have seen the site owner curse at posters who voiced their different opinions with a “you don’t know shit” reply, and then a threat to ban them if they disagreed with her again. And it’s not even a matter of allowing trolls to post, it’s really a preach to the choir environment. Something like this no-story with Spaulding/Bieber is right up their alley, i think many of those posters are frustrated grad students taking breaks from writing their sociology thesis papers.

        • “Something like this no-story with Spaulding/Bieber is right up their alley, i think many of those posters are frustrated grad students taking breaks from writing their sociology thesis papers”

          OOOouuuuu, that’s good and appears to be right. I couldn’t put my finger on the type of “language” they were using, but yeah, I think you hit it on the head. Now I hear/see it… “Teacher Teacher, professor professor, over here, look at me, I am agreeing with you, so I know I’m getting an “A” and I am ready to go out in the world and treat everyone with compassion and love, cuz I’s understand everythang there is to know about POC, cuz I learned it all from you”. *As they wipe the brown off their nose*

        • A brief followup on Racialicious (Yeah, I’m putting them on front street).

          They’re on my blogroll, so as I was making my normal rounds, I noticed their post on “Housewives Of Black Leaders” or whatever the title.

          Now, their view was not one of disgust, in fact, the following words – written by the host – sort of says it all. They have a right to voice their opinion but I’m just sayin’- check this:

          “But it begs a couple of questions: when does it become “safe” to laugh about the ancestors and our own current ridiculousness? Does every conversation about Black heroes have to be a Teaching Moment? Would this be the kind of comedy Dr. King would come back and yell at us for?”

          Instead of the writing saying why the video was inapproprite, she, and many of the “like thinking” commentors, focused on how it could have been “funnier”. Yeah… Fun-kneegrow-er.

          Of course I had a few words to say, but my comment never saw the light of day.

          But just as most side-winders, she did post a few dissenting views that she copied and pasted from another site, to give the appearance of a fair and open discussion.

          I have to admit that my comment was of the usual “pointed” variety, but it was fair and honest. I think I may have crossed “the writers” line when I directed my questions at her.

          I believe I questioned her comment of “safe to laugh”. The question should have been, laugh at what? And why would MLK yell?

          The whole premise to her questions where simply flawed and foul.

          If you have time or even care, check it out. Don’t worry, it’s a safe place to visit, but don’t talk too loud. You might get kicked out of the “theater”.

          • BluTopaz

            Thank you for posting the link, but from your description the convo would just really piss me off. And it does not surprise me that your valid counter point was not posted. I’m the generation after the civil rights movement so maybe it’s still hitting close for me, but i don’t see why there is a necessity to be “safe to laugh” either.

            Do Jewish people make jokey jokes about their heroes, what about Indians, do they spoof Ghandi and say folks need to lighten up— I saw the photo for that wives of civil rights bs, and it looked like a group of busted, corny chicks who failed community theater trying to get their shine on by by making fun of our heroines who risked their lives. There ain’t enough post racial in the world to make me sit and analyze how some ish like this could be Fun-kneegrow-er, as you’ve aptly stated.

    • Is it truly necessary to tear down one of the few in a relatively limited selection of people of color bringing their perspective to these issues or bringing these issues to the forefront, at all?

      Why is always black folks who are so eager to tear down other blacks?

      So, you don’t agree with the way they do things.


      Then don’t visit, but a diversity of perspectives among us is a good thing. Contrary to what many might believe, we’re not always going to do things the same way.

      Wonder why he have problems carving out a foot-hold in certain areas?

      This, right here, is one of the main reasons. Black folks tear down other black folks harder than any outsider.

      • Please, your argument is paper thin and woefully untrue. Not only that, under your whimsicle analisis, there would never be any form of discourse.

        To put disgreement and dissenting voices in the “black folks tearing down” folder is narrow minded.

        You’re implying that as long as “they” are black and talking loud, other blacks should be as quiet as a church mouse – regardless of what “they” are saying. Please, miss me with that lollipop logic.

        It probably would have been best if you stopped after the following…

        “one of the few in a relatively limited selection of people of color bringing their perspective to these issues”

        Look, coming through the door your statement was of the “WTH” variety. Relatively limited? And once you’ve lived a little you’ll understand the phrase, “keep your enemies close”.

