There has always been controversy surrounding the dreaded “Can I touch you hair?” question often asked of natural black women. It seems that other cultures are fascinated by black hair. There was an interesting article on the Huffington Post the other day about it by Antonia Opiah, founder of Un-Ruly.com . She actually hosted a “You can touch my hair” event that in NYC last week. Here are a few details about it.
For years black hair has been more than just hair in American culture. It’s been a suppressed racial characteristic, a symbol of political protest and political change and most recently the cause of some very awkward and offensive situations. We, at Un’ruly, have delved deep into the question and have shared our thoughts on the Huffington Post. But to take things even further, we’re exploring the tactile fascination with black hair by holding an interactive public art exhibit in NYC where strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair.
Photos are from Taren Guy’s Facebook page
As you can see, people had mixed feelings about it. Some people feel exploited and treated like nothing more than a zoo animal when people ask to touch their hair.
Some like blogger Los Angelista attribute the (hair touching) phenomenon to “racial superiority and privilege.”
A 2011 CNN article quotes blogger Renee Martin who reasons, “it’s about ownership of black bodies more than it has to actually do with hair.”
In the Huffington Post article, Antonia Opiah, founder of Un-Ruly.com said this (which I think hits the nail on the head).
Ask the question. But ask it only when you’ve earned the right to do so. Ask it when you’ve taken the time to Google some of the basic questions about black hair. Ask this five-word request when you understand that it carries the weight of hundreds of years of being told our hair is unacceptable and now being told that it’s a curiosity. Ask it when you understand that enlightening you about our hair is a responsibility no one individual wants to bare. Ask it when you’ve actually developed a relationship with a person to the point where you don’t have to doubt their response to the request. Because if you’re actually friends with a person, “Can I touch your hair?” is a question you don’t have to ask because you know that you can either just do it or know to steer clear. And if you don’t know any black people that well enough, maybe you should be asking yourself a different question.
What do you think? Do you let people touch your natural hair?
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