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Curly Nikki

Can I Touch It? Reactions to the CNN Article

By January 27th, 202159 Comments
UPDATE- 7/27/2011

Dr. Phoenyx writes;

Hello ladies! Phoenyx here again- and I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions from yesterday’s post. First off, I wanted to state that the entire intention behind yesterday’s post was to share my perspective on natural hair- and as always, to offers words of empowerment to my fellow ladies. Never did I intend to suggest that we Black women should ever subject ourselves to unwanted physical contact or allow others to violate our personal boundaries. I love my fellow ladies- and it has always been my mission to empower us in all that I do.

Unfortunately I wrote yesterday’s article after reading an article on CNN that, for whatever reason, omitted all the facts surrounding the incident that transpired between Liz (Los Angelista) and the White woman that requested to touch her hair. Had I known the full story, I would have definitely taken the opportunity to advocate Liz’s position, while also expressing my perspective. I do stand behind my experience (with other women wanting to touch my hair). But I also recognize that Liz’s experience was very much a negative and racist one- and she is quite validated in her feelings.

I have been on the receiving end of misquotes and attempts to sensationalize my words- and it is a very frustrating and even upsetting position to be in. So I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify my position, as well as to apologize for not thoroughly researching the incident more before commenting. I take full responsibility for not digging more into the story before reissuing the quotes that were published on CNN. Furthermore, I have experienced racism. And I do empathize with Liz- and any other Black woman that has had similar experiences. I want my fellow ladies to know that it has always been my mission to encourage and support us in all that I do. And I would never willfully participate in any behavior that undermines my character and mission.

Thank you for reading- and I hope you all have a blessed day.


Can I Touch It? Reactions to the CNN Article
by Dr. Phoenyx via

Hola chicas! It’s Dr. Phoenyx and today I’d like to talk about yesterday’s interesting CNN article on the “fascination with natural, African American hair.” In the article, several natural haired women talked about their experiences with women (i.e. White women) wanting to touch their hair- sometimes even without permission. The article also highlighted a provocative 2008 blog post by Renee Martin titled “Can I Touch Your Hair? Black Women and The Petting Zoo.”

In that post, Martin talked about how a White woman asking to touch a natural woman’s hair is not simply about curiosity. She actually thinks it’s about slavery. Here is a quote from Martin:

“I think it’s the idea that they have the right to possess black women and they will take any excuse they can to jump over the border, whether it’s policing our behavior or policing our hair. I think it’s about ownership of black bodies more than it has to actually do with hair.”

Now personally speaking, I get approached by women all the time (black and non-black) that want to touch my hair. And quite frankly, I’ve never been offended- even when one tries to sneak in a touch. I’m quite proud of my natural tresses, and I also recognize that natural hair is not the “norm.” So I just questions like “can I touch your hair” as an opportunity to showcase the beauty of our natural hair. I also use it as an opportunity to educate. I guess I’m just a bit more “relaxed” (no pun intended) when it comes to my hair. Or maybe it’s also a cultural thing. In my family’s culture (I’m Panamanian), the concept of “personal space’ is definitely a lot less restrictive than American culture. And assuming that a stranger/acquaintance doesn’t have ill intentions, acts of adoration like a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and even touching my hair, are not seen as intrusive or a violation of my personal space.

Now as far as the “fascination” with natural hair, I have to also say that I’m not all that surprised. Are you? Think about it- for years we black women, en masse, have chosen to wear our hair relaxed. We’ve also chosen to wear wigs and weave that hide our natural hair texture. It’s so pervasive that many of us (as well as other races) have never even seen the real texture of our hair. Now contrary to what we’d like to think, many non-black women know that the majority of us are not wearing our hair in its natural state. They know that we are doing “something” to our hair. They can look at our roots versus the ends of our hair and see a difference. But this is the “norm” that we Black women have created. So it shouldn’t be all that shocking when they (i.e. non-black women) are “fascinated” when they see a head of hair that’s fluffy, curly, kinky and definitely out of the “norm.”

