If you thought we were past hair discrimination by now, you were wrong.
(Top row: @locksby_jtrasta, @chloexchristian ; Bottom row: @dreamboysage, @_samiraa_, @monicaalierr / Instagram)
You may think racism is dead by now, but hair discrimination is definitely alive and well.
Barber’s Hill School District in Texas recently voted unanimously to uphold its grooming policy that resulted in the suspension of two Black students.
The school district bans male students from wearing their hair “below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes.”
The two suspended students normally wear their hair in long locs, (We stray away from the term “dreads”. Its name is derived from “dreadful”, implying unkempt hair, and its roots are in slave trade.Use locs instead!) in accordance with the traditions of their West Indian heritage.
Hans Graff, the school district’s attorney’s, (weak) argument is that the boys want to be treated differently. He said “We want the academic excellence, we want the excellence of Barbers Hill. But we don't want to comply with what it takes to achieve that.’”
Hey, Hans? Last we checked, expressing one’s cultural identity has nothing to do with academic excellence.
This ruling is just one of the many instances of hair discrimination still occurring today.
Hair discrimination also rears its ugly head in salons. An overwhelming amount of hair stylists are not trained to work with kinkier hair, some even turning customers away. Cosmetology schools are definitely part of the problem.
Topher Gross, a stylist at New York City’s Seagull Salon, said he never got to work with mannequins with natural hair. Cosmetologists practicing with kinky hair is considered an afterthought — a nonessential skill — when it should be common practice.
When kinky hair becomes an afterthought, straighter and finer hair become the “norm”. It implies that kinkier hair is abnormal and problematic, perpetuating the “difficult” stereotype.
Hair discrimination is also present in the workplace.
Chastity Jones was offered a job at Catastrophe Management Solutions but was later denied. The company asked her to cut her locs claiming “they tend to get messy”. There are plenty of others like Chastity, who were deprived of career opportunities due to their locs and braids.
To make it even worse, taking these cases to court usually gets them dismissed. Once again, the justice system is failing the Black community.
But all is not lost.
The Crown Act prohibits hair discrimination in public schools and the workplace. So far, six states have adopted this legislation, including California, Maryland and Colorado. While this doesn’t include private schools, it’s still a start.
Finally. At least some states are getting it together.
With the growing popularity of the Crown Act, it looks like Black hairstyles are starting to get the recognition they deserve in workplaces and schools. After all, locs, braids and other Black hairstyles are more than just any hairstyle.
They tell a magnificent story of culture and how tradition continues to live on today.
No one should ever have to strip themselves of their traditions in order to succeed in life, and no one should ever feel ashamed of their heritage.
Black hair is beautiful and special and deserves to be recognized as such.
Christelle Pierre is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. When not writing, one can find Christelle holding a YA novel in one hand and an iced coffee in the other. She can be reached on Instagram @x.hristelle