CNN Article: 'Can I Touch it?' The Fascination with natural African-American Hair

Once, I got on an elevator in a very rich, predominantly white area. After a few seconds of silence, the elderly lady in there with me suddenly reached out and tried to grabbed my hair. In shock and horror, I stepped back and shrieked. A look of surprise was evident on my face - on hers, was a look of what seemed to be digust."Sheesh!" she said. "I was ONLY trying to touch it."


I was not in any way offended my her interest in my hair. Of course she would be! Natural hair is beautiful and intriguing. What I did not like was her invasion of my personal space. Were her hands even clean?

I don't know what was most frightening about the whole experience: The fact that she reached out to touch my hair or her defense that she was 'only' trying to touch it, like she had some kind of rights.

How quickly her interest in my hair faded away though... Most awkward elevator ride of my life.
Originally Posted by MissAvie
Wow




I don't even think it's a boundary issue. Why does this not happen to people with non-kinky (or tightly curled) hair? If it was a boundary issue, everybody with curly hair would have the whole world up in their hair. But it's not. It's specific to a certain type of hair that only a certain segment (mostly) of the population have.

Sidenote! Urbanbella's hair is GORG
Originally Posted by coilynapp
Exactly. I don't know a single black female, young or old, who thinks it's okay to go up to a white woman and grab their hair. And just like whites...there are PLENTY of blacks who have never seen black hair up close. Let's not make out like only black people can be exotic creatures. There are plenty of white free areas in the US where the little girls and and older women would be amazed to see long blonde hair out of its natural habitat. I dare you to find one that'll act entitled to the right to touch the white woman's hair.
Originally Posted by AmberBrown

And that's exactly what I mean. It may be a boundary issue, but this entitlement thing is working on top of that when it comes to kinky/tightly curled hair. "I feel that it is ok (nay, my right) to touch your hair without permission because I can, and I don't care about what you think"...seriously?

Curiousity excuse is some BS. I'm curious about a snake's skin, that don't mean I'll be all up in there touching everywhich snake wherever I go...GTHOHWTBS
Originally Posted by coilynapp
Exactly. WHat is with that mess?


white privilege
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds

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@ pprMACHEheart

What would you have done differently?
Originally Posted by MissAvie

You know, I honestly don't know. I probably wouldn't have been as calm as you, I would've been offended and probably told her to keep her hands to herself.
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@ pprMACHEheart

What would you have done differently?
Originally Posted by MissAvie

You know, I honestly don't know. I probably wouldn't have been as calm as you, I would've been offended and probably told her to keep her hands to herself.
Originally Posted by pprMACHEheart

Now that I'm older & wiser, I will know what to do if it ever happens again.
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I've had plenty of people touch my hair without asking permission but they've always been family, friends or people I at least know as an acquaintance. Strangers comment on my hair all the time and ask me questions but they never touch. I don't think I'd react so well to that. Actually people seem to be so facinated by our hair and at the same time make derogatory comments about it.
I definitely wouldn't say only white people touch our hair without asking.I had plenty of black people touching my hair without asking,especially women.natural,weave or perm they would still touch it.but I think that was more out of cattiness then curiosity.

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I just read the comments on the article. Some are so ignorant and other are right on point.I remember this white girl with curly red hair in my class,she was always complaining about people touching her hair.I don't think its all about slavery and owning black women.its all about what's consider the "norm" around your surrounding and some people are just freakin rude.

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I think it's different when people you know or have a relationship with touch your hair, it may still be annoying . . but still a random stranger? Nope, not flying.
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This is just my personal take on it and I understand opinions vary on this sort of thing. But I think a lot of the desire to touch "AA" hair in it's natural state for people of other cultures has to do with because Afro textured hair in it's natural state particularly if it's type 3-4 and not "silky"..it really does look different and feels different than much of the hair of different ethnicities.

Many (not all) Caucasians, Asians, and Latinos have very similiar looking hair to eachother as far as appearance and feel. And black people usually (given some do) do not have hair that looks or feels like Asians, Caucasians, or Latinos (the Latinos that have similiar looking hair to whites or Asians..I'm not talking about Rosie Perez..I'm talking more Eva Longoria).

I honestly don't think people generally mean any harm for the most part..they are just fascinated because it's different than what we've seen in the last 30-40 years when Afro textured hair was more the norm on people of color as well as some people not of color. Just how it seems to me..