Now I’m not by any means suggesting that Black women should be treated like exhibits at the “petting zoo.” And I can understand being offended if a woman (or man) touches your hair without permission. But to say that a White woman simply wanting to touch our natural hair is about “ownership” rather than plain “curiosity” just seems a bit extreme to me. Oftentimes I sincerely believe it’s just that they are simply in awe (and yes, even envy) of the beauty of our natural hair. That’s just my opinion. But I don’t know- maybe I’m just too confident for my own good- *wink*

So what do you think?

Are you annoyed when a woman (particularly of another race) wants to touch your hair? Has a woman ever touched your hair without permission? Did you get upset? Why do you think there’s a “fascination” with natural hair? Share your thoughts!

If you’d like to send a comment/question to Dr. Phoenyx, you can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. A lifestyle writer, media personality, physician, and woman’s woman- Dr. Phoenyx loves sharing her thoughts on topics of sex, style, and soul.

CurlyNikki says;

The Natural Art Maven also had a reaction to the CNN article. See below;

I know being petted has been talked about before, but I just wanted to send you this article that was posted on CNN yesterday. My father sent me the link because he thought it was interesting. I feel that the blogger, Los Angelista, was being a bit extreme with the whole bit on white women seeing us as their property. I really think it is just a natural curiosity and fascination with something that is different. So far, since I have been natural (all of 7 months), the times that I have been touched and petted, were by black people. Most of my compliments come from non-blacks, but so far, none of them have reached out unexpectedly to touch me. When it happens unexpectedly, it’s off putting to me, but I don’t mind if someone asks first.

How do the CurlyNikki readers feel? Was Los Angelista being extreme? Do you find that black people want to touch you more than non-blacks?


  • Anonymous says:

    yes. the article was taken way out of context, but i do believe that there is some kind of underling feeling of propriety present in society with regards to races – history says it all. just because people aren't accustomed to it, doesn't mean that's an excuse to touch someone's hair. just like people have said. and that being said it's not inherently my job to educate YOU either, if you wanna learn, go and learn but i think the most important thing is to be polite about it. at the end of the day. ppl are gonna be giving black shit about everything for as long as we're on this planet! first it was our skin, now the hot craze is our hair! i wonder wat the next thing will be about …

  • Anonymous says:

    I think as little girls we grow up loving hair. I often as a child loved to play and touch other people's hair, whether it was a family member's or friend's. People have all kinds of hair and curiosity is natural. However, it is not okay to be rude or careless about it. If people do not want to be touched after a person requests to touch their hair, their decision should be respected. It is that simple.

  • Nadine says:

    So for all who are okay with someone just walking up to them and touching their hair, if you were pregnant and ppl were infatuated with that and wanted to just touch your belly without asking, isnt that equally disrespectful with the hair situation. Or if they wanted to touch your breasts, or any other part of your body? Please stop saying that "it's just hair" because it's much more than that! Are you letting random ppl touch your hair because you feed off of all the compliments? What if they said something racist and judgemental, WOULD YOU THEN SEE THE OTHER SIDE OF IT ALL????

  • CupOf*T says:
    Read Original

  • CupOf*T says:

    Everyone please read the orginal post by Los Angelista's CNN unfortunately did not tell the whole story correctly. She did not say that statment to the lady- she was actually just thinking it. To summarize the lady asked to touch her hair – she said no – then the lady went on a psycho rant about Black Women being bitchy. Liz did not even bring up race. I think that asking to touch my hair is not a big deal, but do think that a person has the right to say no without being badgerd or disrespected. Read the original…

  • Anonymous says:

    Natural hair unlike any other type of hair, so I understand why other people might feel the urge to reach out and touch it. So far only four people have actually done that to me: my sister (who has relaxed hair and is completely facscinated with my natural hair), my two little nephews aged 2 and 3 (I never discourage them from touching it…I want them to know and appreciate the beauty of natural hair), and a white female friend who told me one day that my hair is so gorgeous, then reached out impulsively touched it. I knew she was coming from a good place so I wasn't upset with her, although I admit I was taken by surprise.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think it's about ownership or anything like that. I have white friends (acquaintances and strangers, too)who will say things like "your hair looks so soft, can I touch it?" and although I like my personal space I usually give permission. I hate it when people just reach out and grab like they own it. I almost never undo my braids for a braid-out until I've left my apartment building because this one woman will always tangle her fingers in my hair if I wear it loose with no apology or preamble.

