Natural Hair Is Still Under Attack in the Dominican Republic


Pelo bueno and pelo malo are terms that get thrown around with such frequency that it’s surprising they aren’t the first words to roll off of every Dominican baby’s lips. Textured hair is often viewed as unruly, unattractive and almost certainly unprofessional — this is, of course, through the lens of our mothers, grandmothers and Dominican society as a whole. We’ve all been told by someone or another, not to leave the house unless we ‘fix’ our hair. Lest we upset the (white) balance of the world.

Throughout my life, I have heard stories of women in the DR being denied a job only to be welcomed back with open arms once they got rid of their kinks and curls. And of course, there was that time a Dominican student lost a scholarship due to her refusal to straighten her hair. That could never happen here in the US, right? Wrong! If you don’t believe that Black women are still being ostracized due to their hair textures and styles, then consider the fact that New York had to pass a law to stop discrimination against natural hair. We legit needed the government to step in so employers would stop imposing their euro-centric beauty standards in the workplace — in 2019!

But I digress…

This week Dominican social media was aflutter over the firing of Marianela Pinales, Director of Gender Equality and Development, after she released this touching video promoting self-love:

According to Yudelka Dominguez’ of Listin Diario, the director of publicity for the Ministry of Education, Glenn Davis Felipe, stated that Pinales was fired due to not showing up to work for 30 days. He added that the “ni pelo bueno, ni pelo malo” campaign is in fact, backed by the ministry as a whole.

Now I’m no expert on labor laws, least of all those in the Dominican Republic, but it usually takes less than a full month of being a no show for someone to lose their job. So the implication that officials patiently waited a whole 30 days before firing an employee seems a bit far-fetched (or an indication of inefficient management at least). The fact that the firing happened exactly one day after the release of the video is further fueling speculation of racial politics at play.

Zahira Kelly-Cabrera, socio-cultural critic and your new #Goals, probably said it best in this post:   

Regardless of the reason for Marianela Pinales’ dismissal, we cannot downplay how significant the “ni pelo bueno, ni pelo malo” campaign is for the Afro-Latinx community in the Dominican Republic.

Being yourself, embracing your natural hair, your skin color, and your heritage are things to be celebrated — not punished. But in the Dominican Republic people of color are still being denied equal access to education for something as immutable as their appearance. Discriminating against anyone let alone a child for wearing their hair in its natural state is not only an affront to nature but an obstacle that impedes on their sense of self-worth and limits their upward mobility and professional prospects.

While some will argue semantics and politics, it’s important to note that the anti-black attitudes that still permeate Dominican society, are in fact what remains of Spanish colonial rule and white supremacy. It’s time to tear that shit down.

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