        You do realize – or don’t you – that under your banner of “LIE TO ME SOFTLY”, that sites like this and the other thousands of voices in the blogsphere – discussing a myriad of topics – would not exist?

        “This, right here, is one of the main reasons. Black folks tear down other black folks harder than any outsider”

        Counter point: Look in the mirror for “right here”.

  • kelli-ann

    i’ll bet that if it were trey songs smiling and touching her hair like that, a lot of these same people that are upset would suddenly be swooning over his appreciation of the beauty of the gorgeous afro. people touch my fro all the time and i admit to being a habitual ‘fro & loc toucher’ but i only touch the hair of people that i am acquainted with. i think that people need to relax a bit b/c this was not a big deal.

  • blaqbird

    Eh i think it’s just Bieber being fascinated by all things “black”. Anyways I’m glad Esperanza won over Bieber….was there really any doubt that she’s the better artist? Homegirl is pretty much a prodigy…though I could see why people would be upset seeing that she’s come out with 3 albums already…oh well.

  • kel

    Much ado about nothing. It was a cute interview, you could tell they had major respect for each other. Racist people need to go away, disappear, POOF! your gone.

  • JMac

    I thought the clip was gonna show Esperanza telling Bieber off for touching her hair. Now come on, I’d touch her hair too if I was that close. Bet it feels nice and soft. Black guys get downright invasive – strange knuckleheads forcing their hands into your hair and running them over your scalp to feel for tracks or yanking your hair all hard like they want it to come off. I guess black male privilege means you can disrespect black women any damn way you please but white guys who act more polite are the ones exercising their superiority **roll eyes**

    A small pat ain’t nothing. I was more offended when the unfunny Wayans brother insulted Macy Gray’s hair at the MTV Awards – likening it to pubic hair.

    • blakdiamon

      They write about black male privilege all the time on racialicious. They just did a piece on Raekwon and Nas and do all women like to be choked in bed.

    • Wait a minute Jmac and blakdiamon, y’all are starting a different “scratchline”. Don’t start no mess and there won’t be none. *smile*

      So now we’re talking about “black male privilege”? Is that what we’re on?

      “Black guys get downright invasive – strange knuckleheads forcing their hands into your hair and running them over your scalp to feel for tracks or yanking your hair all hard like they want it to come off”

      Excuse me, when is the last time either of you had a knuckle-head play in your hair, other than your man?
      Seriously, how often does that happen? Or maybe – if it did – I have to asks were you “maybe” in the wrong neighborhood? Questioning minds want to know the real truth.

      But come on, we’ve gone from two teen age kids being kids to “black male privilege”. Keep it up and some folks might call this a male bashing site. Of course that’s ridiculous, Sergio is the only male that’s constantly bashed around her but I’m just saying…

      I don’t have a beef with the subject matter – of the posts – or Racialicious. It’s just my belief that if a blog or person gives their opinion on an open forum, they should at least be prepare to defend and/or support their words. If not, close the damn comment section, and thus, preach to the choir of circle jerks.

      But I don’t know anything about Raekwon, Bonbon, Nas or if there really is a Santa Claus. And I sure don’t know anything about black male priviledge. Where can I find that movie?

      • blakdiamon

        First of all, I didn’t say anything about anybody touching anyone’s hair. I didn’t even state an opinion on whether or not it was right for Justin Bieber to touch her or ANY person to touch someones hair without asking for that matter. So whatever you assume is my feelings on this topic or black male privilege is coming from your own imagination.

        JMac just mentioned black male privilege so I mentioned that racialicious does topics about that too.

      • JMac

        Sorry, forgot about this thread. I was responding to NothingButAMan’s post. The hair experiences I posted above were my own. And yes they were black guys I did not know from Adam- not boyfriends or acquaintances. Last time it happened was in grad school . . . about 7 years ago. After that I started wearing my hair up most the time – it worked. It’s waist length so I get the attraction. It’s just like wanting to pat a nice full soft afro.

        Bottom line point I was trying to make is JB’s pat was about lack of respect and impulse control, not racial superiority or hidden racism. Grown ass black men (and women) do it too. If someone does take more of an issue with it being done by a white kid, it does make me wonder why they think it’s more acceptable for a black kid/man to do the same thing. Respect is respect.

