Well, this is interesting... You Can Touch My Hair Exhibit

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Not sure why it's assumed that just because someone wants to touch another person's hair, that they are somehow lacking in education or couth or manners or worldliness.
I love the way all kinds of hair feel, so I would be one of the people touching their hair at this event. It could have been any kind of hair and I would have still wanted to touch it. I always touch my sister's hair when she gets it blown out because it's so silky. I touch my boyfriend's son's hair when he gets it cut in a flat top or spikes it up because it feels all prickly. I like the feel of a fro or a beachy wave.
I would never touch someone's hair without permission. And I don't care if people touch my hair as long as they ask first and don't mess it up.
I don't see it as ignorant for people to be interested in or ask questions about something they don't know much about, whether it's hair, food, computers, spelling, whatever.
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There isn't anything wrong with wanting to touch someone's hair and asking if you can. I just find it a little disturbing that this is more like a public exhibit, as if something is wrong with these ladies' hair. If it were normal, there wouldn't be a need for a public on the street exhibit. It seems even weirder in NYC, since black women with kinky hair are very visible.

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Other than 4b, most other ethnicities, especially those considered white, have curly and kinky curly hair. I would think a predominantly black person with 3a hair would be more of an exception than a rule.

Maybe I am just jaded and have been the victim of people studying my facial features as if I am an animal too many times to not see this as a freak show. It is one thing to ask one person in private about something racially unique, but another thing entirely to be put on display.

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Originally Posted by multicultcurly
Really all these girls did was to educate people on "black" hair and they did it in a very simple, blunt, way.

Wether you like it or not they broke down stereotypes against "black" hair against African-American women and they accomplished that. In my opinion this was an event meant positive for African-American women turned negative by African-American women.
Originally Posted by BeautyisMiree


I understand their good intentions, but I still think it is weird and sad. I don't have to agree with something to understand it.

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Originally Posted by multicultcurly
As I said earlier it is their hair to do with as they please but I don't understand the purpose of this " education" and what is the intended result. Racial cumbaya over hair? why have an event focused solely on eliminating stereotypes in another race when there is so much of the same thing among blacks? And why care what others think or don't think about my hair?. I personally don't give a darn about other people's misperceptions of how my hair feels. This exhibit has the feel of trying to justify ourselves and make white society okay and accepting of us. That honestly is what rubs me wrong. I went natural because I accept me. If others don't that's their problem.
. If the point is they think for a minute letting people cop a feel this one time will get them to leave them alone forgetaboutit. I have friends of all races who I keep my hair in a ponytail around because as soon as they see me they go straight for the hair. The worst is this older Mexican man is always saying "dame un riso" . If I had a burning desire to touch a person's hair of another race I would just ask a friend of that race if I could touch theirs. It is kind of sad if an exhibit like this would be someone's only opportunity to touch a black person's natural hair.

I would be scared to go to this and put my hands in a strangers hair anyway because of lice. I have never actually known a black person who has had lice but I hear it is possible.
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Jeep, I really believe that you and a lot of people at this site are coming strictly from a curl-centric, innocent curiosity. And yeah, the women participating in the exhibit had their hearts in the right place - wanted to educate others.

At the same time, there's just no way around the fact that if race relations were less tenuous, the hair of black women wouldn't be formally on display like something completely foreign to the American experience. I'm honestly not sure how it is that others aren't empathic and understanding about the reaction this causes for many black women
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But maybe that's the point. Most black women here at NC and those around me in real life DON'T let anyone touch their hair ever. If they did, there would be no need for the exhibit. If women with long silky straight hair NEVER let anyone touch it, it would be the same thing. People would want the opportunity to see what it feels like.
I guess being white means I don't see this as a race exhibit but as a hair exhibit.
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Really all these girls did was to educate people on "black" hair and they did it in a very simple, blunt, way.

Wether you like it or not they broke down stereotypes against "black" hair against African-American women and they accomplished that. In my opinion this was an event meant positive for African-American women turned negative by African-American women.
Originally Posted by BeautyisMiree


I understand their good intentions, but I still think it is weird and sad. I don't have to agree with something to understand it.

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Originally Posted by multicultcurly
As I said earlier it is their hair to do with as they please but I don't understand the purpose of this " education" and what is the intended result. Racial cumbaya over hair? why have an event focused solely on eliminating stereotypes in another race when there is so much of the same thing among blacks? And why care what others think or don't think about my hair?. I personally don't give a darn about other people's misperceptions of how my hair feels. This exhibit has the feel of trying to justify ourselves and make white society okay and accepting of us. That honestly is what rubs me wrong. I went natural because I accept me. If others don't that's their problem.
. If the point is they think for a minute letting people cop a feel this one time will get them to leave them alone forgetaboutit. I have friends of all races who I keep my hair in a ponytail around because as soon as they see me they go straight for the hair. The worst is this older Mexican man is always saying "dame un riso" . If I had a burning desire to touch a person's hair of another race I would just ask a friend of that race if I could touch theirs. It is kind of sad if an exhibit like this would be someone's only opportunity to touch a black person's natural hair.

