If one could come up with an analogy for the term ‘discrimination’, it would probably be a virus. A virus affects people of certain metabolic types. Similarly, certain sections of society are subjected to discrimination. Having mutants posing to serve the purpose of the pathogen depending upon the strength of the variant; discrimination has its variants, so to say racism, sexism, ageism, just to name a few.
Reading about people getting thrown out of jobs, getting killed, children not allowed to continue schooling and so on, just on the basis of what colour their skin is, what their gender is, what their ethnicity is, is just very baffling. The fragility of the human race is proven, thus making them feel threatened by diversity.
For this article, let’s restrict the conversation to racial discrimination.
With the Black Lives Matter Movement, magnifying the issue of the injustice that is done with Black people, has made citizens acutely aware of the severity of the issue. Their ethnicity and skin colour is mainly what makes them subjected to the acts of racism. One of the more overlooked casual instances of racism is hair.
Their self-worth is literally deduced on the basis of how they wear their hair. Yes, you read that right. We are not running out of topics to write about, this is an actual issue faced by many Black Americans, especially women.
Black Americans hailing from Africa have a deep rooted culture and heritage which has also induced beautiful and very distinct forms of hairstyles and hair textures like Locs, Bantu Knots, twists, natural curls,dreadlocks to name a few. Just like their skin, their hair is also a major part of the expression of their culture and heritage. Their natural hair textures are very distinct and unique to their ethnicity.
There have been reports regarding the discrimination against the Black people for their hairstyles. There are standard rules of dress code formulated by the white Americans, including maintaining straight hair in public vicinities like the workplace and schools. For not abiding by these, black women are thrown out of jobs, passed over interviews, children sent back home from school, because they did not conform to the standard code of having straight hair.
Basically, not abiding by the standards and expectations set by white people is considered to be unprofessional.
Their natural hair texture is considered to be unattractive and “unkempt” and disciplined on the same. The advertising and marketing of straight hair and skin lightening through the cosmetology industry stiffens the concept of the appearance being close to whiteness being the “Premier” form of beauty. Due to this, 80% of Black women end up conforming to these regulations by changing their hairstyles and hair textures since they fear losing their jobs or not being accepted by the society.
We have to understand that their hair texture is simply the way their hair grows and it requires intricate hair treatment to permanently get them straightened. They have to undergo straightening and certain chemical processes which are known to be very harmful for the body and can disrupt the production of hormones, also causing breathing problems like asthma. Not only is this change physically painful, but mentally as well since this is not the way they want themselves to be represented. At the same time, these treatments are extremely costly.
One of the widespread incidents that garnered the media’s attention with regards to discriminating against black people for their hair was when a high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was made to cut his ‘locs’ or withdraw from an important match. There were other reports of girls thrown out of jobs because of their hair textures. And such behavior is still legal across many states in the US.
Therefore, to safeguard their interests, the CROWN act legislation was brought upon, with California and New York being the first states to put them in place. To create a respectful and open atmosphere, the law aims at outlawing the denial of employment opportunities solely on the basis of the hairstyles and also extends protection to hair texture and protective styles in state employment, housing and education codes. Till date, 8 states across the USA have put this law in place.
A lot of the regulations that are put in place in the policies of companies or adhering to a certain norm of dressing that would only cater to a certain yet revered section of society is a reflection of the racist mindset that has been grilled in through generations on end. With such laws coming in place can really help in modifying these policies.
For many decades, black people do not wear their natural hair with the fear of being deemed as an outcast. But with the aim of wiping out this fear and to bring in new reforms, and embrace diversity, statistics state that over the past few years, black women have started representing their true authentic self by wearing their natural hair without the fear of perception about them.
As a concluding statement, it is important to shed light on embracing diversity and letting it be a dividing factor in our community. We need to accept their long standing culture and heritage rather than forcing them into conforming to the beauty standards that deem fit to follow through.
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