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Official Video from the “You Can Touch My Hair” Social Experiment + One Participant Responds

Avatar • Jun 8, 2013

Yesterday we posted about the “You Can Touch My Hair” social experiment. The article elicited a lot of strong reaction — from people who thought it was empowering and a great tool for education, to those who thought it was degrading and like a ‘petting zoo’.

An official video of the event has been released, along with a video of participant Malliha — the lovely lady with the huge curly fro — explaining why she agreed to participate, and what the experience was like.

After watching both videos I’m still not grasping why this was important to do, but I do think they give a more accurate picture of what the event was like.

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reflecting
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reflecting

I have a lot of complex feelings about this, but I think I’m finally grasping why this makes me uncomfortable. The women involved did this for themselves. *They* were curious, *they* wanted to have the experience. But they did not do this for me. I would not have made this choice. I think it plays into the struggle we have as black women to be seen as individuals. I’ve read a few reactions of non-blacks and there seems to be a ‘tsk, tsking’. Like, all of “you people” should let us touch you if we have good intentions. No. These… Read more »

Ugonna Wosu
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Ugonna Wosu

I disagree, this did not only benefit them, but it benefitted other black women who appreciate what they did. Your post makes it sound like they are the only 4 black women in the country who benefitted from this experiment, or at least appreciated that it was tried. You are disregarding the feelings of the other black women who agree with the experiment or at least understand it. They may not be representing YOU or other black women who agree with YOU, but they represent the other women out there who feel differently.

reflecting
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reflecting

I clearly said in my comment “They are ambassadors for themselves (and, I guess, for other black women who would have loved to do this)”.

Please read carefully before you come out the gate swinging.

Ugonna Wosu
Guest
Ugonna Wosu

I did read your comment, you never said they represent other black women like them. You said they only represent themselves. Make sure you comprehend a post before you reply back, and also manipulatively change what you originally said. You did not add they represent others like them before, but now you are adding that in brackets to make it look like that’s what you said or implied and I just didn’t “read”. Please, gtfo.

Decor
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Decor

I clearly see it in the original comments.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

I agree with you. Reading the responses of non-black (read: white) people is even more eye opening than the exhibit itself. So many white people don’t see the historical reasons why they don’t know about black people’s hair, not Asian, Mexican, or Indian, but AFRICAN-AMERICAN hair! It is very disheartening and makes me feel like our country is so used to racism that certain people don’t even realize that it is what spawned their views or lack of knowledge of African-Americans. And don’t go and say “Well it’s because OUR hair is far more unique”. There is just as much… Read more »

D.K.
Guest

I agree with Wosu, but when you think about it, this benefits everyone, even if you don’t want to agree. When someone stands up for a cause like this, it automatically affects everybody (for example when blacks were looked at as uneducated in the 19th century until certain ones brought their education to light and proved that we’re not animals; that affected EVERYONE). Like it or not, they didn’t only do this for “the experience”. You will reap the rewards/consequences of what they’ve opened up, like you’re able to learn to fly a plane because of Bessie Coleman, the first… Read more »

reflecting
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reflecting

The assumption you are making is that there is value in their decision to stand on a street corner and let people touch them. That is a point of debate and discussion. It is not a fact or a truth. So, no they didn’t do it for me, because I do not see value in this experience they chose to have. I should note, too, that I am married interracially. So I have no problem with reconciling my past/history with someone of a different race. When I think of women who are doing something on my behalf, I think of… Read more »

eve-audrey
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eve-audrey

i agree with you reflecting you can “educate” the others on who you are without letting them touching you. no one of any other race educated people by letting them pet them.
if you are curious about an asian person eyes are you going to put a finger in them? trust me they would find you weird. when i think of black women/ people doing something for me i’d rather think about something else than individuals standing at a street corner but if those women on the video enjoyed themselves fine.

