Thanks for reading and engaging with this article in this way. I honestly would have loved it if someone white had said “please don’t touch her hair!” There were a lot of white people standing around astounded and a couple of them came up to me afterwards and were like “I was so horrified for you!” So personally, I am a see-something-say-something type person and I would appreciate an intervention. But not everyone feels that way, and not every black person will appreciate you inserting yourself in the situation. If someone does call you on it or call you on the way you chose to insert yourself, just try to take the criticism without getting defensive. A lot of these things are situational and you have to sort of feel your way along.
For example, once I was complaining at my church about how hard it is to be heard as a Black person in leadership in a predominantly white church. I was speaking to another Black woman and we were commiserating. It was a private conversation even though it was happening in public. A well-meaning white man walked up to us and said “I’ll speak for you! Just tell me what to say!” Inappropriate.
Another time a white woman was telling me that if I think our choir director is racist, I should join the choir so I can ‘fix it.’ We were in a group meeting where we were doing staff reviews so it was definitely the right time and place to bring up some of the issues with the choir director. Another white lady who was also part of our group interjected to say “That’s inappropriate. It’s not Ajah’s job to fix racism.” It made me feel very seen and supported.
At the end of the day, use your best judgment, but also be ready to be checked on your privilege and be aware that you may say the wrong thing. I’m cis and my transgender friends have had an incredible amount of patience with me and my ignorance. At the same time, I don’t expect a transgender person to teach me how to be a better cisgender person. So if I say the wrong thing and I get checked, I just try to shoulder my own emotional burden, be grateful that someone cares enough about me to correct me, and do better next time!