“Can I touch your hair?”
It’s a question that makes many black women cringe and one they hear all too often from non-black folks.
The white fascination and black frustration inherent to these encounters peaked the interest of sisters Antonia and Abigail Opiah who run a website devoted to hair called un’ruly (the pair are all too familiar with the question.)
Antonia wrote a blog for The Huffington Post on the topic, and the sisters decided to organize a public art exhibition aiming to spark a dialogue about and satire the phenomena.
On Thursday afternoon, three black models with natural hair held signs in New York City’s Union Square that read “YOU CAN TOUCH MY HAIR. The event has been fairly contentious on Twitter, with some critics likening it to a “slave auction” or a “petting zoo.”
But, Julee Wilson, the Style & Beauty Editor at HuffPost BlackVoices attended the event, describing it as an interesting “social experiment.” While in attendance, a white woman asked Wilson if she could touch the editor’s hair. Wilson made an exception, she said, in the spirit of the art exhibit’s experiment.
“This was not an open invitation for white people to go around touching black peoples’ hair from now on,” Wilson said.
“It was almost like a public service announcement, like okay you can touch my hair today, but don’t come up any other day and ask to touch my hair, or I will tell you why this is wrong in the first place,” she added. “But get it out of your system today, and tell your friends.”