Roxanne
Guest
Roxanne

That actually is not true. Any time you teach others, it is of value to society. How often have you heard the racist remarks made about black women’s hair? From “Brillo pad” to “nappy bush” we, as black women, have heard it all. Commercials constantly in our faces saying how “long luxurious silky hair” is what is considered beautiful. People then, out of ignorance, believe this. Young black girls see straight hair as “better” or “prettier”. Watch the documentary of how young black girls really see themselves. It’s heartbreaking! Part of the problem is the b.s. these poor children hear… Read more »

eve-audrey
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eve-audrey

YOU allowed someone to touch your hair i did it too once. the negative comments from ignorant people about black women hair come from a much wider perception of black women than just their hair. people who make those negative comments are the same who will state that black women are loud classless uneducated and blabla. do you recognize yourself in those stereotypes? i bet not. when i walk down the streets everyday i’m proving all those stereotypes wrong and people who are interested in seeing this will the others won’t. i have a question for you if you don’t… Read more »

reflecting
Guest
reflecting

Meant to say, “letting men and women touch them.”

Stace
Guest
Stace

I saw black women, white men, white women, black men.…everyone touching each other’s hair and sharing. I saw people bonding and crossing comfort zones to identify with each other. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

melody
Guest
melody

well said Stace I really do not see the problem here im really oftentimes baffled by the way folks look at race first before identifying the positive.….so sad

Fee
Guest
Fee

Do I agree with this exhibit?NO.Am I mad at these individuals for participating?NO to each her/his own. This hair thing just brings up other issues about this country that bother me. It just shows segregation as a whole hasn’t really changed. Blacks have been here just as long as whites, 400+ years, but our hair is still a mystery! Maybe if the effort to actually get to know a Black person was real and the conversation of hair followed that fellowship,they could have touched a black persons hair. Or if these “renowned” hair schools actually attempted to have courses on… Read more »

Lolly
Guest
Lolly

Didn’t watch the explanation video but the intent of the project doesn’t come across in the second video showing the events of the project. It seems like the message could have been put across in a different and better way. I almost feel like they needed a lot more women wearing slogan tees with comments like ‘no my hair isn’t dirty’, ‘my hair is not wild’, ‘this is just my choice’ etc. it could have been ‚ore interesting. As is they look like girls who work at a local salon taking an hour out of their day to let people… Read more »

Sophie
Guest
Sophie

I’m intrigued by the link people are making between touching hair and intimately accessing a person’s body. I don’t like strangers to touch my hair for practical reasons… their hands might be dirty, I styled my hair and would like it to stay where I put it, and it’s an affectionate touch that not everyone can just have. That said, I live in a city where public transportation can get crowded and people can get handsy, and getting my hair touched is *nothing* like being touched on my body without my permission. I’m not like “wow this experiment was great!”… Read more »

Roxanne
Guest
Roxanne

Agreed.….
I think “ask me about my hair” would have been better suited.

.T.
Guest
.T.

I don’t think see anything wrong with this exhibit.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

First, both women are insanely beautiful! I hope they don’t take any of the criticism personally. Being in the public eye can be harsh, but people are mostly criticizing the concept of the “art” and the history behind the dehumanization of black people. I still think the “art exhibit” isn’t going to change people’s concepts of beauty nor will it enlighten people who are ignorant of black hair and culture. The history of how blacks are perceived as the “other” in this country still persists today. From the first slaves in the 17th century to Ota Benga and Sara Baartman… Read more »

Thoughtful
Guest
Thoughtful

Some people still have misconceptions about black women being able to grow long, or just beautiful healthy hair. I do not associate this with a ‘petting zoo’ as it does not come across as demeaning in any way to me. Some people have never touched a black woman’s hair, so here is a chance for them to bridge the gap between races. One does not have to be in a prominent position as Michelle Obama to make black women have some more respect. The little acts go a long way.

