08/14/2014 12:01 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2014

What Exactly Can A White Man Safely Say About A Black Woman's Hair?

Dear Race Manners:

So a while ago, I (a white man without much hair to speak of—I trim it to about a quarter-inch guard) was behind a black woman with a magnificent Afro in line at a coffee shop, and I said to her that I really liked her hair. She thanked me very graciously, but I wonder—was I in the wrong with this compliment?

I really thought her do rocked, but I want to do as right as possible. (No, I didn’t touch her hair—I’m white, not a barbarian. I don’t touch black people’s hair unless I’m on exceptionally good terms with them, and frankly, the same policy applies to white folks. Which I think should be the policy for everyone, except barbers acting in their professional capacity.) Thanks for your read on this. —A.K.

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