Invitation to touch black women’s hair sparks protests

An “interactive public art exhibit” that invited passers-by to touch black women’s hair sparked a backlash by other African-American women, who said it was a demeaning stunt.

A recent “interactive public art exhibit” in New York City that invited strangers to touch the hair of a group of black women in a park has caused a backlash, with many African-American women decrying the event as a demeaning stunt.

The event, organized by the black women’s hair-care website, hoped to open a conversation about the “tactile fascination with black hair,” Un-ruly founder Antonia Opiah wrote in a blog post announcing the event. It consisted of a handful of black women with various hairstyles holding signs reading, “You can touch my hair” in Manhattan’s busy Union Square Park. Many strangers accepted the invitation, stopping to talk to the women and feel their tresses.

The exhibition did spark conversation, but not in the way Opiah had expected. By the event’s second day, June 8, a group of black women had gathered to protest the display, holding signs with slogans such as “You cannot touch my hair” and “What’ll it be next . . . my butt?” Some took to Twitter and the blogosphere, comparing the spectacle to a petting zoo and saying it harkened to a time when African-Americans were used as attractions in freak shows in the United States and Europe.


  • Sassci says:

    Just another form of exploitation. White people are obsessed with us, something they will never admit. Why can we not have a discussion without quenching their thirst to molest us in another form? Let us discuss why they want to tan, have fuller lips, more "voluminous" hair, shapelier bodies. The same things they put us down for are the same things they strive to gain. Let them be curious. Let us discuss the curiosity, but let's leave the petting zoo mentality in the past.

  • Tika says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. This was an honest and I believe innocent way to talk about black women’s hair. These women were not forced and this does not give others the right to touch your hair if you don’t want them too. But if we want others to learn about our hair there has to be a way…were there is a will