    I almost punched my (white) friend's (black) boyfriend because he kept pulling my hair. I totally yelled at him "Don't be touching my hair without permission" and he got all shame-faced and said it reminded him of his daughter's hair before baby momma relaxed it. So I forgave him.

    I wouldn't ask someone to let me touch their hair unless I know them or we have some kind of familiarity.

  • classCie says:

    I've only been asked twice by ppl to touch my hair and I personally had no problem with it. They didn't tell me this but I honestly feel they wanted to see what it felt like. It obviously looks like it may be soft but they wanted to see how big, textured hair felt because 9 times out of 10, they have never felt it before. That didn't bother me. Let me add that these 2 women were white and my co-workers that I adore. So that may also be why it didn't bother me in the slightest regard. However, if a stranger extended their hand out in public to tough my tresses, I would rapidly pull my head as far away from their reach as possible. I have a problem with ppl touching me…let alone strangers. I don't really understand what would possess a stranger to ask something like that. If I saw a woman walking down the street with feathers growing out of her head, I would stare until my eyes turned purple but I wouldn't THINK about asking to touch it. That's just weird…

  • Anonymous says:

    This is the link to Liz, the author of the "controversial" comment on CNN, giving context (which was not given in the CNN article) to her comment.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I went to China there were people asking two members of our group to either touch their hair or to take pictures. One was African American with braids and the other was Caucasian with curly, red hair. The people were naturally curious and it was accepted as such. No biggie. At the time I was relaxed, so I was not of interest. Lol!

  • Anonymous says:

    the author of that CNN article was a fellow black woman btw. Lisa Respers France she commented on Huetiful's sharing the link for the story. interesting that nobody has mentioned that yet.

  • Anonymous says:

    Slavery, the Holocaust and now this? What is this world coming to? Pardon me, but I think this is much ado about absolutely nothing.

  • Rebwar says:

    I know that I'm a hypocrite – and trust me I've become more mindful of my behavior….

    I'm not crazy about ANYONE touching my hair…including my Mother. Yep. The woman who gave birth to me… When she touches my hair, I just give her 'the look' (lol); my Father will rub my hair/head just to annoy me (they both think I'm overly sensitive). The reason I don't want anyone touching my hair is that I don't know where their hands have been. If I knew that they had clean hands, I really don't think I'd mind (as much) as long as I knew them, or felt that they were just curious …and of course, it's always wisest to ask permission first. I'd hate to be caught off guard and think that someone reaching out to touch my hair was actually trying to attack me; if I felt threatened, I'd use the force I deemed necessary to neutralize the threat (…and ask questions later).

    That being said, sometimes I'm impulsive. I have hugged people, touched their hair and worse of all, gone up to pregnant women and touched their stomachs. I've been lucky; no one has given me 'the look', cursed me, or caused bodily harm. I guess they know, inherently, that I'm not trying to be disrespectful; I'm just delighted/excited/curious. Therefore, I’ll try to be courteous to others because they (like me) may be overly exuberant and acting on impulse too. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm saddened to see the character assasination of Liz going on in yet another article. It was bad enough when CNN did it to sensationalize their story but eh tu brute? People, people, people – never take a quote and run with it, always go back to main source and make sure what's actually being said. You want to know what you're talking about BEFORE you start talking.

    Liz had a particularly unsettling and distressful incident that occurred after she denied someone the opportunity to touch her hair. She told the woman a simple no – which is HER right – and a very ugly and racialized rant occured – in front of the offender's child AND in front of Liz's two sons. It left her so upset she was in tears leaving the area. And she came home to her blog and wrote out what she would have liked to have said – and the most inflammatory part of that is what CNN quoted and what the author of this article has also quoted and attributed to Liz.

    Read the original article linked in the comments above and read Liz's more recent response also linked above. Then if you still feel the same way – well, then that's your opinion – but at least then it's an informed opinion.

  • MommieDearest says:

    CNN gave Los Angelista the Shirley Sherrod treatment. I'm really getting tired of folks thinking it's OK to throw black women under the bus whenever it's convenient.

