WORDS: SOPHIE HENDERSON
FEATURE IMAGE: JESSICA FELICIO
Our hair is a massive part of our identity, and no matter our age, race or gender, we all have a right to choose its style. Yet unfortunately, policies prohibiting natural afro hair still exist in workplaces, public places and in schools in 2019.
Those with European or Asian hair are rarely affected – many of these rules and regulations are closely associated with black people. Remember the woman told by Harrods to chemically straighten her hair if she wanted the job? It seems we still have a long way to go.
With great relief, New York City has become the first place to ban discrimination based on a person’s hair.
It follows several institutions imposing restrictions on dreadlocks, afros and other hairstyles. The decision implemented by The New York Commission on Human Rights is undoubtedly a bid to tackle racism.
Those affected can take legal action, and penalties can reach up to $250,000 (£191,400).
According to The New York Times, the Commission specifically mentions the right to maintain “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.”
They say that “there is a widespread and fundamentally racist belief that black hairstyles are not suited for formal settings and may be unhygienic, messy, disruptive or unkempt. Black children and adults from schools to places of employment have routinely been targeted by discriminatory hair policies.”
This law is the first of its kind, but we’re hoping everyone else follows suit to embrace the beauty of hair – natural (by choice) or not.