I am black and I have black hair.
I have black hair texture. Check it.
That hair texture is protected. And I don’t just mean by my dope-ass conditioner.
“…discrimination on the basis of black hair texture (an immutable characteristic) is prohibited by Title VII…”[Judge Adalberto Jordan, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, here]
What’s Title VII?
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
— Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964[from the American Association of University Women ‘Know Your Rights: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964‘]
It is a BLACK hair style. Much like cornrows, dreadlocks, and the afro.* BLACK. My hair texture is protected. My BLACK hair style is not.
“…discrimination on the basis of black hair texture (an immutable characteristic) is prohibited by Title VII, while adverse action on the basis of black hairstyle (a mutable choice) is not.”[Judge Adalberto Jordan, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, here]
These things are tricky, you see.
“We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn.”[Judge Adalberto Jordan, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, here]
So… my BLACK hair is protected as long as it’s not in a BLACK hair style? So, if I wear my BLACK hair in twists, cornrows, dreadlocks, an afro, box braids, micro braids… you know, a BLACK hairstyle, I could be unhired, fired, and/or derided for “unprofessional hair”? Because that’s what we’re talking about here. The US Court of Appeals decided a case brought forward by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a black woman with dreadlocks.
The case, which originated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, involved a black job applicant, Chastity Jones, whose job offer was rescinded “when she refused to cut off her dreadlocks.”
The company, a claims processor in Mobile, Ala., had a grooming policy in place at the time requiring all personnel “to be dressed and groomed in a manner that projects a professional and businesslike image.”
According to the opinion, the policy also said that hairstyles should convey “a business/professional image” and that “excessive hairstyles or unusual colors” were not permitted.[from Dreadlocks Are Not a Protected Characteristic, by John Brackin, Courthouse News Service]
Dreadlocks don’t “[project]a professional and businesslike image”? Why is that? Why would dreadlocks – a not uncommon BLACK hairstyle- be “excessive”? Why is Becky with the lowlights, the highlights, and asymmetric haircut a professional, but Ms. Jones with dreadlocks is not?If what informs a “grooming policy” is white-is-right, with non-white hairstyles being deemed “unprofessional” or “excessive”, can one really draw a line between hair texture and hair style as in Ms. Jones’ case? If a hairstyle is considered characteristically BLACK, is it a mutable characteristic? _____
*Do not step to me with your Marc Jacobs I-don’t-see-color bullshit.
Featured image from Pixabay (public domain)