Black Women Stand on NY Street and Allow Strangers to Touch Their Hair as Part of Social Experiment

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As part of a social experiment a group of black women — one natural, one loc’ed and on relaxed — stood on a street corner in New York holding signs saying “You Can Touch My Hair”. The experiment/exhibit is the brainchild of Antonia Opiah, a hair blogger. In an article for The Huffington Post she states;

Black hair is unique. It requires different care techniques and routines. And in a country where we primarily see commercials for white hair products and magazines that mainly cover white beauty topics and TV shows that mainly feature white characters, we, and those curious about us, have to find information about our hair from other sources.

It’s easy to cite the media as the cause for underexposure to the various cultures of America. The media definitely plays a huge role. But another factor is the lack of the right kind of curiosity across the American population.

The exhibit ran today and will run again on June 8th from 2 to 4 p.m. in New York City’s Union Square.

Okay, so I usually post articles without commentary, but for this I had to.

I think it bothers me that the impetus is put on us as black women to become accessible — and in some cases acceptable — to other ethnicities. I understand that black people are just 12% of the population so not everyone has ‘access’ to a black person. But it’s well documented that, for many Americans, segregation is a matter of choice and not circumstance. I fear that a display like this allows some people the opportunity to dip into black culture for an experience before returning to the ‘safety’ of a significantly less diverse world.

A significant percentage of women in the natural community are married interracially. Which proves that it is possible for men of other races to form meaningful and substantive bonds with black women without these types of displays.

I am still firmly opposed to strangers touching my hair. And while I take no offense at strangers asking questions about it (I welcome it), I hope we’ve gotten to a point in this country where my commonalities with a person of another ethnicity are more interesting to explore than my differences.

But that’s just me… And on an unrelated note, those colored locs and that curly fro are FIRE! What are your thoughts on this ladies?

Photos are from’s Instagram account.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...


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270 thoughts on “Black Women Stand on NY Street and Allow Strangers to Touch Their Hair as Part of Social Experiment

  1. Well I’m not sure what I think of what the ladies did, but I am not up for people touching my hair. I am loc’ed and live in a 95% white town. So I do get looks. Some are curious, some are loving it. At any rate my grandmother always taught my sister and I not to let just anyone play in our hair. Sort of a cosmos thing. She’d say you don’t know where they’ve been and what they are bringing. All the ladies in my family have had their hair done by the mothers and a few choice hairdressers over the years. Thus healthy hair. On another note the writer said we are JUST 12%. Don’t make it seem so small. If not for the 12% this nation would suffer economically, artistically, and emotionally. Remember the Bus Boycott in Montgomery. 12% changed the world.

  2. I find that the girl with the biggest hair in the photo is the most attractive of the three. The jawn with the fake hair on the right is the butchest of the crew… thats just me but people want to touch the jawn on the left hair’s more just cuz she bad.

  3. I honestly don’t know what to think about this ‘experiment’, but I do hope those ladies washed their hair when they got home. Who knows what they got on it from those strangers.

  4. I think how one feels about natural hair in general will affect whether or they are open to other people’s curiosity. I’m a Nigerian living on this side of the world so a lot of the ladies I knew in Nigeria with relaxed hair chose to keep their hair that way because they felt it was easier to manage. Some thought it was a more modern look but (shrugs) everyone is free to form their own opinions. There are also a lot of African ladies with natural hair, some for religious reasons and others who hate relaxers & love their hair. I’ve been natural for 5 years because I’m not fond of relaxers & I looove my natural hair. I’ve had to experiment to find stuff that works but life is an adventure that way. The crux of the issue for me is, if you love your hair then it doesn’t matter what the next person thinks. It’s YOUR hair.
    This next part can easily be misunderstood if you don’t read the whole paragraph before forming an opinion: I don’t understand why someone would get angry when asked if someone can touch her hair then complain about natural hair being misunderstood. It’s like shutting out someone who is interested in your hair then saying, why do you not want to know about my hair?
    I understand that if this is done excessively, it could get really annoying but again everyone is free to their opinion so if someone touching your hair annoys you…. that’s the way u feel, they will have to find out about natural hair some other way.

  5. The same people who want to touch you hair are the same people who want you to CUT it all off before they give you a job??????

  6. I am not sure what this experiment was to reveal. I do realize that each person has a right to their hair journey. My journey is about self acceptance and owning my look. I know some people are doing it because she’s doing it, fashion, attention….fill in the blank. Why break down a box only to build another box. When I saw this link something in my heart frowned. They are owning their look and do not ask if you want to touch their hair so what are you trying to prove?

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  8. Curiosity is part of the human experience. I’m not quite sure what to think of the experiment, other than perhaps the ladies found it amusing that different ethnicities would wonder what tresses like theirs felt like to the touch. My black coworkers had thought the same way about my ‘white’ hair, and I was not insulted, only amused.

  9. That’s not true kinky natural hair, she is mix breed:)That’s why they wanted to touch it…LOL, Let me bring my thick kinky curls , they be running..LOL, I love knowing that our hair is one of the strongest if not the strongest in the world! It seem our natural hair reflex our life in this world sometimes good/ bad , sometimes I feel liking taking a scissor to it, but that’s when I allow it to get dry before combing..LOL… I have no worries, with or without relaxer or weaves I love me including my kinky curly afro:) Ladies we are not copies, completely authentic so don’t go comparing yourselves to anyone else, Its impossible! P.s I cant stand people to touch my hair! #1Love

    • Just because she is Fair skinned doesn’t mean she is biracial. Her hair looks like it is stretched or blown out so we don’t know what her actual texture is. If her hair has no chemicals then it is considered in its natural state, regardless if its kinky, kinky-curly, curly, or wavy. Why must we separate and categorize ourselves instead of embracing all types of hair? Even if you were joking.

  10. I don’t really know what they’re trying to find out from this experiment. Don’t they already know there’s a curiosity? It doesn’t make sense, but I do think it’s kinda sweet in a way by letting others feel comfortable expressing their curiosity without feeling like a weirdo (“Hey…can I touch your hair…?).
    There does need to be more coverage in the media about black women & their hair products, not so other races accept them, but so they can accept themselves. The media has a powerful effect on people, & when you’re not represented, you’re not going to feel as comfortable being yourself. I love when people rock their natural, especially black women!

  11. I do not think the exhbit was to assimilate but simply a way to welocme curosity and questions. To me it opened the door to understanding. Ie you never ask questions then how will you ever know or being to undestand? I read on Huffington post about to exhibit and one lady compared our hair to magic. We can do so many things with it and people are amazed. I have locs anf I get so many questions not only from my white counterparts but my black/brown people as well. There are so many myths and sterptypes that need to be put to shame and this exhibit was a great example of how that can be done.

  12. Pingback: The Top 10 Stories and Controversies Involving Natural Hair in 2013 | Black Girl with Long Hair

  13. As far as I’m concerned this is extremely demeaning. What even is the experiment? Why are you letting white people pet you??????

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