In the words of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?” As much as I want to believe “hair is just hair,” I realize more and more it is not. Styling our hair is a gift to self!
One fact I know: Whether a woman is White, Black, Latina, Asian or Native American, we all will struggle with a bad hair day. Like it or not, it does impact that “mood.”
However, when society and the law imply you are having a bad hair day, every day, that is a problem.
Historically, textured hairstyles were used to indicate a person’s marital status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within a community. However, today, when styling textured hair that grows out of our head, it is assumed that it is often filled with messages while flaunting its natural state.
Black hair does not always speak to racial identity or politics. Due to the very delicate nature of how Black hair grows curly, coily and kinky, our styling techniques will need to differ. Natural textured hair is often braided, twisted or locked, which can provide minimal or permanent manipulation of the hair.
As more women are embracing and wearing their natural hair, they are learning to avoid excessive damage from heat, weather conditions and excessive moisture loss. A proactive model that can be beneficial for natural hair is to protect it with wigs, scarves, a variety of extensions, and sometimes a weave.
Now, here goes society rearing its ugly hair-hating head to perpetuate the stereotypes that women with kinky hair textures who often have fluffier, more voluminous hair are somehow a bad thing! Hair hate and texture discrimination come in many forms. Here are a few examples:
- Last week, Shea Moisture, a prominent hair care line, Black-owned, supported by the Black community, and known for understanding the textured hair challenges, launched an ad wanting to be more ethnically inclusive. It featured a White woman and one loosely curled Black model, which set off a flurry of complaints to Shea Moisture, causing them to pull the ad and deliver an apology. The concern was that they seemed to erase the kinky-haired women who supported the brand from the beginning.
- Reading the Global Grind, I discovered that a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against CMS, an insurance-processing claims company in Alabama that rescinded a job offer to a woman because of her natural dreadlocks, had been dismissed.
- According to court documents, the company’s reasoning was that the hairstyle “tends to get messy,” and employees must be groomed in such a way that “projects a professional and businesslike image.” Yes, that includes if you pull the dreads into a pony-tail or bun.
- Vanessa Van Dyke, a 12-year-old attending Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida, was told that wearing her hair in an “afro state” violated grooming policy and distracted other students. She was told to change it or don’t come back.
- An Ohio charter school attempted to ban afro puffs and twisted braids.
- A Kentucky high school bans locks!
- There was a protest in South African over Black girls’ hair after they were told they needed to straighten their hair to attend school.
- Interestingly, these unprofessional hairstyle policies disproportionately affect Black women, a daunting thought as this is physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent. Some courts support these practices because they say race discrimination is based on skin color, not hairstyle.
As all of these cases and more are disappointing, please “stay woke” and know how to combat these issues. Small changes can have huge impacts.
Since the recent explosion of the natural hair movement, many Black women are learning to embrace and love the hair that grows out of their heads.
There is power in numbers, which is why I encourage all hair types to show up and celebrate Black hair in solidarity to Sisterhood.
Here are two opportunities to celebrate the kinks, coils and curls:
June 3, 2017 — Sister Spokesman Loving Your Hair Event: Two Face. Go out on the Sister Spokesman Facebook page and nominate a “curly girl” to be the first “Sister Spokesman Naturalista.” More details to come from the MSR!
August 13, 2017 — Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo, Ramada Plaza, 1330 Industrial Blvd. NE, Minneapolis. More details to come on Facebook!
For anyone who may be experiencing “hair hate,” there is a book called Natural Hair in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights by Tracy Sanders, Esq. Her extensive knowledge on natural hair and employment discrimination law has been distilled into a paperback or Kindle book that many women may find useful in dealing with coworkers and employers when their hair becomes the topic of concern or conversation.
Keep in mind that being pro-natural does not mean you are anti-relaxer. I like mine Fro Real No Lye!
Natural hair coach and enthusiast Kelley Eubanks welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.