In 2017, I posted a blog entitled, “A Bias I Never Thought About” which discussed an implicit bias against hair styles, most notably, Afros, Dreads, Twists, and Braids. It was based on a lecture given by Professor Wendy Green who is an expert on discrimination based on hair style.
This all came back to me when I read an article appearing on CNN that Senator Mitchell had introduced into the California Legislature, Senate Bill 188 which would define discrimination based on race as “…including, but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles….” (SB 188).
On the surface, one might wonder what is the need for this?
The answer lies partially in my previous blog post which noted that discrimination has occurred in employment based on hair styles and when the job applicants have sued, the courts have denied the claims, stating that such discrimination is NOT illegal.
It seems that the tipping point was what happened to a high school wrestler late last year:
On December 19, 2018, a predominantly White crowd in a Buena, New Jersey high school gymnasium watched as a White referee demanded a Black 16-year-old varsity wrestler cut his dreadlocks (“locks”) or forfeit the match. […] Mr. Johnson lost something much more valuable that night than his win could replace; he was denied the freedom to compete while wearing one of several protective hairstyles essential to his hair’s health and growth. ( Senate Floor Analysis, April 11, 2019 at page 8.) (201920200SB188_Senate Floor Analyses_ (4) )
Senator Mitchell further explains:
Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson’s dilemma extends far beyond the high school gymnasium. Black hair is more fragile and susceptible to breakage than the White population, and hair damage and loss is exacerbated by the consistent use of harmful styling practices like chemical relaxers and heat straightening. Thus, braids, locs [sic], and twists (collectively “Protective Hairstyles”) are necessary for healthy Black hair maintenance. As many Black employees will attest, the struggle to maintain what much of society has deemed a “professional image” while protecting the health and growth of their hair remains a defining aspect of their work experience. More often than not, Black employees choose to conform to the “professional image” at the expense of healthy hair.
In an effort to advance the acceptance of Protective Hairstyles within corporate culture, [SB 188] will make it illegal for employers to enforce purportedly race neutral grooming policies that disproportionately impact persons of color – and Black women in particular. (Id.)
To combat this implicit bias, SB 188 would add a section to both California Education Code 212.1 providing as an unlawful practice, discrimination based on race defined as :
(a) “Race or ethnicity” includes ancestry, color, ethnic group identification, and ethnic background.
(b) “Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.
(c) “Protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.
and California Government Code section 12926 to include as an unlawful practice, discrimination based on race defined as:
w) “Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.
(x) “Protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.
On April 22, 2019, the Senate bill was passed by the California Senate and is now before the state Assembly.
Stay tuned for further developments!
… Just something to think about.
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