Idk
Guest
Idk

I personally don’t see it as a petting zoo, I see it as education. Not everyone learns the same way. Some people are visual, and some people are physical. There are people who never had the chance or nerve to ask certain things in real life. You can ask away on Google or Youtube but it’s not the same as asking someone in person. You have a right to say no if you don’t feel comfortable and they should understand that as well. When I was in China for a while meeting my fiance’s family this older woman asked if… Read more »

nelley
Guest
nelley

I remember an article I read here 2 yrs ago. It was an open letter from a “vanilla” (her description of herself 🙂 mommy to the world about her “chocolate” daughter’s hair. Here’s the link. http://bglh-marketplace.com/2011/09/white-mothers-opinion-on-touching-daughters-natural-hair/ When I read her letter, I remember saying Yes…YES! Here are a few quotes from this mommy that speaks to my feeling on this social experiment. Quote 1. “You see, every chocolate/jam/cheetos handprint on her hair from other children and/or adults is a mark on her dignity. She is small, but she does have personal space and a sense of self-worth. When you invade… Read more »

Icanrelate
Guest
Icanrelate

Well, as a young African woman coming to the U.S has definitely exposed me to so much about race, culture, politics and history that I had never known before. I for one have gotten to experience first hand the results of ignorance and prejudice and whereas before I would look down on people who asked me “dumb questions” like “do you live in a hut in Africa?”, “where did you get those clothes?”. And yes most of these questions have been from African Americans who you thought would have a better understanding. However, I have come to understand that some… Read more »

Thick Nigerian Hair
Guest
Thick Nigerian Hair

Do Africans live in trees with the monkeys?” “What does Simba mean?” Woman, we can talk about all kinds of stupid questions. Don’t even get me started when people start clicking at me and expect a translation.<–Yes that really did happen…last year…by an “adult”. ‑_-

Lynda
Guest
Lynda

Of course people are curious about our hair we have the most unique hair on the planet why wouldn’t the rest of the world interested? it would be odd if they weren’t!

Manillo
Guest
Manillo

Clearly Malliha did this for the press…she’s an aspiring model it seems. I guess whatever it takes to put her name out there, even tho she clearly mentioned it made her uncomfortable. That right there should have been a warning sign. If someone is uncomfortable with a person touching a part of their body, the solution is not to allow them to? do to make yourself feel better. Love and light to you too Malliha. I just hope you don’t keep trying to get your name out at the expense of Black women.

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

I personally like the project. It wasn’t just white touching their hair, it was everyone touching their hair and then they touched other peoples, so it was cool. I think Malliha’s hair is gorgeous! I agree with her when she said that those that saw the the experiment in a negative light, to each its own and you can only send them love and light and go on about your business.

KenyaSpeaks
Guest

This experiment is so dumb. I mean, seriously SISTAS, what else can we discuss? I am getting so tired of the hair journey crap when each of us and as a collective have bigger issues and more important things to grow like our economics, healthier families, and better communities. Your hair does not mean a thing really. It’s DEAD cells.

Kat
Guest
Kat

Yes I agree 100%

I enjoy hair ralk but its kinda sad that the majority of convos you see take place btwn Black women involve hair. There are SOOO many issues in the Black community that are worthy of discussion and action. It would be nice to see even 50% of the energy thats put into this hair movement be spent fighting other issues that really impact our lives.

Nikki
Guest

I see this experiment as us (Black women) feeling the need to prove ourselves and begging people to understand why we’re different. However, I can also understand these ladies’ points of view. This project created dialogue, it allowed people(Black and otherwise) to get on the path of de-mythifying black hair, and I’m sure, other themes as well. Like a previous poar said, I wouldn’t do it. But I understand the value of exercises such as these. It’s harder to maintain biases and ignorance about people when you actually know some things about them. Perhaps this is what this was all… Read more »

Char
Guest
Char

I definitely see both sides of the argument. I love my hair, and I see why people want to touch it sometimes. There are times when I can’t stop touching it lol. Hair has texture- it’s just the way it is, it looks very touchable. Kinda like really soft baby skin, or a cuddly bear. I generally don’t like people touching my hair but that’s cause I don’t them to mess it up and I’m just not used to it being touched by anyone else but me- plus I don’t want to be ‘objectified’- so I see that point too… Read more »