I would be scared to go to this and put my hands in a strangers hair anyway because of lice. I have never actually known a black person who has had lice but I hear it is possible.
Originally Posted by adthomas
So if somebody says something like "Why does black hair look rough?." Or "I heard black hair can't grow." You're going to let then say that and not stop to educate them on the matter; so they can continue to sound ignorant without knowing.

"Black" hair has never been see in a good light that's why we have relaxers. What these girls did was give people a little insight so they can stop titling "black "hair as the hair nobody wants and needs.
But maybe that's the point. Most black women here at NC and those around me in real life DON'T let anyone touch their hair ever.If they did [there wouldn't be a need for an exhibit]
Originally Posted by jeepcurlygurl
While you're correct that some black women are sensitive about having their hair touched, there are some who aren't. Ultimately, if blacks and non-blacks intermingled and dated more, there'd be a general understanding of how black hair feels .... Nor do I buy that there's a "need" for such an exhibit. It's probably someone's idea of a band-aid approach, when the fundamental need (as it regards education about hair) is actually closer race relations.

If women with long silky straight hair NEVER let anyone touch it, it would be the same thing. People would want the opportunity to see what it feels like.
It's inaccurate to assume black women are all averse to ever having their hair touched. Also, it's important to concede the fact that there are also some strong negative non-black reactions to black hair - many who won't touch black hair. Therefore blame isn't to be squarely cast on one side or the other.

I guess being white means I don't see this as a race exhibit but as a hair exhibit.
Nope. You absolutely do not represent all white people. Yours is the singular opinion about the exhibit, as one white person. And let's not pretend certain whites (or those of other ethnic groups) don't "see race". Personally, I think we all do, but hopefully we also notice the value and beauty in our differences.
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I understand their good intentions, but I still think it is weird and sad. I don't have to agree with something to understand it.

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Originally Posted by multicultcurly
As I said earlier it is their hair to do with as they please but I don't understand the purpose of this " education" and what is the intended result. Racial cumbaya over hair? why have an event focused solely on eliminating stereotypes in another race when there is so much of the same thing among blacks? And why care what others think or don't think about my hair?. I personally don't give a darn about other people's misperceptions of how my hair feels. This exhibit has the feel of trying to justify ourselves and make white society okay and accepting of us. That honestly is what rubs me wrong. I went natural because I accept me. If others don't that's their problem.
. If the point is they think for a minute letting people cop a feel this one time will get them to leave them alone forgetaboutit. I have friends of all races who I keep my hair in a ponytail around because as soon as they see me they go straight for the hair. The worst is this older Mexican man is always saying "dame un riso" . If I had a burning desire to touch a person's hair of another race I would just ask a friend of that race if I could touch theirs. It is kind of sad if an exhibit like this would be someone's only opportunity to touch a black person's natural hair.

I would be scared to go to this and put my hands in a strangers hair anyway because of lice. I have never actually known a black person who has had lice but I hear it is possible.
Originally Posted by adthomas
So if somebody says something like "Why does black hair look rough?." Or "I heard black hair can't grow." You're going to let then say that and not stop to educate them on the matter; so they can continue to sound ignorant without knowing.

"Black" hair has never been see in a good light that's why we have relaxers. What these girls did was give people a little insight so they can stop titling "black "hair as the hair nobody wants and needs.
Originally Posted by BeautyisMiree
My honest reaction is so what. Like you said we and other races have been bending over backwards for generations to make ourselves "presentable" and "acceptable" to white people. Why can't we get past this need for validation? If someone likes my hair great. If they don't then As Rhettt Butler put it, frankly my dear I don't give a damn. I feel no obligation or inclination to be on display while random people fondle my hair because of my blackness. It has a subhuman feel to it. Actually it touches a nerve in reminding me of stories I have read about slaves being put up on auction block and white people coming to look them over touching and inspecting them. For a long time we were only considered 3/5 of a person and counted as possessions alongside the cattle so Why we would volunteer to let ourselves be once again objectified is beyond me.

