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I am Not My Hair! – WLC 2021 Recap

(**We recommend reading this recap while listening to “I am Not My Hair” by India.Arie**)

North Carolina lawmakers are seeking a hearing for Senate Bill 165 and House Bill 170 which, if acted upon, would ban discrimination statewide against persons based on hair texture or hairstyle, traits historically associated with race. These bills are both being backed by The CROWN Act, led by the CROWN Coalition and Dove. The CROWN Act and the CROWN Coalition were both created by people around the country in an effort to ensure there is protection in the workplace and in public schools against discrimination on the basis of race-based hairstyles.

A recent publication by Social Psychology and Personality Science backs the claims that Black women with natural hairstyles are perceived as “less professional [and] less competent” than Black women with straightened hairstyles or White women with straight or curly hairstyles- specifically in their places of work. [1] In addition, The CROWN Act recently reported that “Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.” [3]

“Hair discrimination is a form of racism,” said Judge Ashleigh Parker Dunston at the Women’s Leadership Conference 2021, when asked how Black women’s hair becomes a debated topic of conversation in the workplace. The mental, physical, and emotional toll that hair assimilation is taking on Black women in the workplace has far surpassed the need to ban hair discrimination by law. “There is an anxiety associated with having to assimilate,” and companies need to have systems in place to constantly be reviewing policies that discriminate against people’s appearances. Doing the work to expose and eliminate unconscious biases in the interview process and in the workplace as a whole, is a necessary journey in creating spaces that are safe and inclusive of all.

Many companies have dress code policies in place that may be leading to racism and inequity at work. Some people may associate hairstyles, such as: dreads, locks, afros, or other natural hairstyles with being “unruly” or “unkempt.” In this case, the hairstyles that may feel most safe, comfortable, and easy to a woman of color are deemed not a fit for the workplace. Not only does this, in turn, impact the mental health and confidence of a Black woman who is not able to wear her hair how she pleases, it also affects that woman’s ability to show up to her job and simply get her work done.

“When hair becomes the topic of conversation in a meeting, it becomes hard to get your work done,” noted Kacie Fore, to which Chanae Wilson responded, “There is a comfortability and confidence that comes with being able to wear your hair in a natural state.”

Though recognizing our biases and discriminations in the workplace and in the hiring process is only the beginning, it paves the way for a more safe and equitable work force. The CROWN Act stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and states that “no person, firm, corporation, unincorporated association, State agency, unit of local government, or any public or private entity shall deny or refuse employment to any person or discharge any person from employment because of traits historically associated with race or on account of the person’s hair texture or protective hairstyles.

The following definitions apply in this section:

Protective hairstyles. – Includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as bantu knots, braids, locks, and twists.” (2)

We are committed to a life-long journey of learning, and we hope to always choose to evaluate internal processes to create an equitable space for the workforce of today and tomorrow.  If equal rights in the workplace and in public schools on the basis of race-based hair discrimination is something for which you are passionate, you can visit https://www.thecrownact.com/ to sign the petition (https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/help-make-hair-discrimination-illegal) and send a letter to your State and US Representative using the CROWN Coalition’s template: https://www.dove.com/us/en/stories/campaigns/the-crown-act.html

 

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