Tori
Guest
Tori

I think that some people missed the whole fact that they didn’t just let people touch their hair, the participants also talked to the public about their hair. I thought that this was a nice exhibit. I have friends that ask to touch my hair pretty much all the time because they are curious. They like to catch me styling my hair. And I admit that I do the same with my friends because I am curious about their hair type. I see this experiment as a great teaching tool. Not many people have black friends they can ask about… Read more »

JoyD
Guest
JoyD

First, I think most people are racist to some degree whether or not they know it. Further more, I think of the experiment of being like an amnesty day. People have questions and don’t understand Black hair, even some of us don’t understand the variations in Black hair, and this event gave the opportunity to ask questions without receiving eye rolls and side eyes. What I liked most about the experiment was it was voluntary, it required the person touching the hair to first have permission. That is what I found liberating, the idea that one must gain permission in… Read more »

AC
Guest
AC

I’m curious as to why it was a majority of Black people stopping to touch the hair, according to the Huffington Post the majority of white people walked by seemingly uninterested … Is that a good thing?

Deb
Guest
Deb

They weren’t interested or didn’t want to touch the women. Non-black people are kind of curious about our hair because it is different but they aren’t THAT interested enough to get a history/educational lesson or exercise regarding black hair.

What concern is it to most of non-black people when they don’t have to deal with it personally or be pressured to make their own hair look like ours? It’s just the society we live in.

Disgusted
Guest
Disgusted

touch mi rass next..modern day Hottentot..black ladies have big butts too so let’s have a “you can touch my a$$” exhibit..what’s the difference? smh

citygirldc
Guest
citygirldc

The creator said in the comments section on her site: “will consider this a success if I can get real insight into WHY people are so curious.” In that case, I think it’s just as important to ask why people are NOT curious about other types of hair. As a real social experiment this should have involved both men and women of various races and ethnicities. As a black woman I know a little about white hair from TV ads but I don’t go around asking to touch white people’s hair because I’m not that interested and if I was,… Read more »

divaz
Guest
divaz

Hope there weren’t any voodoo priestests out there, talkin bout touching someone datgum head. Their hair start falling out they know why. Shoot. People have dry urine, feces, skin cells, saliva, snot and you know what other bodily fluids on their nasty hands, that they spread to every thang they touch. I wish I would be some experiment for freakin people who wanna act like black people are some kind of foreign species. Lol and more blacks were gathering in than anything from what I saw! Also gotsta watch out for those hating sistahs. Lol I’m just sayin, yall can… Read more »

malik
Guest
malik

this is stupid. those women should be ashamed of themselves. stop trying to seek acceptance all the damn time.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

In my opinion, its quite silly that people would be opposed of their hair being touched solely on the fear of dirty germy hands. Everyone handles money but I doubt that keeps most people from touching it. If you only want your OWN dirty hands to touch it, then I guess I understand. But germs and dirt are all around us and you’re ultimately transmitting other people’s germs to your hair through your own hands anyways.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Like a lot of others, I’m struggling to grasp what this experiment is supposed to demonstrate. I wouldn’t automatically assume non blacks are not interested or didn’t want to touch them. Perhaps they were intrigued but too timid to participate because the situation is pretty bizarre. Strangers standing on the street holding up an invitation to touch them.. Hmm.. Not too sure if I would walk up to that either. However if I was approached and personally asked, I would touch it and perhaps more non blacks would have too. Just a thought

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Also, why do so many people let other people’s misconceptions of their hair bother them? In my opinion, it’s no wonder why many non blacks don’t understand our hair. Some black people manipulate their hair so that it looks nothing like its original state. I don’t care how people choose to wear their hair however I do believe that these misconceptions have been formed over years and years of black woman trying to achieve hair more similar to Caucasians rather than leaving it without the relaxers, extensions, wigs, weaves, etcetera.

gapch
Guest
gapch

plenty of natural hair styles and products cause just as much manipulation and deception to true hair… i.e. — illusional waves and curls from twist outs, braid outs, bantu knot outs and loser textures from henna treatments… until people can truly accept and sport their God given textures without any manipulation the problem you point out will still exists.…

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