Was It Our Hair? Or Was It You?

For most working people, the expectation is that you’ll be evaluated on how well you perform the tasks you were hired to do. You’re either good at your job or you’re not, right? For Black women, it’s not always that absolute. Many of us have also been judged, reprimanded, or even fired for the way we wear our hair to work. It’s called hair discrimination, and in 43 states it’s perfectly legal. Each of the six women you’ll hear from in this story describes unpleasant experiences on the job, and they’re advocating the passage of the Crown Act in every state, a vital piece of legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against a person for the way they wear their hair to work, whether that’s natural or in protective styles. Their experiences vary, but their message is the same: We are not our hair, and our hair is our own. …

Women have always—always—had to deal with societal pressures to look a certain way. But if you’re Black in America, the stakes of that pressure are higher: Conformity is, often, a means of survival. While it’s true that in 2020 you probably won’t see an ad hawking racialized standards of professionalism as blatantly, the insidious policing of Black hair by workplaces—just like the violent policing of Black people by law enforcement—is very much alive and well.

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