Nyimah Jackson Staff Writer
On Feb. 20, 2019, New York City (NYC) banned hair discrimination under the new guidelines of the NYC Human Rights Commission. For those who might not be familiar with the concept, hair discrimination is exactly what it sounds like: rules put in place that try to censor or prohibit different hair styles, mainly in the workplace. This policy has been long overdue, especially because there have been many filed complaints about hair discrimination in the workplace regarding natural hair styles. The change in law applies to anyone in NYC but is aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people. Natural styles include, but are not limited to, afros, braids, bantu knots and dreadlocks. For any place of business to prohibit these hair styles is unjust, because hair does not stunt a person’s ability to be productive.
Everyone knows that hair comes in various textures. Natural styles are often worn in order to protect hair from extreme weather conditions or damage from tools such as straighteners or curling irons. Furthermore, natural styles are worn by people of color to show that they will not conform to Western society’s beauty standards of long, straight hair. This type of discrimination is a way for businesses to control their employees, while also attempting to fit into a box that they believe is professional. Claiming that natural hairstyles are unprofessional is offensive to the person wearing them and their culture. Styles such as bantu knots and braids stem from African culture, while afros are widely worn by African Americans because it is their natural hair state. Deeming them unfit for the workplace is saying that the person’s natural born appearance is unfit.
NYC is the first city in the United States to implement a ban on hair discrimination, charging up to a $250,000 fine. This ban should be implemented across the country because hair discrimination takes place in various work settings such as the medical field, business offices and even the army. Having policies in place that regulate a person’s hair only feeds into the negative stereotypes that already surround natural hairstyles. Dreadlocks, braids, and afros carry the stigma that they are dirty, unkempt hairstyles. Judging a person’s personality or their hygiene based on the style of their hair is discrimination and should never be tolerated regardless of the environment.
Anyone who targets someone else because of the state of their hair, deserves to be punished. In August 2018 a girl was sent home from school because she wore box braids. In December 2018 a high school boy was forced to either forfeit or cut his dreads in the middle of a wrestling match simply because the referee did not like it. Treating people unfairly because of their hair is just as bad as treating them unfairly because of the color of their skin or their gender.
If a person can get their work done with straight hair, then they are fully capable of getting their work done with a natural hairstyle as well. Appearance does not define intelligence or capability.