For years, people of African descent have been discriminated against and barred from jobs, schools, beauty pageants, modeling — even from working in the army — simply for how they choose to style their hair. Just think about that for a second. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, imagine losing a job, not being offered a job, or getting kicked out of school for wearing the hair that naturally grows from your scalp? Natural hair and natural hairstyles like locks, twists, or braids — in other worse, black hairstyles — have been considered unprofessional for years. This is why states like California, New York, and New Jersey have passed hair bans protecting the black community from hair discrimination and it looks like Baltimore might be next.
The city of Baltimore is around 63% African American and yet hair discrimination is still a norm. For many that discrimination looks like being pressured to straighten their hair — which often means chemically relaxing — in order to conform to more European standards of beauty, which is not only problematic on a number of levels but requires money and maintenance.
We might have made a lot of progress when it comes to embracing natural hair but the discrimination is still very much an issue. Just this past October, an 8-year-old black girl from Jackson, Michigan was forbidden from taking part in her school picture for having extensions in her hair. Let’s not forget about the teenage black wrestler from New Jersey who was forced right on the spot by a white referee to either have his dreadlocks cut right there and then or forfeit his match. Gabrielle Union was even reportedly fired from NBC for being too vocal about the work environment but also because her hairstyles were deemed “too black.”
But like California, New York, and New Jersey, it appears that Baltimore is the next to take action. Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement is currently collecting data on the hair-related discrimination complaints the city has been receiving in the past decade.
“Once it’s codified into law, people will be better informed and start adjusting the cultural norms,” Director of Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, Darnell Ingram told NBC News. “Will it end it full stop? That’ll take some time.”
Just last month, lawmakers in Montgomery County passed legislation that prohibits discrimination against natural hairstyles, including “braids, locks, Afros, curls, and twists.” In fact, discrimination against these hairstyles can be fined up to $5,000 and upwards for violating the law. The bill would also add hair texture and style to the city’s hair ban and would apply to everything from schools, workplaces, and even housing.
Black hair discrimination has been going on for centuries and dates back to slavery. Black people have been dealing with discrimination and various forms of microaggressions associated with the color of their skin, their hair — and for just being black — for as long as they’ve been in the Americas and it’s toxic and harmful on so many levels. I can’t wait for the day that the hair ban is passed in every single state in this country! Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, respect, and basic human decency regardless of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, or how they choose to wear their hair.