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Solange reminds us not to touch any black women's hair

Her braided halo was edited out of a magazine shoot and she was unhappy

The last time I had braids put into my 'fro, a man at a festival thought it would be funny to run his dirty hands through my hair without asking. He tried to laugh it off but my (black) friends were having none of it. Another time, a (white) friend thought the best way to get my attention would be to grab my braids and pull me around to face her.

This is a daily, boring reality for many black women living in the UK and elsewhere. Unwanted, dehumanising hands jamming their way into our lives. Solange's anthemic single, "Don't Touch My Hair", from her black girl magic album A Seat At The Table, meant a lot to us because she brought a racially-specific annoying microaggression into the limelight. At the time I thought that the conversation it inspired could mean instances of white people touching my hair without permission would fade.

And yet, here we are more than a year later, and London-based daily newspaper the Evening Standard, has been forced to apologise after they photoshopped Solange's braid halo out of their magazine cover. Solange posted the full image to her personal Instagram page with the caption "dtmh (don't touch my hair) @eveningstandardmagazine".

The Guardian reports that in a statement, the Standard said: “We were delighted to have the chance to interview the wonderful Solange Knowles and photograph her for this week’s edition of ES.

“It is therefore a matter of great regret that the finished cover artwork caused concern and offence.

“The decision to amend the photograph was taken for layout purposes, but plainly we made the wrong call and we have offered our unreserved apologies to Solange.”

Clearly, not everyone has been listening. It might seem trivial to those who haven't been exposed to the often traumatic relationship black women have with their hair, but there is too much history bound up in our locks for us not to care when they are touched, manipulated, or even photoshopped without our permission. And on a basic level, as a brilliant video released by Mena Fombo showed earlier this month, nobody likes it when strangers invade their personal space.

Fombo went up to white strangers and stuck her hands in their hair, sometimes without asking permission. Almost without fail every single reaction captured on film was of surprise and distaste. She's currently working on a project called the ‘No. You Cannot Touch My Hair’ Campaign, a collection of 100 plus "black hair attack stories" from women around the world.

Solange had been sporting blonde braids with beads, inspired by traditional West African fulani braids, since September. She had her hair re-braided into a concentric, traditional-inspired halo for her Orion’s Rise tour, and spoke about the “time consuming” braiding work she had done for in the interview that accompanied the images.

“Braiding is important to Knowles,” the piece reads. “It is an ‘act of beauty, an act of convenience and an act of tradition’ — it is ‘its own art form,’ she adds. Every black woman has a personal journey with her own hair”. 

It's worth noting, however, that the drama surrounding the Evening Standard piece doesn't stop at her hair being photoshopped. Angelica Jade Bastién, a black freelance journalist and Vulture staff writer brought on to write the interview, denounced it in a series of tweets

She wrote: “I am publicly disowning the Solange piece London Evening Standard published today. The entire piece was a fiasco despite my efforts.

“I told my editors to take my name off of the byline because they distorted my work and reporting in ways that made me very uncomfortable, which was heartbreaking given how much work I put into it and my interest in Solange as an artist.”

Ultimately it's clear that white editors, and white people in general, need to do better when it comes to how they treat black women's hair.