Black women raise awareness for hair discrimination in the workplace

Black hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks and twist are often not allowed in professional work settings

When starting a new career, you think about the skills you must have to be looked at as a professional.

But, what about your hair?

For many, their regular hairstyle is enough. However the same can’t be said for Black women.

“If I want to get a job on air, then I have to wear my hair the way that is [going to] get me in the door,” Whitney Miller, Cincinnati-based news reporter, said.

It’s a reality most Black women face — hair discrimination.

But what does that mean exactly?

Ebony Miller, owner of Crown Me hair salon, describes it as...

“Anytime someone makes you feel like something about your hair isn’t professional or isn’t deemed appropriate, especially when it comes natural out of your hair,” Ebony said.

Coming from a Jamaican background, it’s normal for Ebony to wear and see traditionally Black hairstyles.

“I grew up wearing braids in high school. There’s pictures of me always wearing braids,” Whitney said.

Therefore, when she chose to pursue a journalism career, instead of combing through her resume, she combed out her hairstyle.

“Once I was in the door, once I had the job, I didn’t want to rock the boat ever with switching my hair,” Whitney said. “And I learned you had to ask every time you wanted to switch your hair.”

Hair discrimination is not always with ill-intentions.

Whitney said she learned that earlier on in her career when she decide to change her hair one day.

“I got a text message saying, ‘I wish you would have told me or at least talk to me about the style before you went on TV with it,’” Whitney said. “It was just at that point I understood. Oh okay I don’t own my look. Someone else owns my look. And no one said they didn’t like it but I understood it wasn’t liked.”

Marquita Taplin, owner of Diva Dus by Marquita, said many of her clients experience the same treatment, especially in the military.

“I just had a client actually this past weekend and she just wanted a simple, very very simple flat twist style and from the picture, some of the twists were [kind of] slanted,” Marquita Taplin said. “[She asked] ‘Can we try not to slant them as much?’ A little slant is okay but too much design would be too much for her. It would then become too much and unprofessional.”

So, how do we end hair discrimination against Black women?

Whitney said she believes the solution is simple — having more representation.

That way, everyone, even from a young age, is able to see Black women wear their hairstyle the way they want.

“There are little girls at home that have hair growing out of their hair that look like this right now,” Miller said. “They need to look on TV and see a woman that is actually doing a job that they might want to do and wearing their hair they way that they see it. And that way, they can feel comfortable being themselves.”

In a move to bring a stop to this discrimination, Black women are pushing for The Crown Act to become law.

The act aims to end the denial of jobs and educational opportunities because of someone’s hair texture or style. So far, seven states have approved it.

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