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Equity for Black Hair Textures and Styles

know your facts Mar 23, 2022

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” or CROWN Act, 235-189. Seventeen Republicans joined Democrats to agree that it should be illegal to discriminate based on hair texture or hairstyles commonly associated with a specific race or culture.

I’ve been told by a supervisor that she had no doubt about my skills to do the job, but she hesitated to promote me because I wore my hair in cornrows. I left the organization for another position within weeks of that comment.

I’ve seen hair discrimination from medical professionals. I was being hooked up to an EEG machine, where they put leads on your scalp to measure your brain waves. My locs at the time needed to be tightened but that turned out to be good for the test. The nurse said, “See, your hair is just fine. Another lady came in and her hair was like yours and it was so tight to her scalp that I couldn’t put the leads on. I told her that she needed to do something about her hair and come back when I can do my job.”

I remember feeling empathy for the other patient and having a real time conversation with myself about whether to challenge the nurse on her discrimination against the other woman’s hairstyle. I decided that since I was feeling sick and nervous about the test that I didn’t need the stress of confronting racist behavior, especially since the other woman was already gone.

America uses many weapons in its quest to “other” Black and brown people. Texturism is just one - uplifting Eurocentric hair textures and styles and denigrating other textures, especially tightly coiled hair textures and protective hairstyles associated with people of Afrikan descent. (I’ll be talking about featurism and texturism in an upcoming unit in Inspired by Indigo)

In typical fashion, people who read headlines and don’t know the facts (either white men or bots posing as white men) popped up on social media proclaiming the act would allow people to wear eccentric hairstyles to work and complaining that this isn’t the most important thing we could be working on right now.

Republicans used the same talking points saying Congress should be focused on inflation and high gas prices. Jim Jordan of Ohio said, "Fourteen months of chaos and we're doing a bill on hair. I hope we can actually focus on the things that matter to the American people."

Black folks and other people of color are American, too, and it matters to us if we can live and work and play just as we are without having to conform to someone else’s standard of beauty.

 

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