Black hair has been political for centuries. The stereotypes and shame surrounding the natural textures, unique designs, gravity-defying growth, and regimented care taken to maintain Black hair grew out of slavery and was strategically used a propaganda to uplift euro-centric standards of beauty.
And while dissertations have been written on the subject of Black hair, discrimination, and the psychological harm that has been inflicted across generations, many are continuing the work of bringing an end to hair discrimination in the workplace.
“I got a text message saying, ‘I wish you would have told me or at least talked to me about the style before you went on TV with it,’” Whitney Miller told KSAT in a special report on hair discrimination. The Cincinnati-based news reported said she received that text message after going on air with a braided hair style.
“It was just at that point I understood. Oh okay I don’t own my look. Someone else owns my look,” Miller said. “And no one said they didn’t like it, but I understood it wasn’t liked.”
According to the CROWN Research Study published in 2019 by JOY Collective, Black women are 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace grooming and appearance policy than non-Black women.
The study surveyed 1,017 Black women and 1,050 non-Black women (92% of whom identified as white), and captured multiple data points about experiencing hair discrimination in professional work settings.
The study is a part of the CROWN Act legislation that has been passed in seven states. The Act “is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots,” according to the legislation's website.
The road to ending hair discrimination is long, yet necessary, and includes work to bring more representation in every field.
“There are little girls at home that have hair growing out of their head that looks like this right now. They need to look on TV and see a woman that is actually doing a job that they might want to do and wearing their hair the way that they see it,” Miller said. “And that way, they can feel comfortable being themselves.”
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