Educate Yourself: How to Not Be an Asshole to Black People

It’s not hard to not be an asshole. You just have to educate yourself a bit. In the spirit of black history month, here is a friendly reminder of things you should not do out of common courtesy. Of course, this list is far from full, from exhaustive, so feel free to comment more!


  • Never touch anybody’s hair without asking; that’s equivalent to violating their body and, thus, warrants whatever the individual does next. Beyond not asking to touch, perhaps avoid touching hair in general just because, to you, it might be some ethnic spectacle. Nobody likes being part of a petting zoo.

  • Never fetishize a race. While biology encourages us to be attracted to people who look similar to us – whether facial features or body shape – never, ever fetishize a race, whether it is your own or another. This is problematic on too many levels.
  • Recognize that black history should not only be celebrated in February. Black history runs deep, and it cannot be fully celebrated in one month. Therefore, while you celebrate it in February, do not forget to acknowledge it throughout the other 91.67% of the year.
  • Don’t start changing the way you talk. Do not start saying “girl” all the time and dragging out words you wouldn’t otherwise; do not start speaking more properly to try and assert yourself. Just be normal you.

  • Don’t start playing music that you think is “black” because a black person walked in. Everyone has different music tastes anyways.
  • Don’t change your handshake because of someone’s race.
  • Don’t claim to know about an experience that is not yours.