(I'm not sure if this would more appropriately go here or in Serious>Other. Mods, please move it if I've guessed wrong.)
I have a friend*
who likes to touch her friends' hair. She's respectful about it; she makes a point of asking first, and while I've never heard of her having been told no, she has made it clear that she'd respect that.
She's currently living in a house with several other people, with new people moving in or coming to visit on a regular basis. She has permission to touch the hair of the people who live there now, but is worried about what will happen if an african-american person moves in, since it seems to be something of an, um, touchy subject. As she puts it:
Can I ask? Do I conspicuously not ask? Do I stop petting everybody so it's only conspicuous to the people who are already here, and not the new arrival? Does it not "count" if I also pet white people? Should I make sure that I offer to let them pet my hair first? I don't know what to do if this happens!
There's also the added issue that even if she tries to avoid the topic, the other people she lives with have been known to ask her why she's not interested in touching a new person's hair in front of that person, so having an answer to that that's not offensive would be useful.
She's lurked on a few race blogs, but all the advice she's found has been based on the assumption that people don't normally go around touching each others' hair. She hasn't asked anywhere for fear of coming across as a troll and getting yelled at.
Advice?* No, this isn't a euphemism for 'I don't want to admit to this'.