  • AlluringBeauty says:

    This topic had previously came up on you-tube of one of my fave v-loggers. [CurlyCrazyfulLeah] But I didn't comment..but now it has striked again.. I'll do so 🙂 …
    I had a similar experience recently where as my friend and I were at a club for my 22nd bday and we had just arrived; making our way to the dance floor.. I was right behind her.. And mind you, we both had our curly styles goin on .. Difference was: she wore her natural hair [she is hispanic].. and I had decided to be adventurous for the occasion and wear a curly wig [Diana Ross / Chaka Khan inspired].. For the FIRST time. Ever. Lol So we're walking and then all of sudden; this creepy,older caucasion guy, [who was by the bar..drink in hand].. reached out and "patted" the top of my hair. I stared at him blankly and apalled that he had the NERVE to do so. His exact words were "wowww".. With a grin. I looked at him strangely and proceeded to get the hell away frm . Then I told my friend and she couldn't believe it.. She was just as shocked and grossed out.
    Moral of the story: 1. If you dont know me, please dont touch me. Especially w/o permission. 2. I was so "weirded" out bc the guy looked like he could be my dad's age. 3. And really ? My hair…? Why mines? Why not my Hispanic friend's hair that was right ahead of me? Why not the caucasion girl that was to the left of him?? 4. And honestly admitting, if it were my natural hair.. I would have felt less self concious by his actions. And hell.. Maybe even embraced his comment.
    Perhaps it is just pure curiosity that others have with our hair bc of it's diversity and flyness 😉 but jeez! ask first! The answer may be a yes or firm no.

  • AishaSaidIt says:

    I hate to talk about it because it makes me upset. But I had to physically removed some elderly white woman’s hand from my child’s hair in the Chicago airport one time. I was so appalled and I all I could think of was how am I going to relay the message to her quickly without being hauled off to jail. I get a lot of curiosity living in Arizona and I had a boss ask me more than once if he could touch my hair. I politely continued to tell him no. The only upsetting part is my six year old girl who sticks out like a sore thumb and I know lots of hands reach for her head when I’m not looking. I tell her not to allow anyone to play in her hair, but I don’t like to make it a big deal for her. She’s busy being a kid.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think CNN has a history of taking things out of context to make their stories more dramatical(i know that's not a word) so the story will get more attention.

    Thank you for posting the link to what actually happened. Los Angelista didn't SAY any of that to that woman. She said, "No," and the woman flipped.

    In that instance the woman was racist,racist and guess what? A racist. CNN should have posted the entire thing, not just the one part.


  • Anonymous says:

    People are very curious about natural hair. I teach, and the more my hair grew, the more the fascination grew that my little ones had. They wanted to know how I got it so curly. They were excited. Esp the natural little girls, so I let them touch it. I def will let a SO touch it (love to get this hair washed lol), but that's it. I have received compliments from white women on the texture and color (changed often). Its like they are in awe. I believe they secretly covet the aspects of our hair.

  • faye says:

    I don't really agree with the touching I would think that we as naturals would be happy that others are curious about coily hair. It's an opportunity to educate, just like most whites don't think that blacks need sunscreen. Also I've had black women touch my hair without asking!

  • Anonymous says:

    No one has a right to just reach out and touch you, point blank. Some Black people are so afraid of being accused of "overreacting" or being overly sensitive about race, they often are quick to throw another black under the bus when they call out racism. There are pleeeenty of racist people in the world. If you don't believe it, read some of the comments below the article. I saw things like who would want to touch a greasy brillo pad… and that makes you wonder if some of those innocent white people who are curious about touching your hair are doing it out of " I wonder if it feels like a greasy brillo pad". I am not here on earth to validate or invalidate stereotypes about me. White people are privy to Google, they can educate themselves.

  • NaturalArtMaven says:

    Thanks Carmen for the link. After reading the full account of what happened to Los Angelista, I have to agree that what happened to her was racist and the CNN article completely printed her statements out of context and in a way that portrayed her in an unfair light.

    I have not had any non-blacks ask or try to touch my hair, even though that is where the majority of my compliments come from. In my experience, and I can only speak for myself, people wanting to touch my hair has been out of curiosity and fascination with something different and not something malicious.

    Give me a few more years in my journey and I may have a different experience, but that is what I have experienced so far.

  • Anonymous says:

    Because I'm anal about how people touch my hair, instead of explaining to them to proper way to touch it (don't run your freaking fingers thru my hair!!) I just rather them not all together. I don't like touching my own hair too much because I have fragile strands and don't want breakage.