        Oh, and I don’t frequent Racialicious so I assumed it was a black v. white blog going by the name. Now I see they do engage in same race whining. :D

      • BluTopaz

        “I sure don’t know anything about black male priviledge.”

        This is the same way many Whites know nothing (or claim to not know) about their privilege. Not saying you are a perpetrator, but BMP is rampant when it comes to many Black women.

        And no one bashes Sergio; he makes outlandish comments and people respond to it. I’m sure he loves the attention.

        • I know nothing.

          Okay, in defense of my comment on BMP, I do know a little something about it, yet, i used the words as a way to spice my comment. You know, using the words in a facetious manner. Sure, I know about BMP, cuz I am a black man, and today, I can’t tell a lie. I done used that priviledge. :-(

          But damn, why oh why did you have to bring up Sergio’s name? I think you have a secret love for him and you are playing hard to get.

  • pinksghetti

    Some people keep forgetting that Justin is still a child. He’s only 16. I heard that some people are also upset with him about what he said in a Rolling Stone interview. Everyone knows kids don’t know as much but for some reason when they are rich & famous they are expected to think like an adult.

    • Cynthia

      Definitely agree with you.

    • 16 is not a child. You can drive and work legally. In two years he’ll technically be considered an “adult” and can vote. 16 isn’t grown, but it definitely ain’t a child.

      • pinksghetti

        To most of society it is that’s why 18 is considered an adult. What do you consider 16 if it’s not an adult or a child? I always thought that to most people you are either one of the other.

        • 16 is a teenager…in between being a child and an adult. That’s why (in most states) they’re allowed to drive. However, many things are relative and variable such as the age of consent and the drinking age.

          Regardless, a 16 year old should know not to touch someone they don’t know without asking.

  • I have natural hair, and this is a pet peeve of mine.

    However, I’m going to give him a pass this time: He’s 16, from Canada (likely has no idea re the racial politics/history re the touching of Black folks’ hair/heads), probably hasn’t had a lot of exposure to grown Black women, and didn’t mean any harm. Esperanza didn’t seem to be bothered by it, either.

  • EditTHIS

    Did anyone have a problem with this when it happened TWICE in the “Karate Kid” remake? Asian characters asked Taraji AND Jaden if they could “touch their hair”. Since this was a Will Smith-produced movie, that means Will okayed it. I don’t about yall, but I had to turn off the DVD screener after that. However, I’m certain I was not the “intended audience” for “Karate Kid” (and neither were you, dear Shadow And Act reader…)

  • Although I don’t like it when strangers, especially overly-curious white folks, reach out and grab at my hair, I do think that perhaps, folks are being a little bit too sensitive as he is just a kid…but then again, it was just a kid (from a mostly white county in Alabama), who reached out and grabbed my afro puff (which I was rocking at the time), without asking first, and being shocked at how “soft” it was (I know this because she told me).

  • I think putting your hands on some stranger’s hair is probably second to touching a pregnant stranger’s stomach. WHY-YAH?

  • I have sometimes big natural hair, too, and I don’t like people to touch my hair or anything on my body without asking first. It’s way too familiar and inappropriate for a complete stranger to do (especially without asking permission).

    I’m very surprised that so many people (here and other places on the interwebs) are saying Justin’s just a kid. He is 16 years old, not six. By the time I was his age I knew that it was not appropriate to touch other people (especially strangers) without permission. This isn’t a case of Justin being young and cute; it’s a case of him being privileged, oblivious, and ignorant of how to comport himself with a woman he doesn’t even know.

    Perhaps I’m more sensitive to this because this has happened to me many times before, and I find it extremely irritating. I’m a human, not a dog. You need not pet me.

  • Mercy

    I don’t think the Bieb’s meant any harm either. He’s from a small CA town & not culturally aware. Maybe someone on his team has schooled him by now.

    Interesting to note when JB’s feathered ‘do was longer, it was constantly discussed in pop culture forums. Lots of snarking that the hairstyle resembled a young lesbian. It actually led to the creation of a tumblr page:

  • Geneva Girl

    Vichus, I’m with you. I hate it when people tried to touch my baby bump. And I hate it when people want to touch my or my daughter’s hair. The ironic thing is that it’s black folks who are the worst. My daughter and I have wash ‘n wear hair (as my girl friend calls it). Black folks are always trying to touch my hair – without asking. If I tell them they’re being rude they get all bent out of shape with me.

