Roommates, us black girls have to protect our hair from harsh weather and breakage, but we will no longer have to protect it from harsh employers! The New York City Commission on Human Rights has created new guidelines related to racial discrimination based on a person’s hair or hairstyle at work, in school or in public spaces.
According to The New York Times, the guidelines give legal ‘recourse’ to individuals who have, in any way, experienced harassment, punishment, demotion, or termination because of the texture or style of their hair. The city commission can impose penalties up to $250,000 on institutions that are found in violation of the guidelines.
Based on the argument that hair is directly related to one’s race, the guidelines emerged after the investigations of two Bronx businesses, as well as complaints from workers at an Upper East Side hair salon and restaurant in the Howard Beach, Queens.
There is currently no legal precedent in federal court for the protection of hair, and these proposed guidelines have been said to be the first of their kind.
There is nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commissioner and chairwoman of the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
“They are based on the racist standards of appearance,” Malalis continued. “They perpetuate racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”
Hair discrimination affects people of all ages, and in various industries. Just in the past few years, news outlets have covered instances in which black students in particular have had to sacrifice the integrity of their hair or were punished.
Andrew Johnson, a black high school student, was told to cutoff his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match in December. Last August, an 11-year-old student in Terrytown, L.A., was sent home from school for wearing braids. In 2017, twin sisters, Mya and Deana Cook, were forced to serve detentions because Massachusetts school district officials said their braids violated their school’s grooming policy.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights hopes that under these new guidelines, New York City will be the first to largely decrease the number of instances like these, and inspire other cities to put similar guidelines in place.