May 23, 2019 | 73° F

NYC bans hair discrimination, yet profiling persists nationwide


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When did being yourself have to become legalized?

New York recently passed a law that makes it illegal to discriminate against people of color’s natural hair. New Yorkers have the right to wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state,” according to The New York Times.

The law’s guidelines protect anyone, but the concerns arose from the discrimination against Black people. The penalties for discriminatory behavior are up to a $250,000 fine. 

Seriously, a law had to be passed for people to be able to legally wear the follicles that grow out of their scalp, not face injustice because they decided to be themselves. 

Why? 

Mainly because people are still stuck to their traditions and preconceptions that were created when minorities weren’t included in the determining standards. The concern that companies, schools and public places have around people of color’s natural hair is exhausting. After investigating if the hair is real, asking to touch it and caressing the kinks and coils like a pet, they ban it. 

Why? 

Because it's not workplace etiquette to have hair bigger than their egos. 

This controversial issue is even reaching school children, who are are being sent home for their hairstyles. Any fight for equality is a fight for something different to be normalized. From the foundation of this country, anything different was colonized and commodified. When that’s not possible, it's unauthorized. 

As an African-American woman, my experience in relation to the workplace was in need of a laws such as this. 

I applied for a student employee job to make money in order to pay off the rest of my tuition, so I could return to the University next semester. Although the job was working at a fast food restaurant in the Douglass Student Center, I was preparing to present myself as professionally as possible. I wore a blazer, slacks and a black shirt.

I worked at this particular restaurant before in a different location, so I knew all of the duties and the attire I was required to wear. 

During the interview, I was neglected from receiving much eye contact because my hair stole the show. 

After the mundane interview questions, I was given the rundown of the uniform (that I already knew about). This included telling me that my hair must be “tamed.” Granted, I did have a colored afro, but you don't tame color. You tame things that are considered out-of-control — like animals. 

I was confused and it was unexpected, so my first instinct was to professionally reply "okay," but that was not okay. 

I'm expected to censor who I am in order to fit standards that weren’t made with people like me in mind. If they understood Black hair, they would know that slicking natural kinky hair into a “sophisticated bun” isn't that easy. Extensions and weaves aren't always accessible, and the few coins I had were going toward my education. 

I never got a call back after that interview. 

The stigma around Black hair has contributed to negative stereotypes, and many are internalized. Since slavery, when everything about the Black body was seen as a mockery, coiled hair was included in the judgement. 

“The kinkiness or nappiness of Black people’s hair became a source of derision among white people and a source of shame among enslaved people. African women began wearing head rags to protect their hair from the sun and judgment,” according to Rewire.News.

The idea that hair can be changed and that it's not a big deal is an ignorant statement. Hair is not only a way of expression, but also a part of culture. Culture is attached to one’s identity and pride. By stripping away people’s way of life, they are stripping away their freedom. 

Thank you, New York City, for normalizing people like me. 


Jade Chandler

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