Once again hair has been a hot topic in both the national and international press. No, it's NOT about Kylie Jenner and her new hair color. Instead its about how your hair style can prevent you from getting a job or from receiving a well deserved education.
On Thursday September 15th, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit that was presented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a company who later terminated Ms. Jones for not complying with their policy. Catastrophe Management Solutions requires that employees be dressed and groomed " in a manner that projects a professional and business like image". When Ms. Jones decided not to remove her locks, the company than withdrew it's offer and she was terminated for not complying. This ruling allows employers to legally band hair styles such as locks. This could be the start to something even bigger in the future.
In my mind, I'm questioning what it actually means to "project a professional and business like image"? Perhaps it means that my hair should be poker board straight. You know, when I turn my head left and right, my hair moves with me type of thing! I wonder if the objection would've been the same if Ms. Jones had worn her hair in an afro or an intricately braided style, or even twists?
This same issue is happening to school age children, and yes even here in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. This past July, parents and students of Butler Traditional High School in Louisville were informed of the new dress code policies. Students were no longer allowed to wear their hairstyles that were considered "extreme, distracting or attention-getting. The policy went on to state that "No dreadlocks, cornrolls(not my spelling), twists, mohawks, no jewelry worn in the hair. No braids will be allowed on males". To be fair, the student handbook has now been updated.
It's been my personal experience that what is different always seems to draw attention and at times will be distracting. Of course, I'm speaking from experience. As a woman who loves hair and fashion, I'm constantly changing my look. I get the usual questions like, 'how are you able to do so many different things with you hair'? Or, "the entire time I was sitting behind you I was so distracted by how beautiful your braids were!" There are some things that just can't be helped. It's legitimately in my DNA to have this love and passion for my textured hair in whatever way it may come in. Braids, locs, twist or even short cropped cuts on women wasn't something that just recently came onto the scene. It's always been apart of our beautiful and rich culture.
Yes, I can identify with the students at Butler High School and in Pretoria, South Africa because I too was told that in order to fully participate in my cosmetology major, I would need to remove my braids. This was back in 2002. I'd just started my first few months of beauty school. My hair at the time was in braids, as it had been for the summer. When I asked why I had to do this, it was brought to my attention that it would allow me to fully participate with in my clinical. As cosmetology students it was required we spend 300 hours practicing on each other. My instructor was basically telling me that I'll fail the course if I didn't comply and remove my braids so that my hair could be shampooed! As a 17 year old student, it left a major impression as you can still see is with me to this day! I remember going to the salon having my glorious afro relaxed in order to complete school. I had so many emotions going through my head at that time. Anger, sadness, confusion just to name a few.
What has all of this taught me? In 2016 Afro textured hair is still and I'm assume will always be a topic for discussion and misunderstanding. It's unfortunate that our beautiful crown of hair can prevent us from getting the job or education of a lifetime. As always we have to be twice as good, work twice as hard and be twice as smart.