As Black people, our hair is our pride. Our crown.
The curls, the coils, the thickness, the bounce and, most important, the luster. Whether it’s long and wavy or thick and curly, we spend hours perfecting our natural hairstyles—not to mention spend countless dollars polishing our tresses.
With that being said, you can imagine the shock that’s sent into the community when we learn that our crowns are subject to discrimination. At last, in 2019, it still is.
Last December, many were outraged to learn that a Black high school wrestler in New Jersey was left humiliated when a white referee, with a known history of racism, forced the teen to publicly cut his dreadlocks if he didn't want to forfeit his match.
In fact, this kind of hair discrimination happens often. In 2018, we wrote a whole story about the policing of Black hair in schools.
When will it stop?
Well, in New York City, gone are the days when natural hair has to be hidden, relaxed, braided-up or even cut to appeal to the western standards of beauty thanks to new guidelines set by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
The new legal enforcement guidance ensures all New Yorkers', with emphasis on Black people, have the right to maintain their "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.”
In fact, any policing of people wearing their natural hair or hairstyle in any public space including at work, school, private and public school, or public spaces, will now be considered racial discrimination.
According to the guidelines, employers and owners of public places “cannot force Black people to change their natural hair as a requirement to be admitted in or retain affiliation with those settings.”
“Policies that limit the ability to wear natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people aren’t about ‘neatness’ or ‘professionalism;’ they are about limiting the way Black people move through workplaces, public spaces and other settings,” NYC Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis said in a statement.
“This new legal enforcement guidance will help school administrators, employers, and providers of public accommodations to understand that Black New Yorkers have the right to wear their hair however they choose without fear of stigma or retaliation. We’re excited to take this step because every New Yorker deserves to be treated with the dignity and respect that the City Human Rights Law is designed to ensure.”
The NY Times reports, the new policy also grants those who have been harassed, threatened, punished, demoted or even fired because of their natural hair by employers, the right to take legal action. Those found in violation of the guidelines can be fined up to $250,000.
We wonder if other cities will take the initiative to remove natural hair bias.
In the meantime, keep scrolling to see how the hashtags #FreeTheHair and #YourHairYourRightNYC showcased the approval from many.
FYI: If you believe you have been discriminated against based on a natural hairstyle at work, school or at a public accommodation, you are encouraged to call 311 and ask for the Commission on Human Rights.
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