Is Hair Discrimination Racial Discrimination?

Hair discrimination is a form of social justice found worldwide that targets specifically Black people who have afro-textured hair that hasn’t been chemically straightened. Since the movement started to gain traction the Crown Act also known as Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair was passed. This law prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and texture. Minorities have suffered through this for years and a recent study found that African American women face the highest instances of hair discrimination and are more likely to be sent home because of their hair.

Hair discrimination to only occurs in workplaces but outside of there as well. Aside from people of color being discriminated against at work teenagers and children as young as elementary school is being affected by this. Children and teens have had their education disrupted by suspension, detention, and sometimes expulsion for having a certain hairstyle on their head. As outrageous as it sounds it occurs around America and the most recent incident involved DeAndre Arnold, an 18-year-old from Belvieu, Texas faced missing his high school prom as well as graduation for refusing to cut his dreadlocks just recently in January 2020. Another harsh example involved Andrew Johnson a high schooler from New Jersey who was forced to cut his dreadlocks during a wrestling match by a white referee. These are just some of the few examples of hair discrimination around the U.S. It is completely inappropriate for a member of the student, faculty, or staff to comment on a child’s hair, especially if it is motivated.

Students, professionals at work, and other places have been discriminated against, demoted, or even removed from work or school because of their hair texture. When people choose to call out the way a person on color hair looks they aren’t understanding the true effects of their actions. Because pin-straight hair is deemed as “normal” people without afro-textured hair are constantly getting called out for looking different. Sometimes the effects of these actions can be embarrassing and emotional for anyone who is just going about their day with their hair.

Despite the ongoing discrimination towards people of color’s hair texture, fashion brands, influencers, and celebrities have been seen sporting traditionally known African American hairstyles. Looks such as dreadlocks, cornrows, twist, and laid edges have been seen on white influencers as well as white models on the runway. Designers such as Marc Jacobs have been seen sending models on the runway with dreadlocks.

Other fashion designers have been caught appropriating African American cultures and hairstyles without understanding the history and tradition that stands behind them. The issue here aside from cultural appropriation is the problem surrounding how people of color are looked down upon for having the same looks. The problem at hand is it’s okay for African American culture to be appropriated but it’s not accepted. Not only fashion designers but celebrities and influences have been seen sporting some looks such as the Kardashians/ Jenners, and other social media stars. If young children are being inspired by these white influencers to wear their hair a certain way why are children of color are penalized for it.

Is hair discrimination racial discrimination? Some can argue that if it’s part of a uniform or policy it is right but not if it’s only disproportionally affected African Americans. Many other states around the U.S have decided to enforce the Crown Act to prevent further discrimination against people of color, whether they are at work, school, or on the street, it is inappropriate to discriminate against someone’s hair.

Sources:

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/05/hair-discrimination/

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/05/hair-discrimination/

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hair-discrimination-crown-act-states/

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