To Touch or Not to Touch... My Natural Hair

Yo yo yo! (it's a yo kinda morning)

So over the last weekend, on my Facebook feed, a post caught my eye from Black Girl Long Hair's page (or was it Nappturality?). Whichever one it was, the post addressed a new "exhibition" in New York, surrounding black hair. The premise was an interactive exhibition titled 'You Can Touch My Hair' and was aimed to allow people touch black women's hair - - including natural, loc'd and relaxed hair.

Source: BGLH

Antonia Opiah, the brains behind the exhibition, had been asked times without number: Can I Touch Your Hair? Most of the time, if you were a stranger, she wouldn't oblige but she agreed to, when asked the same question in Paris. As a result, she wrote an article for Huffington Post, wondering about the reason why people, random strangers would ask to touch her hair. She found that there were varying schools of thought:

  1. People (mostly whites) ask to touch your hair because they feel a sense of superiority to the black race. Seeing as slave owners had the right to examine their slaves, the same mentality has passed down through generations.
  2. People ask to touch your hair out of sheer curiosity. Antonia's friend expressed it as so -

    The same curiosity you probably have at getting to pet a snake for the first time and assuming it's slimy when in fact it's quite smooth and lustrous. Or that uncontrollable urge to touch a fur coat at Macy's. "Is it real rabbit?" and then you run the tips of your fingers through it and are surprised: "Oh, that's not what I thought it would feel like at all." So I'm not judging the snake or the coat, I'm just touching it for curiosity sake. I'm curious. Curious to know what your hair feels like since I only know what mine does. Curious to know why hair is so taboo, when I myself have never been raised to believe it was.
  3. People ask to touch your hair because you're strange, and they want to touch and feel your hair, much like they would touch an animal at a petting zoo.
I personally don't think it's THAT serious. I'm more willing than not, to allow people to touch my hair. I use it as a teaching moment to let people know that natural hair IS soft, when managed properly. Of course, I don't let EVERY Tombra, Dicta and Harriet touch my hair, but I don't think it's offensive when people ask to touch. In fact, when I get genuinely curious questions about my hair, I ask "Do you want to touch it? Come and feel it." 

What's your take on it? Would you let strangers touch your natural hair or not?


  1. Lol! @ "Tombra, Dicta and Harriet". didn't realize black hair was that much of an enigma :).

  2. In my own opinion, I don't see anything wrong with the project. I felt it was a form of education. I was so surprised the way many natural ladies in the US flared up when they heard about this.

    And I am not sure I like random people on the road or at a market touching or pulling my hair due to its elastic nature.

    1. did you read the comments on BGLH??people were really angry,and I didn't really see why.

  3. Number one seems like a stretch to me. Really?

    I myself am curious about white people's hair and have asked to touch it once or twice. Of course I choose carefully who I ask, not just any random stranger.

  4. That number 1 shocked me jeez!
    Can I just appeal to everyone to please breathe, it's not that serious at all

  5. People on BGLH only left angry comments because the person who posted on the article left a negative review about the project, and so the readers followed suit. There were however some positive and neutral comments written about the project.

    I personally have had the urge to run my fingers through girls hair, particularly Asian hair. The only reason is because I know my hand won't get caught in the knots and tangles it would in an Afro Hair.

    Black people have a unique and exotic hair which is only found amongst Blacks and so I think the project is a way to bring attention to Black hair, just like the documentary "Good Hair" did.
    My hair definitely got a lot of attention when I was living in Beijing. The only time it didn't was when I had a straight synthetic weave on.

    I'd like to see this sort of experiment carried out in Africa, it sounds crazy, but I bet it'll get a lot more attention. Many of us don't even know what our hair feels like, and that includes naturals who wear extensions exclusively.


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