  • mrsjaxn84 says:

    I've been natural for 14 months and in that time most of the unwanted touching and nasty comments have come from black people. I do not like for my hair to be touched at all. Sometimes, when people touch it they are complimenting me but I still don't think it's okay for someone, stranger or not, to just put their hands in my hair. I also feel like people think it's ok to touch and tug and squish my hair just because it is natural. It's an unwritten rule to refrain from touching a black woman's hair because everyone knows how much time and money we spend in salons getting our hair done. However, just because my hair is natural doesn't mean that I don't spend time styling just like relaxed ladies. So no, IT IS NOT OKAY TO TOUCH MY HAIR!

  • Anonymous says:

    so Dr. Phoenyx is saying black women do not have a right to privacy, to not be touched against their will and to personal agency?

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks to Carmen @ 8:47 for providing that link so that light could be shed on the FULL story. I do not think that all "can I touch your hair?" requests have racial implications but this situation obviously did. I likely wouldn't want a stranger's hand all up on my person either but that's just me. I wouldn't necessarily be offended; it's just my preference. Quite amusing how the folks at CNN nicely decided to leave out the main point of the woman's grotesque reaction to the realization that the answer isn't always yes.

  • Anonymous says:

    Frankly I am saddened and amazed by how many black women are willing to throw another black woman under the bus based off some out of context quote from the media. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

  • suns4i6e says:

    It is extremely important to note that CNN codified and took the original article out of context to sensationalize and inflame the point that was being made by the blogger. Had it been relayed in its entirety, one would clearly understand the unmistakable racist tone and posture attached to the offending hand.

  • Mzmillion says:

    I understand both reactions to this story, I personally don't find it offensive in most situations but I'm sure when you are made to feel like you "should" feel special because someone wanted to "compliment" your on your hair or you should feel happy because someone noticed you, I would be a little put off. I just read the original bloggers response to this situation on BGLH( and I feel sorry for all the hate mail and extremely nasty comments she is receiving for her personal feelings on the issue and the reaction she had to her experience.

  • Anonymous says:

    The fact of the matter is, no one has a right to suggest that you do not have agency over your own person and body. So yes, my hair is a part of my body and no, the fact that you admire it does not mean that you can touch it. Can a man who admires your breasts or butt ask to touch them? Why say no if he asks and says that they look good?

    It would have been a LOT more responsible of you to research the article in question before criticizing how someone else responded, and the way that the white lady in Los Angelista's story responded proved that in THAT CASE, the lady did in fact think that she had a right to touch it, was offended when told no, and called the woman a "bitchy black woman" for saying no.

    So maybe not everyone feels that way, but I can say no as I choose and you can say yes and let people play cultural tourist in your hair.
    If anyone asks to touch my hair, I point out that nowhere in our culture is it acceptable to pet other adult humans, so the answer is always no. (And if I had kids, I wouldn't let anyone touch them or their hair either).

    Plenty of non-white people admire my hair, but only one was silly enough to reach into it and I'm glad that I don't have to rebuff people often.
    I think all of you are too young to realize that in the 70's, large masses of black hair were pretty common. I think that you shouldn't have such a limited and myopic view of history and what people are or are not used to. People over 40 saw plenty of afros in the 70's. If they didn't manage to cop a feel back then I'm certainly not going to oblige them now.

    Even in Europe, where people are pretty much in your space, no one touched me randomly. I did have people touching my hair in India, although even there it wasn't that frequent.

  • Anonymous says:

    Okay, I just read Los Angelista's post and I see her point. She did not say any of those things to the woman, she just told the woman no and the WOMAN brought up race. The woman basically proved what Los Angelist was thinking. She seemed to feel entitled to touch her hair. And then she let her attitude of white superiority rear its ugly head by making some really racist comments. I applaud Los Angelista for saying no. And I realize that not every white woman has that type of attitude. Still, black women have a right to say no, for WHATEVER reason.

