“Hey Alexa, play “I Am Not My Hair” by India. Arie”
For decades, women of color with natural hair in the workforce have always been a controversial topic. If it’s not in a “tamed” hairstyle, it’s considered “unfit” or “too distracting” in the workplace. The way a person wears their hair shouldn’t determine the quality of the work they produce. For years, women with natural hair have been told that their hair is considered “unkempt” or “dirty” because of the curls and kinks that grow out of their heads. Which often leads them wanting to tame their hair to feel accepted as they grow older. Some people have been discriminated because of their hair, others haven’t. Luckily, today people are bringing more attention and laws are being put in place. According to The New York Times, New York has banned discrimination when it comes to natural hair.
“The change in law applies to anyone in New York City but is aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people; the guidelines specifically mention the right of New Yorkers to maintain their natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, etc.”
The article later explained that this law was put in place for people who have been demoted, fired, threatened, or harassed because of their hair. If in violation of the guidelines, the city commission can levy penalties up to $250,000. The law was put in action faster when two workers in Bronx businesses complained about how they were mistreated, according to The New York Times.
“The move was prompted in part by investigations after complaints from workers at two Bronx businesses- a medical facility in Morris Park and a nonprofit in Morrisania- as well as workers at an Upper East Side hair salon and a restaurant in the Howard Beach section of Queens.”
An interview was conducted on Hampton University’s campus, asking women of color a series of questions. Which were: How do you feel about natural hair in the workforce. Do you feel because of the stereotypes, it makes you want to hide your natural hair. Have you ever been discriminated against or turned away because of your hair. Do you accept your hair?
“I feel that natural hair should be acceptable within the workplace. Black women shouldn’t feel like they need to change their hair in order to fit in a certain environment,” said Journalism major, Paige Giffon.
She later added, “There are times where I have felt insecure about my natural hair, and needed to make it more “professional” looking. I’ve never been turned away from an interview, but that’s because I either straighten or pin up my hair.”
Natural hair doesn’t just consist of kinks and curls, locs play a huge role in this too.
According to Curly Nu Growth, “In September 2016, the federal court of appeals made the ruling to legally allow employers to deny employment to individuals with locs, solely on the basis of their appearance. The argument could be made that discrimination against individuals with locs was a violation of equal opportunity laws.”
Being a person with locs, I find it a little scary knowing I could possibly be turned away before I have the chance to show what I could bring to the table. I took the time to interview someone on campus with locs. She’s had hers for years and works in the business field.
“Sometimes I feel like I need to hide my hair but lately I feel that it’s not needed. If I’m a great worker, that’s all that matters. I love my natural hair because it’s versatile and it makes me uniquely me,” said Hampton University Athletics, Eligibility Specialist, Ashley Sessoms. After reading several articles and stories of women expressing how they feel about their hair and how they’ve been judged because of their appearance, I found a video that spoke volumes.
“My Hair Protects Me From Places I Shouldn’t Be”
Women should be able to wear their hair however they want and feel comfortable being naturally them. They shouldn’t have to dim their light to make someone else feel comfortable. Women shouldn’t have to chemically straighten their hair so they can blend in with society. People weren’t put on this Earth to blend in. We were made to inspire, create, stand out, and live the life we want to live. Natural hair doesn’t define the individual, the individual, what’s within, is what truly matters.