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Thursday, July 04, 2019

When your hairstyle is a problem?

There is an interesting article in today's Guardian, which reports that California became the first state in the US to ban discrimination over natural hair on Wednesday.

They say that Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace (Crown) Act into law, prohibiting employers and schools from enforcing rules against hairstyles including afros, braids, twists, and locks:

Workplace policies that prohibit such styles have serious economic and health consequences, especially for black individuals, the bill said.

“In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second-class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race,” the bill said. “Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”

Instances of people of color facing discrimination in school and the workplace over their hair have gained visibility in recent years, as a movement among black women to wear natural styles has grown.

In 2013, BP fired a top executive for wearing what one colleague called “ethnic hairstyles” including twists, braids, and cornrows. In 2018, an Alabama woman sued after a company required her to cut her locks to get a job. Also that year, a woman said her 14-year-old son was sent home from his school in Fresno, California, because of the way his head was shaved. And in December, a white referee sparked outrage by requiring a black student to cut his dreadlocks off before a wrestling match.

Essentially, the proponents of this bill are arguing that enforcing a uniform rule on hairstyles is proxy racism, penalising people for their cultural norms. But this is not just a Californian initiative, the US army revised regulations to allow black soldiers to wear natural hairstyles in 2017. In February 2019, the city of New York banned restrictions on natural hair and hairstyles.

Some food for thought there.
The one problem I have with this initiative is why do they have to pretend that hair *styles* are natural? There are only two *natural* human hair styles I am aware of - long and unkempt (curly just being a genetic variety of this) and bald. Is it another example of using particular definitive expressions to close down any possible debate on an issue - e.g. Health and Safety - https://www.electriciantalk.com/f2/hard-hats-22925/
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