MAKING PROGRESS
IN ENDING HAIR DISCRIMINATION

Exploring the day-to-day reality of racism.

In the US today, there is currently no law in place that protects citizens from being discriminated against based on their texture. This is a type of discrimination that happens across the world, one which typically discriminates against Black people because of the way that their hair naturally grows.

Throughout history, looser hair textures have been favoured by society and the media for its proximity to whiteness. Afro hair, with it’s tighter and more coily texture has often been perceived as ‘messy’, ‘unprofessional’ and ‘distracting’ because it does not meet eurocentric ideals. This type of discrimination is essentially rooted in racism and there are countless examples of where this ignorance has led to the discrimination against Black people and the policing of their hairstyles.

Earlier this year, a Black student from Texas was suspended and told to cut his dreadlocks off. He was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to walk at his graduation ceremony unless he cut his dreadlocks to meet the school district’s dress code. Following this, he was invited to The Oscars by Gabrielle Union. “The same way as when we heard about your story, and you just wanting to wear your hair, the way you want, at school,” she said in a video posted on Twitter. “And all this scrutiny that you faced and how unwavering you have been in standing up for yourself. We also knew that we had to get involved.” Also this year, Ruby Williams was sent home from a London school according to their policy which stated that “afro style hair must be of reasonable size and length”. Ruby later won a legal battle against the school, but only after feeling as though she had to try different hairstyles to comply with the school’s rules. It also was not the first time she was sent home.

Hair discrimination is an issue that is still happening widely and is something many Black people are still having to go through, which is why the CROWN act is being put into place to counteract this. The CROWN act stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and was created in 2019 by Dove to legally prohibit the discrimination of hairstyles and textures across the US. On their website reads the message “people should not be forced to divest themselves of their racial cultural identity by changing their natural hair in order to adapt to predominantly white spaces in the workplace or in school”. The act was brought about in 2019, led by Congressman Cedric Richmond. “For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves – that ends today. The House just passed the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination,” Representative Ilhan Omar recently tweeted. “This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination.”

This issue runs deep, and a 2019 survey commissioned by Dove found that a Black woman is 80 percent more likely to change her natural hair in order to meet social norms or expectations at work than a white woman. Black women have had to mould themselves to what society deems as ‘normal’ and ‘attractive’ for a long time. This law being passed would be the first step to eradicating the issue of Black women feeling as though they are not good enough in society.

Although the law is already in place in several US states including California, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, Colorado and Maryland, the work does not stop there. If the CROWN act is successful, it will prohibit hair discrimination across the whole of the US. The UK are also making steps to introduce similar laws. UK law currently protects individuals against discrimination on the grounds of the nine ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010 but this law includes no mention of hair. This is an issue very deep rooted in our society, and change needs to come not only from campaigners but from politicians, school governors and other leaders at the top.

 

Images from taken from tmrw feature: SHINING EARTHLINGS: WHAT’S ON YOUR FACE? – click here to see the shoot and for full credits. 

Words by Lola Christina Alao / photography by Nadia Correia / creative & art direction by Sheena & Amelia / make up by Min Sandhu / hair by Lauraine Bailey

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