Now I have a diverse group of friends. Believe it or not several of my white and Asian friends ask me for advice for their hair because they know I research a lot. Just today I was explaining to a lady at work who is white about cowashing and possible natural remedies for her itchy scalp.. I have always said I don't like people touching my hair without asking or doing it repeatedly. but I have never told anyone who asked no except for a few creepy guys at Walmart.
I agree with AdThomas on this. If it was an exhibit of many different people of different races with all different kinds of hair I would have no problem with it. But singling out "black" hair for people to touch strikes me as peculiar and creepy. What genius thought this up?
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As I said earlier it is their hair to do with as they please but I don't understand the purpose of this " education" and what is the intended result. Racial cumbaya over hair? why have an event focused solely on eliminating stereotypes in another race when there is so much of the same thing among blacks? And why care what others think or don't think about my hair?. I personally don't give a darn about other people's misperceptions of how my hair feels. This exhibit has the feel of trying to justify ourselves and make white society okay and accepting of us. That honestly is what rubs me wrong. I went natural because I accept me. If others don't that's their problem.
. If the point is they think for a minute letting people cop a feel this one time will get them to leave them alone forgetaboutit. I have friends of all races who I keep my hair in a ponytail around because as soon as they see me they go straight for the hair. The worst is this older Mexican man is always saying "dame un riso" . If I had a burning desire to touch a person's hair of another race I would just ask a friend of that race if I could touch theirs. It is kind of sad if an exhibit like this would be someone's only opportunity to touch a black person's natural hair.

I would be scared to go to this and put my hands in a strangers hair anyway because of lice. I have never actually known a black person who has had lice but I hear it is possible.
Originally Posted by adthomas
So if somebody says something like "Why does black hair look rough?." Or "I heard black hair can't grow." You're going to let then say that and not stop to educate them on the matter; so they can continue to sound ignorant without knowing.

"Black" hair has never been see in a good light that's why we have relaxers. What these girls did was give people a little insight so they can stop titling "black "hair as the hair nobody wants and needs.
Originally Posted by BeautyisMiree
My honest reaction is so what. Like you said we and other races have been bending over backwards for generations to make ourselves "presentable" and "acceptable" to white people. Why can't we get past this need for validation? If someone likes my hair great. If they don't then As Rhettt Butler put it, frankly my dear I don't give a damn. I feel no obligation or inclination to be on display while random people fondle my hair because of my blackness. It has a subhuman feel to it. Actually it touches a nerve in reminding me of stories I have read about slaves being put up on auction block and white people coming to look them over touching and inspecting them. For a long time we were only considered 3/5 of a person and counted as possessions alongside the cattle so Why we would volunteer to let ourselves be once again objectified is beyond me.

Now I have a diverse group of friends. Believe it or not several of my white and Asian friends ask me for advice for their hair because they know I research a lot. Just today I was explaining to a lady at work who is white about cowashing and possible natural remedies for her itchy scalp.. I have always said I don't like people touching my hair without asking or doing it repeatedly. but I have never told anyone who asked no except for a few creepy guys at Walmart.
Originally Posted by adthomas
Hair is extraordinarily personal. I can't understand ever asking touch someone's hair. It's not that different from someone asking to touch their boob!
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I've been in a couple of situations where it was obvious to me that the person wanted to touch my hair and did but tried to be slick about it.

Once was one of my karate instructors who is white. He and I are around the same age. I have been taking karate under his instruction for nearly three years so it's not like I'm a stranger.

I had caught him on more than one occasion staring at my hair so I knew he was curious, but he never asked to touch it.

During one class period, he was showing me the correct way to do a technique and he placed his hands in such a way that he touched my hair several times. It's hard to explain but really his hand didn't have to touch my hair at all to show me what he was showing me.

It surprised me and caught me off guard but I didn't react. I cut him some slack and pretended not to notice what he was doing since despite everything, at the end of the day he must have felt uncomfortable directly asking to touch my hair for a myriad of reasons...
1) He didn't want to seem condescending (i.e. giving a "petting an animal in the zoo" type vibe).
2) He's married and very much in love with his wife so why does he want to touch some other woman's hair?
3) I'm married and very much in love with my husband who wouldn't want some other man touching his wife's hair.
4) The race relations in this country (as Korkscrew Curly has repeated said) make it a very un-PC and risky endeavor to ask a black person if it's okay to touch their hair, no matter the closeness of the relationship.
5) I might have said, "no" if he asked making the interactions between us thereafter probably awkward and uncomfortable.

Another time was a coworker who is actually Hispanic (Mexican descent) and has dated at least one black man (a man from Trinidad) that I know of. She is a little older than me. She was one who I also caught staring at my hair on more than one occasion but she never asked to touch it.

It's important to note that unlike the relationship with my karate instructor (whom I get along with) this coworker's relationship and mine is somewhat antagonistic. For the sake of doing a good job I try to get along with her but our personalities clash most days due to her "control freak" tendencies. So her reasons for not just coming out directly and asking to touch were more obvious and overt.

Anyway, one day, she was acting out a scenario to some parents we were presenting to and she pretended to tell a secret in my ear and used that moment to touch all through my hair.

I did not cut her any slack. I pulled away immediately and looked at her like she was nuts. She turned red (clearly embarrassed) but in her typical fashion figured out a way to make it look like that was part of what we were demonstrating.

