By DaiJhah Owens
I have to say, I never thought I’d be writing political commentary on black hair, but here I am. Those who are not a part of the black community may not understand or vibe with the need to address this issue in a political manner; after all, it’s just hair, right? But, as I discuss throughout most of my blog post, everything is inherently political, whether we acknowledge it is or not.
Earlier this April, the State of California joined states like New York in passing laws that ban discrimination in the workplace based on someone’s natural hair. Some may praise these states for making this move towards more equality in the work place for Black Americans. However, I find it disheartening that we need these laws to begin with.
Companies and organizations typically have human resource policies addressing “proper” grooming and dress codes. Some of these establishments have for too long used these type of policies to discriminate against black workers. All they have to say is, “your hair style violates our grooming policy which gives me the right to fire you for not complying with company policy.” It’s that easy. New York and California have made it so this can no longer occur.
Now, the need for these anti-discrimination laws may come to a surprise for others, but not to black Americans. As a black woman, I have the privilege of being able to wear MANY different hair styles. My hair style changes monthly depending on the weather, events occurring that month, convenience, budget, and my hairstylists’ availability. And like clockwork, with every hair change, there comes endless comments from my non-black co-workers. Some comments of amazement, confusion, and the best “Can I touch it?” We, as black women especially, are accustomed to our hair being triggering for people.
However, one must wonder, “Why does someone’s hair style of choice need to be a measurement of their ability to do a job?” SPOILER ALERT, it’s not about the hair style! It’s about the conscious and subconscious need to constantly uphold White/European beauty standards, what constitutes appropriateness, and professionalism. We have all been socialized to believe that white is right and everything else is “unkempt” or “unprofessional.”
A lot of us are on a journey to unlearn these ideals, love ourselves by our own standards while doing the best we can in career fields not accepting of us in our natural state. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same journey and furthermore some don’t believe the journey is necessary, including some companies and organizations.
I read a lot of comments concerning California and New York’s decision to pass this law. One in particular stood out, “Its 2019, such a shame we have to still pass laws like this.” The year may be different, but the same political systems that allowed for lawful discrimination of black people in the 1950s are the same political systems that exist today.
Uproot the system and you may see actual, lasting, impactful change!
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!