  • Anonymous says:

    I see both sides to this argument. On the one hand, I can see how someone would not mind having their hair touched, especially if the person is polite and asks permission. I would feel flattered and a bit relieved if someone wanted to touch it because people are usually not afraid of or disgusted by something that they want to touch. However, I also see how someone would be offended if a person acts as if they are entitled to touch someone's hair, whether they have permission or not. I see white women with heads full of gorgeous red, blond and brown hair all of the time. I'd be willing to bet that if I went around touching their hair or even asking to touch their hair because it's so gorgeous or "different" than mine, I'd be met with more than a few negative responses. I can't help but wonder if they would be as open to having someone of another race (yes, I said it) touch them. And if they say no, they quite likely will not be accused of having a chip on their shoulder.

  • Anonymous says:

    My opinion is that majority of women black or white are curious about our hair and even have a certain level of envy…Deep down they actually like our hair and some even have a certain level of respect for those of us who embrace our natural tresses so for a woman or man to want to touch my hair..i take it as a compliment 🙂

  • Laurie a.k.a. Newlynatural26 says:

    curly nikki, i rather enjoyed reading the articles. I must say personally i've had many ask to touch my hair and i don't view people by color but just women who are curious whether they are black, white, asian, etc. it just so happens my dry cleaner who i believe is Korean loves to see me and asked to touch my hair. She was intrigued and smiled as she touched and complimented me. People are people and when they encounter something unfamiliar they react as their upbringing will incite them to. Have i ever had someone just touch – no but i'm very sure my response wouldn't be that of Los Angelista. Ascribing wrong motive to someone just because they're different from you are because of what may have been done in the past is very partial. If you want to touch whether by asking or "accidentally" go ahead, it's just hair. I know i'm going to touch someone else's hair just as much as they touch mine. A+ to the thought provoking article.

  • Kitka82 says:

    I don't think that Los Angelista's actual reaction to the woman asking to touch her hair was extreme. She simply said "no." If you read the original post that Carmen linked to, you'll see that. The other woman was disrespectful and racist in calling LA a "bitchy black woman." However, I don't agree with LA's thoughts about white people thinking that they own black people… I get tired of hearing people gripe about slavery. If we can't let it go, we're enslaving ourselves and cannot move forward. You can't create a better future if you're still hung up in the past.

    *steps off soapbox*

  • Aishah says:

    If you're on the street and you want to touch someone's dog you know to ask first. So why wouldn't you ask to touch a PERSON?

  • Verity Reign says:

    I agree with Dr. Phoenyx on this one! I'm flattered when a woman of any background wants to touch my hair. I understand that 9 times out of 10 it's strictly out of curiosity and admiration. The whole "white women wanting to have ownership" seems a little humorously deep; it's not that serious. Interestingly, I get more positive feedback on my curly puff from "them" than I do from "us." I think it's a positive sign that perhaps is even indicative of dominant society's progression- at least when it comes to the varying types of beauty! This post was very well written Dr. P! I too am a writer. Check out my work in Today's Black Woman Style Report Magazine. The August/September '11 issue with Beyonce on the cover is my first issue (in stores now).-Essence Gant

  • Chaunece says:

    Personally, I don't mind people touching my hair. It's usually flattering and I take it as people wanting to touch something that's pretty. Just as I would reach out and touch a pretty fabric, or a smooth surface, or anything that looks interesting. *shrugs* The only time I do get offended is when people try to feel my scalp as if they are checking for a weave. And that's ONLY been from from black women. Please believe I do let them touch it, just to burst their little bubbles. Black men touch my hair all the time. It doesn't offend me because I know it's out of fascination.They aren't used to being able to touch a black woman's hair because she is generally afraid of people finding out that her hair is a weave. Me? I've got nothing to hide. Touch away! I hope you found what you were looking for! lol

  • Pecancurls says:

    I guess most people ask to touch of out curiosity and not any racist intentions. I think it is such an invasion of privacy to touch someone's hair. I will pay compliments galore…but will not ask to touch.