Later when we were all debriefing about our presentation, I found a way to loudly proclaim that I don't like anyone who is not in my circle of trust and love touching my hair without permission. She got the message and has steered clear of my hair ever since.

There is definitely curiosity out there about "black hair" per se. And people find a way to satisfy that curiosity one way or another. LOL!
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But maybe that's the point. Most black women here at NC and those around me in real life DON'T let anyone touch their hair ever. If they did, there would be no need for the exhibit. If women with long silky straight hair NEVER let anyone touch it, it would be the same thing. People would want the opportunity to see what it feels like.
I guess being white means I don't see this as a race exhibit but as a hair exhibit.
Originally Posted by jeepcurlygurl
Hi Jeep. The fact is if everyone on display is black and the people being invited to touch are all white then imo it is a race exhibit. I'm not saying anyone who would want to touch is racist or uneducated. I'm saying I think it is disrespectful to put people on public display solely based on their race like they are an anomaly. . I also don't think your being white is the end all for your perspective. Everyone here is an individual. Im not the spokesperson for blacks. I speak for only me. As you can see there are black people in this discussion who disagree with me and white people who agree with me. I think these exchanges of ideas are great.

My experience is that unless she can't stand you if a black woman you know reasonably well gets that upset over a little r hair touching that isn't excessive or ruining her style my money says she is likely wearing a weave. You probably aren't interested in touching that. Those things are expensive and some women won't let even their so touch them. But if we ever meet I promise to let you feel me up hair wise Lol. You might be disappointed because my hair just feels like hair. Unless I overdo it with the protein.
I've been in a couple of situations where it was obvious to me that the person wanted to touch my hair and did but tried to be slick about it.
Originally Posted by belwillcoily
The sneaky touch thing is plain tacky. I bet someone somewhere has been slapped down for it.
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But maybe that's the point. Most black women here at NC and those around me in real life DON'T let anyone touch their hair ever. If they did, there would be no need for the exhibit. If women with long silky straight hair NEVER let anyone touch it, it would be the same thing. People would want the opportunity to see what it feels like.
I guess being white means I don't see this as a race exhibit but as a hair exhibit.
Originally Posted by jeepcurlygurl
Hi Jeep. The fact is if everyone on display is black and the people being invited to touch are all white then imo it is a race exhibit. I'm not saying anyone who would want to touch is racist or uneducated. I'm saying I think it is disrespectful to put people on public display solely based on their race like they are an anomaly. . I also don't think your being white is the end all for your perspective. Everyone here is an individual. Im not the spokesperson for blacks. I speak for only me. As you can see there are black people in this discussion who disagree with me and white people who agree with me. I think these exchanges of ideas are great.

My experience is that unless she can't stand you if a black woman you know reasonably well gets that upset over a little r hair touching that isn't excessive or ruining her style my money says she is likely wearing a weave. You probably aren't interested in touching that. Those things are expensive and some women won't let even their so touch them. But if we ever meet I promise to let you feel me up hair wise Lol. You might be disappointed because my hair just feels like hair. Unless I overdo it with the protein.
Originally Posted by adthomas
I've touched hair of every type (and none of them were strangers), but thanks for the offer.

I simply stated from the beginning that I would touch the various types of hair in the exhibit because I find hair interesting. I find the way it feels interesting. Not just black hair. All hair. That's my only opinion on the topic of the exhibit. Not sure how I can say it any differently.
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I would have been one of the one's touching XD I don't normally touch people I know let alone a strangers hair, but if I find something pretty or cool I get this urge to touch it... XD I don't, but if someone invites me to do it I probably will XD

People ask to touch my hair all the time. My sister even does it! She's been relaxing her hair her entire life so she doesn't know what her natural hair feels like. I'm pretty sure hers is something around 3a from what she says of the roots.

I don't think there's anything bad or wrong about the black hair exhibit thing. I would kind of like it better if it had more than just black hair in it though. I love playing with strait hair XD (My niece has it. I do her hair a lot.)
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I didn't read the entire thread but I think I read enough. Not interested in being on display like some sort of exhibit in a freak show, that just goes to show how people think it's OK to dehumanize black folks - regardless of their INTENTION.

Reminds me of the "Hottentot Venus" Sarah Baartman, an African woman with exotic features who was put on display in London for people to gawk at, except now we're allowing people to touch?

No thanks.

Last edited by CatitudeBoo; 04-18-2014 at 03:15 PM.
I used to get asked this all of the time, especially when I went to Germany in high school. It didn't really offend me at that point, because I was used to it. I could see, however, how others might get offended. Like others have stated, it is very personal, as touching is in general. I think the people behind this exhibit were trying to be positive with their approach to the curiosity regarding different types of hair, even if it wasn't seen that way.


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