Hair is something that defines our identities. It is so important to us that we closely associate it with our confidence and self-esteem. We look in the mirror every day before stepping out, just to make sure our hair looks good. We spend a good amount of our hard earned money in maintaining our hair because it’s essential to our image.
But have you ever stopped to wonder why sometimes you can’t rock your natural hair to work? Why you would be considered “unprofessional” because of the natural state of your hair? Why a child can be sent home from school because of their locs or braids? Well, the simple answer to those pertinent questions is, institutional or systemic racism.
In a nutshell, institutional racism is where certain practices and policies are enforced by institutions or bodies in order to disenfranchise particular racial or ethnic groups. Such practices are known to act as barriers in career advancements and in seeking employment opportunities.
Did you know that since 2019, only 6 states in the United States passed laws decriminalizing natural hair? Prior to that wearing your hair in its natural form would be wrong to say the least. Being yourself could simply get you in trouble. Wearing your natural hair could mean you only get to the employer’s door, but not in the office. Embracing your natural and splendid crown could deny you opportunities. Interesting enough, that still happens in most states and countries around the world.
Through all this, however, what I fail to understand about hair discrimination is, how do you measure professionalism based on hair? How do you discern that someone is qualified based on hair texture, rather than their resume? How do these 2 aspects correlate? How does that same person, all of a sudden, become qualified once they relax their hair? How come only Afro hair in its natural state, is unprofessional and not any other kind of hair? How does a student become smarter when they chemically treat their hair with brain damaging toxins?
Many questions linger in my mind when it comes to this particular subject. I always wish that someone could connect the dots for me, but there never seems to be anyone who obliges to that offer. No single person has been able to point me to any concrete study that warrants those bias conclusions. All in all, I find solace in knowing that our collective efforts and voices will one day help us overcome and completely end hair discrimination. I find strength in knowing that, with legislation like the Crown Act, a much brighter future awaits us and the generations to come.
I find hope in knowing that one day, black men and women all around the world, will be able to wear their hair the way they want without a care in the world. I find joy in knowing that young black girls will be able to go to school without being harassed because of their hair. I find purpose in knowing that more black people are coming up with healthy natural hair care products that do good for our hair.
I find peace in knowing that great women like Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza are at the forefront of fighting institutional Racism and the senseless killing of unarmed black people. Together, they co-founded the Black Lives Matter Movement, back in 2013 after the killing of Trayvon Martin. Today, they still match forward undeterred and unshaken in their quest for justice. Such impeccable leaders exhibiting such tenacity and determination, water our soles with patience and hope.
Do not remove the kinks from your hair, remove them from your brains – Marcus Garvey