On Monday February 18, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced new guidelines banning discrimination on the basis of hair.
According to these guidelines, New Yorkers have the right to “preserve natural hair or hairstyles closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identity.” It specifically refers to “natural hair treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”
“In New York City, we want to make the bold statement that these prohibitions on hairstyles that are closely associated with black people are a form of race discrimination,” the Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn Malalis told BuzzFeed News. “They really fail to consider the toll these bans take on black identity.”
According to BuzzFeed News, city officials say it’s meant to protect against prejudicial views that certain hairstyles aren’t appropriate for formal occasions or professional settings. However, it will also protect people in schools, restaurants and other businesses. This is deliberately meant to work against the inherent prejudice of euro-centric beauty standards.
“There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” Malalis told the New York Times. “They are based on racist standards of appearance,” and “racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”
Thanks to this ban any New York resident who has experienced discrimination can file a complaint with the City Commission, who can impost a fine up to $250,000. They’re currently investigation seven complaints of discrimination based on hair. While some residents have complained about losing their jobs for wearing their natural hair down, others said they were forced to wear their braided hair up while employees of other ethnicities did not have to put their hair up according to BuzzFeed.
This is one more step in the right direction to alter how society defines beauty.
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