  • Jason

    I don’t care what Bieber meant he has no business taking that white privilege thing to invade folks space. It’s disrespect and arrogance to the maximum. How dare feel you have the right to touch a person.

    • Jason, I’m with you. It’s very disrespectful.

    • BluTopaz

      Question, and please know I am not challenging you–do you think it would be the same privilege if a Black person touched Esperanza’s hair? I would have certainly been tempted to touch it out of awe-I wish my fro was that huge. I would not have, because i understand respecting other peoples boundaries and i expect the same courtesy. But guess my point is do you think it would be ok if a Black person did it?

      • I think it’s an anybody touching hair without asking issue. However, I think the the touching by a white person has carries with it more history of privilege. For many years, black people’s bodies were not even their own (especially black women). They could be touched, beaten, or taken at will. And, yes, I know slavery occurred many years ago. However, white and male bodies still tend to be respected more than those of women and those of black people.

        So, a black person touching her fro in the same manner would still be problematic, but not as related to privilege.

        • BluTopaz

          Fair enough.

          I have always been aware of the privilege White people have (and Black male privilege as well-whole ‘nother topic) regarding me as a Black woman. This issue has made me think about it, and why the Bieber touch does not strike me as offensive. But you bring up good points.

          • Thank you, BluTopaz.

            I mean, yes, it could be “a big to do about nothing.” However, the overall behavior of society shows that some bodies are valued/privileged more than others…white>black/brown, male>female, rich>poor, younger (not small children, though)>old. And consciously or subconciously, the Biebs demonstrated this hierarchy for all of us to see and discuss. ;-)

    • Blu Topaz, “challenging” is a good thang. If not, we could be building a legion of cloned-po-hustlers. We gotta make a player work for his meal.

      I was thinking the same thang. Is this a racial issue or a don’t touch my hair – anybody – issue?

      Yet, what I don’t understand – even more – are those that seem to be implying that the age of “Leave it to Bieber” should not be taken into consideration. I mean – yes – some would consider touching someone’s hair as rude and disrespectful, I’ll give that one to the chronic cynic’s crowd, but come on, a person’s age speaks directly to their time on this earth, which speaks directly to their experience, and thus, their wisdom and knowledge follows in kind. We do have – in America – a thang called juvenile court. And there’s a reason for that. The same crime is judged differently for those that are under a certain age, and again, there’s a reason for that.

      When I iron my clothes, I don’t know the iron is hot until I touch it.

      • Respect for others and their personal space is something that should begin when children are young. So, I guess this means Bieber didn’t have good home training.

        • “So, I guess this means Bieber didn’t have good home training”

          Nope. That’s far removed from the truth. Again, considering his age, and all the things – we all may have done, regardless of what momma may have told us – it would be unfair to say he didn’t have home training. First, home training at what? What, touching another person’s hair? As you pointed out, different cultures have different values/”don’t do’s”. Speaking for myself, I don’t believe my parents ever told me not to touch another person’s head. They said never use another person’s comb or brush, but never anything about touching hair.

          And you know what, I think all POC have a “personal” space that’s quite different than that of most white folks. I am sure you’ve notice how white people break the “comfort zone” while talking with them. Sure you have. And I’d bet many black folks know exactly what I am talking about.

          So, as you can see, I have a slight problem with your comment.

          • BluTopaz

            Your comment makes me think—I was never taught not to touch a pregnant woman’s stomach unless asking first or if you are family/friends–it always seems terribly invasive to me. But a lot of people do it and i don’t understand. A lot of people have different views of personal space (for fun ride a crowded subway car with every ethnicity known to mankind-during rush hour), and it gets tricky when race is thrown into the mix. It’s another of those messed up things that we POC have to carry around with us, are you disrespecting me or my race? It’s so draining sometimes.

        • That is true. Some people (a rare few) are close talkers and don’t get the point of invasion of space. I excuse people who were born in other countries and don’t get that personal space thing.

  • It was a bit rude.

    The woman is in her mid-20s. She plays several instruments. She went to the Berklee School of Music.

    Bieber acts like a teenager. What he needs to do is act like a teenager using his good manners when talking to the grown-ups.