  • Anonymous says:

    "In fact, I'll bet that if people didn't want to touch our natural hair, some naturals would then complain that people don't think it's as soft, pretty, and touchable as straightened hair… and they'd use THAT reason to be offended."


    i could see how some people get offended… i sometimes wonder where people hands have been when they just want to shake hands with me. but, it's not that serious (for me) and i know i can wash it later if it's still bugging me. relating things to Africa and slavery is not only extreme, but provocative and lazy. maybe it's my spin on it because i think of it as a compliment and i know they're about to lay hands on something ever so soft that it just might blow their minds. more of the requests to touch my hair, and i'm happy to say that most have asked first, have been from black women, and i live and go to school in a predominately white environment. on the flip, i know i've seen some really soft and shiny hair and have had to restrain myself from touching it 😉

  • Julissa says:

    I am so happy to know Dr Phoenix is a Panamanian, I am also from Panama and yes, she's right, we Panamanians like to touch a lot and we don't really get offended because that's our culture, as her and others I don't feel offended if someone once to touch, one person caught me off guard once, but I just smiled because I knew there weren't any hidden intentions when he did, yes a man!. I believe the author was way to extreme with her article and most people believe that. We are curious creatures by nature.

  • Mina says:

    I don't like people putting their hands in my hair because I don't know where their hands have been, and I don't want to hear their comments about the state of my hair, i.e. that it is dry, greasy, etc. Although I have had people of all races ask to touch my hair or touch it without permission it has been mostly white people who have done this. I think that it is also telling that the ones who have persisted in touching my hair when I haven't granted them permission to do so have been white. I do not think that people are overreacting by making links to slavery, white entitlement and lack of respect for other people's bodies, history and personal space.

  • Beautiful Mess says:

    I can completely understand it when someone wants to touch my natural hair. I can remember being in elementary, middle, and high school and doing the exact same thing only the roles were reversed. Most of my friends are white and as a little girl, I loved playing in their hair because it was different from my own. In high school, I acutally sat behind my best friend (with waist lengh hair) and braided, twisted, or pinned her hair every day… and the teacher (a white woman) would let me because she was so interested in what I would come up with.

    Fast forward to last month… I was almost a year post relaxer and went to see my sister at beauty school. The day that I went in, I had let my 5 inch afro shrink down to a twa. Almost everyone in the place asked when I cut my hair off and when I told them that I didn't, all of these BLACK hairdressers and students looked at me in disbelief and started grabbing at my hair. I would have like it better if they'd asked but… they were just curious.

    I really don't mind if someone asks to touch my hair. I take it as a compliment. You wouldn't want to touch something that's dirty, nasty, or unattractive, would you? In fact, I'll bet that if people didn't want to touch our natural hair, some naturals would then complain that people don't think it's as soft, pretty, and touchable as straightened hair… and they'd use THAT reason to be offended.

  • LadyV69 says:

    I commented on this issue in a different forum yesterday. While I think the slavery comments are a bit out there, I don't attribute the issue to mere curiosity all the time either. I'm not a touchy feely person to begin with, so I get very protective of my personal space. I do get that there are people who are touchy feely, but I feel that a number of people these days have no understanding of what bounderies are and aren't taught to respect them. It takes all of 5 seconds to ask permission. If you just reach for my hair without asking, I won't be held accountable for my actions.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ Nadine: You know it is sad for to prescribe such ill intentions on people. It must be really hard going through life feeling that everyone and everything that you don't quite understand is against you. Life is not that serious. You know there are germs everywhere and all over yourself. That is why we have immune systems. I have always enjoyed touching other peoples hair, it is very calming to play in someones hair. And I don't get offended when someone wants to touch mine. I personally want people to ask because I want them to see our hair as it really is, beautiful.


  • Onedayataatime says:

    I live in the UK(London) and i have yet to have had people ask to touch my hair.It is an opportunity to educate about our hair,i will prepare myself for it to happen so i can react well and be polite. 🙂

  • MrsWardy88 says:

    I must agree with CN, I feel it was Martin's oppinion was a bit extreme. But I dont like people petting me. Even when I was younger and rocking cornrows, it got to me. Whether you are black, blue, corn yellow or bubble gum pink… ask before you touch my hair. *Shrugs Then its al good. 😉

  • Aishah says:

    Yeah, thanks Carmen. CNN definitely took her comments out of context and incited the harsh comments on CNN's website. After reading the whole story that lady was OBVIOUSLY racist, but CNN made it seem like it was open to interpretation SMH.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Carmen…after reading the blog, I definitely see how she defended her hair in that manner. It definitely came off as racism, and I don't blame her for her reaction. Anonymous 9:21

  • Anonymous says:

    I am never offended when someone tells me that they REALLY want to touch my hair. I went natural when I started my career as a public school teacher, and my students are completely fascinated by kinky coily hair. Several times Ive had students just reach out and touch my hair, saying that they've been wanting to touch it for months! lol To me, its just natural curiosity. I had to lecture my kids on etiquette though…because the thought of their dirty hands on my hair grossed me out! They ask me millions of questions on "How do you get your hair to do that?" I personally think its cute.

