Because you wouldn’t go up to a stranger (any stranger, really) and ask to touch that person’s hair without being justifiably throat-punched, un’ruly, a site that focuses on the experience of being black and having hair, is launching a public exhibit in New York’s Union Square called “You Can Touch My Hair.” Want to guess what people will be doing at this exhibit? Touching black hair, consequence free!
The social issues surrounding the various styles of black hair have been discussed at length in recent years, from a relatively well-mannered Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Q&A two years ago, to a 2009 New York Times article about the “creamy crack” relaxers many black women routinely use to straighten their hair. People are curious about black hair, which could actually be a good thing, writes the HuffPo’s Antonia Opiah, especially in a media landscape where homogenized images of smooth, silky hair are held up as the beauty ideal for all women:
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.
“You Can Touch My Hair,” which ran earlier today and will run again on Saturday, June 8th from 2:00-4:00 pm, presumably aims to encourage the “right kind of curiosity” as it allows people to explore their “tactile fascination with black hair.” That sounds like a pretty interesting social experiment, though perhaps a more interesting social experiment would be to observe people who aren’t aware of “You Can Touch My Hair” in turn observing all the hair-petting going on in the middle of Union Square.
Image via ostill/ Shutterstock.