  • Fiona

    Lol… when I watched the clip, my first impression had NOTHING to do with whether or not Beiber was disrespectful by patting her hair. To me, it looked much more like he was into her, as evidenced by his lip-licking and looking straight into her eyes, with his arm around her back. Dude was trying to get his mack on as far as I can tell, not to be disrespectful.

  • I know no one should get into someone’s space when it’s not invited, but geez, the kid touched her hair for maybe less than a second. I think she would have recognized he was touching her hair by sight more than touch.

    You’re extending this to “white privilege?” I think that if these two were friends at a high school, the same thing would happen. Still a violation, but not necessarily the tale of a white person feeling like they have the keys to it all.

  • Carla

    As a black woman whose big natural hair has been touched by strangers, too (and who dislikes it), I really can’t believe how much has been made of this. Music aside, their mutually newsworthy hair is very likely the reason they were paired together in that interview in the first place. In separate backstage interviews she even remarks on his famous hair. And frankly, sitting that close, her hair had probably already touched him. Much, much ado about nothing.

  • Melissa

    Cool Trick:

    copy and paste the below statement whenever you have a post(specifically at racialicious) that has to do with the following scenarios:

    a. a wm/bw pairing
    b. someone admiring afro hair
    c. someone saying ‘i love black women’
    d. someone complimenting the brown skin of a female

    “he is a typical white male objectifying the black female body and exoticising it’s presence in this racially political structure which goes back to the days of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson and was stated in 1853 to be the prognosis for the phenomena…”

    conclusion: the more you post this twilight/zone comment on all sorts of random black women topics, the more you will be sure to keep black american women guessing on whether they are admirable or not. judging by their typically self-pitying and self-doubting nature, it seems to work too!

    price: pay me later.

  • Melissa

    When are we marching to boycott this racial blasphemy of white people admiring afro hair more than they do the blond dead cell weave? We black people are not having it!! We try to be all eurocentric, to be like them, and then they pull a fast one on us and admire the chick with the afro.

    Aww heell no white boy!!! You will love the weave whether you like it or not! And stop complimenting the hair that grows out of my head the way I admire and imitate yours! I’ll take yo ass to racialicious with all that ‘ur afro is beautiful’ crap.

  • @CareyCarey: If we’re going to get into racial generalizations, I would say that it’s been my experience that black people/POC tend to be close talkers/invade personal space boundaries more than white people.

    Now, regarding JBieber, even if different cultures (i.e. Canadians) have different dos and don’ts, one thing that’s generally universal is deference or respect for people who are older. Justin was sooo familiar with Esperanza. She’s a good 6-7 years older than him. And as someone suggested downthread, perhaps he thought he could mack to her. But why would he assume that? Maybe because he’s now a phenomenon? (God help us) Because he’s used to getting the ladies? (even if they are older, didn’t express any interest in him, and just beat them out for a major award) Whatever the reason, I still stand by my point that the hair parting was at least partly due to poor home training.

    Good home training, in my opinion, means that you are respectful of other people. Part of that means keeping your hands to yourself unless you know the other person is okay with you touching them. Again, you may find it problematic that I attribute it to how he was raise. If that’s the case we can agree to disagree.

    And lastly, a few folks in this thread have said that Esperanza didn’t seem to mind. Well, she may have just been being polite. She may have been *really* irritated. But we don’t know that because she didn’t act act out…because she has good home training. Ha.

    • Ooooooh, you are persistant – aren’t you. But I like that in ya.

      Yes, it looks like another love TKO. We will have to agree to disagree – in part. But before we close the book on this one (there are other people tap tap tapping on this door – your hands are full), I leave you with… “If we’re going to get into racial generalizations, I would say that it’s been my experience that black people/POC tend to be close talkers/invade personal space boundaries more than white people”

      OH REALLY! You’ll have to explain that one. I believe that opinion will be in the minority.

  • JustVisiting

    much ado about nothing. people need to grow up

  • Meh.

    There’s clearly no home-training in his approach, but that would go for touching anything that belongs to another person.

    This is more about basic manners than politics.

    I mean, as funny as that graphic is, the not asking is the issue here.

    What ever happened to “…May I?”

    Esperenza returned his compliment, but she modeled the behavior he should have by not touching without permission.

  • Saw Justin Bieber on the news. He was at the unveiling of a wax figure of himself at Madame Tussauds in London.

    And you know what he did? He started touching the hair.