    In the city (NYC), Ive had people of all races compliment me on my hair. Some people just stare at it and say "I just really want to touch your hair!" (I do not give them permission though, I just throw my head back and laugh it off) People are not used to seeing Black women wear their hair natural. I don't think anyone wants to own me because they want to touch my hair, its not even that serious…

  • YvieB says:

    I wrote about this on my blog —

    I think Los Angelista's response was her response. I'm not in a place to say she overreacted. She reacted as appropriately as she felt the situation called for.

    As for who asks to touch my hair more — its definitely blacks. Ironically, I get a lot of questions from woman who are natural and wear wigs. They tell me that they are natural under their wig, but too scared to wear their natural hair. I always hope that the more sisters rocking their natural hair they will get the courage to do the same.

  • Emme says:

    @ Carmen 8:48am: Thank you so much for the link and providing greater context. Without a doubt that situation was unbelievably racist and she had every right to refuse for her to touch her hair and to describe it as it was. I think this should be a lesson to all of us not to take mainstream (white) media stories about black people, especially us women, at face value.

  • Nadine says:

    What possesses ppl to touch someone else's hair? What personal satisfaction does that fulfill for them? You wouldn't touch it if it was on the floor so what is the difference? So many things wrong with this scenario…

  • Nadine says:

    Why would you want to touch someone else's hair? I NEVER asked to touch someone's hair, whether it is still attached to their head or not! I personally think that is disgusting. Ppl have ringworms, lice, or any other issues. Just because it's shiny and soft looking? LOL unless u r a beautician, why would you want to do that? It's disrespectful to the other person, and it makes you look foolish like "what, u never seen hair before". Touch your own hair if it's that serious. We need more Leaders and less followers. Sadly, a lot of ppl claim they want to touch someone's hair, but they do it just to check if it's real or not…to make them feel better about themselves IF IT IS FAKE, but thats another for another topic about self esteem issues…

  • Anonymous says:

    I've been natural about 4 years and most of my compliments come from White women. I remember one time in particular at work. This old White lady was standing around talking to me and her eyes kept straying to my head. At this point, I was waiting on her to say something to me. After about 10 minutes, she walked over to me and very quietly asked, "Is all that your hair?" I simply shook my head yes while she stood there in awe. She went on to say that she has never seen a Black lady with hair like mine and its so unique because it is DIFFERENT and more of us should wear our hair how it grows out of our heads. She even went so far to say she wish she had such thick curly hair like mine. I think that most people are just curious and want to know more about natural hair: even if it means touching it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've been on and off natural for about 5 years now. I usually just wore it in a big poof in the back because I was too scared to wear it out. I have been wearing it out now for like 6 months and EVERYONE touches and compliments my hair. It's always with a sheepish look that they go, "Can I touch it?" I honestly just think it's because people don't see big, voluminous heads of hair a lot these days. At least where I'm from.

  • Carmen Sognonvi says:

    I think it's important for everyone to read this first:

    The CNN piece left out a lot of what Liz Dwyer (aka Los Angelista) experienced, including the woman's reaction.

    She details it on her blog.

  • Emme says:

    Good morning everyone! This is my first stop every morning 🙂

    I don't like people touching my hair because I don't know where their hands have been. I am a bit of neat freak and it just grosses me out. I don't want to touch anyone else's hair either. If someone asks, I will surely tell them no. Fortunately, no one has asked to touch my hair. I find they actually clutch their hands to their bodies so they are not tempted. It might have to do with my tendency to stare at their hands as they come close to my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've been natural for all of three months now, and most if not all of the requests to touch my hair has come from friends and family. I agree that it's because most people don't know what natural black hair looks like. I come from a Jamaican background so the question/ assumption I get most is that I'm locking my hair. But I don't mind explaining and educating people. Matter of fact, I'm still learning about natural hair myself.

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