Celebrating New York City’s Ban on Natural Hair Discrimination

Jordan Shorter, Staff Writer

The New York City Commision on Human Rights recently passed new guidelines that make discrimination based on hair texture or hair style unlawful discrimination and anyone who is in violation of this can be fined up to $250,000.

According to New York Times writer Stacey Stowe, “…the targeting of people based on their hair or hairstyle, at work, school or in public spaces, will now be considered racial discrimination.”

As a young black girl who wears her naturally curly hair, I was ecstatic to hear this news. The topic of natural hair is a very loaded issue in this country. The fact that it is an issue at all seems absurd to me because it is just simply the hair that one is born with and how they choose to style it. How and why did this become such a big deal?

Naturally curly hair, especially black hair, has been an issue for years; and the history of black hair in this country goes very far back. Perm vs. straight or curly vs. kinky are just two of the common topics that have been debated over the years. However, something that we can all agree upon is that certain textures of hair receive more prejudice than others. The fact that, in 2019, there even needs to be a ban on discrimination of anything is saddening, let alone something that someone is born with. The fact that people are treated differently in professional settings because of their hair is very upsetting; it’s almost as if people are being shamed for just simply being themselves.

Nobody should ever be told to change their hairstyle because it is seen as “unprofessional” or unfit for their workplace or school. Since I go to a school like Paint Branch, I am very fortunate. The staff aren’t prejudiced, and the student population is diverse. I see many other girls embracing their natural hair, and it has encouraged me to do the same. However, not everyone is that lucky. I’ve heard far too many stories of girls being sent home from school over their “distracting” hair, or certain styles being prohibited in the workplace.

One issue that may be a factor in what is clearly bias against some people, is the difficulty in maintaining natural hair. Because of this, people, both male and female, often keep it in protective styles. These styles include locs, cornrows, twists, and box braids. It isn’t fair that some people are faced with choosing between hair maintenance and employment. Obviously, hair discrimination is targeted towards black people, something Stowe refers to in her Times article, and there is no question about it.

Discrimination against hair type is just another way to make black people feel badly about themselves. Taking a stand against this, as New York City has with its new legal guidelines, means that black people no longer have to feel shame for wearing their hair they way the want to in public places. I hope that more protections on natural hair will be put in place across the country, because it doesn’t stop in New York City.

This is a great first-step towards progress on the issue, and I’m happy that people will feel freer to be natural wherever they are.