Picture of a table and plants.

Putting a Stop to Hair Discrimination

As women, hair is considered an extension of ourselves. It represents transitions in life or even how we are feeling in the moment. A haircut for women can symbolize a release of baggage and a new color can represent change. Regardless of the hairstyle, a woman is making a deliberate choice on her hair. Specifically, black women have started to embrace their natural hair more, but they are not forgetting the versatility of having protective styles. Some black women are rocking their afros and others are installing tresses that flow to the ground. They are making the choice to embrace how they want to feel and look. In the real world, natural hair isn’t received in a positive way and black women are discriminated against because of it. 

In the workplace, black women are asked to touch their hair, deemed unpresentable and unruly or excluded from the job offer altogether. Certain hairstyles including locs and braids were deemed unprofessional although it is simply a choice and example of versatility. There has been a long history of this type of discrimination. With the natural hair movement booming more in recent years, there are strides taking place to combat this discrimination altogether. Five states including California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey and Virginia have passed laws banning hair discrimination. 

In Jan. 2019, Senator Holly Mitchell introduced the CROWN Act which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” This law centered around hair discrimination of hairstyles and hair texture. The CROWN Act partnered with other organizations including Dove, Color of Change, National Urban League and Western Center of Law and Poverty creating the CROWN Coalition. This coalition helps promote the mission of the CROWN Act to protect women against hair discrimination. In 2019, Dove conducted a study proving the disproportionate policies that target black women. 

The study showed that black women are “made to be more aware of grooming policies than white women” meaning their employers try to enforce changes to their appearance. Also, based on the style of their hair the study showed employers feel as though a black woman is less qualified or less ready for the job performance. This is all an assumption created based on a hairstyle. Eighty percent of black women agree with the statement, “I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.” Workplace bias has generally made it harder for black women to embrace their natural hair. The black community with the help of others are making it adamant to spread awareness on hair discrimination.

The Oscar-winning short film “Hair Love” created by Mattew Cherry and Vashti Harrison had its own spin on the topic through the experience of a dad helping his daughter with her hair for the first time. The film embraces the idea of natural beauty and being comfortable with who you are. Celebrities Tracee Ellis Ross and Taraji P. Henson launched natural hair care lines devoted to expressing yourself through hair without having to “tame” it for others. The efforts people have made with embracing natural hair is blooming and isn’t stopping yet. More state representatives are making strides to have more states legally ban hair discrimination. Hopefully, it will happen one curl at a time.