Last edited by Marah Mizrahi; 07-26-2011 at 08:40 AM.
This whole thing made me think of the whole Barbara Walters fiascals with her grabbing on Tamika Ray and Brandy's hair and asking if it's real. I know some folks of color were pissed with Barb about it..but I could undestand in a way cause.. so many black women don't wear their own hair and she was around the wig queen Star Jones for so long plus now with Sherri Shepard and her wigs..I guess Barb just wondered..LOL! Given, I thought she was violating one's space and in the wrong..but I totally got her curiousity.
This whole thing made me think of the whole Barbara Walters fiascals with her grabbing on Tamika Ray and Brandy's hair and asking if it's real. I know some folks of color were pissed with Barb about it..but I could undestand in a way cause.. so many black women don't wear their own hair and she was around the wig queen Star Jones for so long plus now with Sherri Shepard and her wigs..I guess Barb just wondered..LOL! Given, I thought she was violating one's space and in the wrong..but I totally got her curiousity.
Originally Posted by Marah Mizrahi
I never even knew she did this, LOL. Oh brother . . I wonder if I can find a clip on youtube.
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This whole thing made me think of the whole Barbara Walters fiascals with her grabbing on Tamika Ray and Brandy's hair and asking if it's real. I know some folks of color were pissed with Barb about it..but I could undestand in a way cause.. so many black women don't wear their own hair and she was around the wig queen Star Jones for so long plus now with Sherri Shepard and her wigs..I guess Barb just wondered..LOL! Given, I thought she was violating one's space and in the wrong..but I totally got her curiousity.
Originally Posted by Marah Mizrahi
I never even knew she did this, LOL. Oh brother . . I wonder if I can find a clip on youtube.
Originally Posted by pprMACHEheart
I hope you find it because I already looked and couldn't.
Dang.. yall didn't hear about this.. it was on some blogs..this was a while ago. We discussed it here some time ago on NC. I know there was a video of both because that's how I got to see them since I didn't see either of the episodes of The View when she did it. I don't know why these vids disappeared... but here is at least a short blurb about her doing it:

Tanika Ray stories - Gawker
When people touch my hair...I touch theirs back. Bwahahaha!
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When people touch my hair...I touch theirs back. Bwahahaha!
Originally Posted by forbee
LOL, sounds like something I might catch myself doing.
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When people touch my hair...I touch theirs back. Bwahahaha!
Originally Posted by forbee
LOL, sounds like something I might catch myself doing.
Originally Posted by pprMACHEheart
Yup, and then some of them actually have the nerve to get mad or ask me why I touched their hair. After saying something like, "Now you know how I feel," they still don't get it. They say something like, "But your hair's different." Smh.
last relaxer 08/08/09
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Shrinkage happens.
When people touch my hair...I touch theirs back. Bwahahaha!
Originally Posted by forbee
LOL, sounds like something I might catch myself doing.
Originally Posted by pprMACHEheart
Yup, and then some of them actually have the nerve to get mad or ask me why I touched their hair. After saying something like, "Now you know how I feel," they still don't get it. They say something like, "But your hair's different." Smh.
Originally Posted by forbee
I probably would've said, I don't care how different it is . . you don't just reach out and invade someone's personal space, that's rude.
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I definitely wouldn't say only white people touch our hair without asking.I had plenty of black people touching my hair without asking,especially women.natural,weave or perm they would still touch it.but I think that was more out of cattiness then curiosity.

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Originally Posted by makeeasweet
Good Point. While in my relaxed says, I had very long black barbie doll hair and I have the first lady at my church hug me while palming my head and kneading my scalp.
Then, when I was stationed in Korea, on one occasion (there were many), this Korean man rubbed my hand -- guess he was fascinated by the pretty brown brown! lol.

But, all jokes aside, personal space is personal space! Those who are curious should resist all temptation to 'reach out and touch...somebody's hair'...
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Most people will even ask you permission before they pet your dog. Does a person deserve less respect than that? I live in a predominantly white area and get lots of stares. Of the few blacks here, almost none are natural, so I can understand the curiosity to an extent. But I have never had a grown person just stick their hands in my hair. I've had a few kids at a restaurant do it, but they were immediately admonished by their parent. It's just about self control. Some people just have none. Plain and simple. My coworker loves my hair, she's always talking about how versatile it is and how boring her straight hair is. If she wants it shorter, she has to cut it, and has to use curlers to get curls every day. My patients ask me to touch and for "how to's" for their biracial children. These people have almost no contact with black people and still can manage to have self control and not be rude. So it's possible.
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^^that's bec a dog might bite. That's why people ask.



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I don't think anyone has any issue with people being curious. Curiosity is ok. But why must personal space be violated? Just as it was said earlier in the thread, society is becoming less inhibited and that is not okay. Ironically, today my sister was telling me how a girl was sitting on the bus minding her own business and she saw an old lady (who happened to be white) put her hands all up in her head. All up in it. The girl was offended and went off and just as I suspected, the lady who was doing the touching was offended by a reaction. Where in the hell is that okay? And why?

I have yet to have somebody I don't know touch my hair. People make comments about my hair almost everyday and talk to me about hair all the time but I've yet to experience something like this first hand. I am trying to picture to myself what something like this looks like and it just grates my nerve. I swear if that ever happened to me I don't know what I'd do in that moment. It is just so weird.

I love hair and I'm all about healthy hair and hair products and the whole nine, but I don't find myself yearning or feeling bold enough to go up and grab somebody's hair. I don't understand how someone can be alright with that in their own mind.
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds

-Albert Einstein
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