(The Root) — If you’re in New York City anytime Thursday or Friday, drop by Union Square to experience “You Can Touch My Hair,” a public art exhibit sponsored by the website Un’ruly, “a place for black hair.” As part of the exhibit, “strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair.” If you’re cringing right now, please know that you aren’t the only one.
So basically, three black women with three different hair types are standing in Union Square this weekend holding signs that say “You can touch my hair.” Pictures of the event are all over Instagram and have sparked quite a debate on Twitter (tagged with #YouCanTouchMyHair). My initial thought is that this is some type of pervy, new age, postracial petting zoo. My second thought was that if this exercise doesn’t come with a disclaimer that says, “Though you are allowed to touch the hair of these three women, please do not assume that you have the right to touch all women’s hair,” then they’re setting someone up to get slapped later on in their hair-touching travels.
On a more serious note, this exhibit bothers me because it does absolutely nothing to battle the dehumanizing fascination with black hair and black bodies that has persisted in this country since its inception. We were once science experiments, put on display for nonblacks to point and gawk at how different we are. Now it’s not enough that the fascination with our hair and requests to touch it makes us feel like exhibits — we are exhibits. Literally.
Take a look below at what Twitter had to say about this event. In the meantime, I’m going to see how long it will take me to make some signs that say “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “I Wish a ##@$@^& Would” and hitchhike to New York City to join the exhibit tomorrow.
this black lady is having an “exhibit” today in NY where you can touch her hair…is it just me, or is this weird? youcantouchmyhair.com
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) June 6, 2013
@chescaleigh nope. Not weird. It’s her form of art.
— iMDRW (@iMDRW) June 6, 2013
White people #YouCanTouchMyHair for a small fee. Tweet me for pricing info.
— Jessica Danielle(@NFLGoodwitch) June 6, 2013
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) June 6, 2013
#youcantouchmyhair I’m really trying to see how this event opens up a convo on race, besides an open petting zoo for curious WP..idk