Hair discrimination

Photo by Marla Linsay

If you ask me, I’d say my hair looks great as it is, but if you ask the person across the desk conducting my interview, they might say it looks unprofessional. The discrimination against unique hair textures has always been an issue for me and many others that have been gifted with fun curly hair. The discussion of hair discrimination is often not brought to surface in today’s conversations, due to the fact that we decide to talk about the topics that we think people want to hear and not always the ones we need to hear. I think that it is important to discuss the difference in how a birth given look can place a hold on an individual’s daily motivations and routines because my hair is not unprofessional like some people claim, it is simply strands on my head that do not label nor depict my further actions.

Business professional attire for men requires a suit, a tie, button down dress shirt and dress shoes. For women the attire is either a dress or a pant suit. Most business jobs require professional attire, but no one said hair texture fits into that closet. Natural hair styles such as braids, curly or dreadlocks are labeled as unprofessional. This stereotype labels an employee before they have the opportunity to get the job and prove their contribution to the team. Knowing that there is a possibility of being judged based off of hairstyle can demotivate an individual and their ability to perform confidently. Hair does not determine my ability and motivation to work. Perception of the company is what companies fear most; therefore, hairstyles affect their image. In reality, it’s not what the employees look like that builds a company, it’s how they work with consumers and coworkers. Instead of worrying about how hair makes the company look, focus on how the individual, as an employee, can contribute to the company’s image.

I started getting relaxers put in my hair when I was 7 years old. It wasn’t until I got to college that I stopped that trend and realized I wanted to embrace my own hair. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my hair; I was afraid of being different. Between me, my brother and my sister I was the only one with a thick texture of hair. In my high school years, I was a competitive dancer and if you have watched any reality dance shows you would know they are very serious. Everyone was required to look the exact same and most importantly, we all had to push our hair in that tight bun. Unfortunately, my relaxer wasn’t enough to get my hair in the bun; therefore, I cut all of my hair off just so I could be on stage with the rest of the team. Though I was lucky enough to have a teacher who understood my hair differences, I knew that if I wanted to be a professional dancer my hair would be a problem. Realizing how my hair could affect me then as a child made me fear for the future. My freshman year of college I decided to get my hair braided for the first time and most of the reactions were “Wow, you got new hair” which followed with a “can I touch your hair?” Being picked out because my hair was different was an uncomfortable feeling, because I don’t see anyone else with long, thin and straight-hair having their hair touched. I never understood why my hair made me so different, but the more I embraced my natural hair I broke those walls holding me back from moving towards the things that I wanted in life. I’d rather have my hair that makes me who I am rather than hair that makes me just like everyone else.

Hair discrimination goes a long way on the timeline, but New York City has decided to put an end to this trend. The city has placed a ban on the discrimination against unique hair textures, labeling it as racial discrimination. New York City, the city that never sleeps and now the city that speaks. This colorful city continues to shut the mouths of the ones who don’t understand and open the mouths of the ones needed to be heard. This law opens a door for opportunity to many people of color, making it possible to feel accepted when embracing their own culture. Since hair discrimination has become a great issue, New York should not be the only city deciding to take action. Places all around the world should take note to New York City’s actions.

Last year, Netflix released an original movie Nappily Ever After. The movie was about a woman who spent her whole life wearing “perfect hair” to the point where she stressed about it until the day she decided she had enough. The main character shaved off all of her hair leaving jaw dropping reactions. Not only did she learn to accept her hair, but it made her accept herself and feel more confident in her daily routines. Netflix isn’t the only company creating change, Feb. 5, 2019 Dove and Kelly Rowland collaborated to release “My hair my crown” a song about embracing the hair that you rock everyday. Motivational impacts like these and actions like New York’s law against hair discrimination is just the first step. When I began wearing my natural hair out and not wrapped in braids, a little girl came up to me and said she loved my hair. That not only touched my heart, but it showed her that she wasn’t alone. To all my kinky haired friends, embrace your hair because remember your hair is not a flaw, it’s a gift.

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