As of February 18,
The New York City Commision on Human Rights instituted the law after recognizing a growing discrimination problem in the form of hairstyles. Some employers and schools have deemed hairstyles such as afros, dread locs, and braids to be unruly and unprofessional asking their employees and students to ‘conform’ by wearing their hair in a bun or straightening it.
Natural hair influencer Kilsi Rodriguez is firm in her belief that natural hair is in fact professional.
“I wear blazers, dresses, buttons downs, you name it, with my hair out,” she said. “All I want is for my followers and event guests to feel comfortable with their natural hair but society hasn’t allowed it, until now.”
The NYCHRL document addressing natural hair is important because it is specific, informative and most importantly empathetic toward the diversity of black hair.
Not only was “natural hair” as a general term addressed, the NYCHRL included specific hair styles that will familiarize employers that natural hair is broad and may include various hair shapes and styles. According to the document, natural hair may consist of “locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”
The document also addressed that wearers of specific hair styles may embrace protective styling. By specifically using the term “protective styling” it hit a nerve, but in a good way. As black people continue to navigate through proper hair care, we understand what black hair needs in order to stay healthy. In this case, the document makes certain that everyone else understands the critical needs of our personal health.
It is explained in the document that protective styles are a means to maintain hair health, be a part of our cultural identity and be worn for any personal, financial, medical, religious, or spiritual reasons. Protective styles are further described as braids, locs or extensions of various types that are integrated into an individual’s hair (e.g. box braids or weaves), wigs, or covering one’s hair with a headscarf or wrap.”
LaToya Dove, 4c hair influencer, is overjoyed that the new law protects those who choose to wear their natural hair.
“I’m ecstatic to see that New York City has finally recognized that people get discriminated against due to their natural hair and need protection,” Dove explained. “On the other hand it’s wild that it’s only one city that has made this law, there are a million more to go!”
Even though NYC is the first to implement this law, it’s great to see an effort made to inform the public about this issue. This law educates the public on black hair and demands that professional settings conform their policies to fit who we are, instead of the other way around.
By conforming to fit the “ideal” image, black people have been forced to cut their hair on the spot, straighten their hair to a point of damage, endured scalp burns, and grew up to be adults without ever knowing their natural hair type. The list goes on. There is even reference to the 2012 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology that links hair relaxers to an increase in uterine fibroids, which impact Black women at a disproportionate rate.
// Related Article: My type 4 hair Journey //
Trying to conform to the idealisms of what our hair should look like not only damages our hair and body, but it has psychological effects as well. According to the NYCHRL, in an effort to conform to white and European standards of beauty, issues of emotional distress, including dignitary and stigmatic harms can be a factor in our daily lives. This leads black people to be “more likely than white people to spend more time on their hair, spend more money on professional styling appointments and products, and experience anxiety related to hair.”
By addressing this issue through law, it forces employers and the public to better understand what we have to go through in order to reach these goals of idealism in public and professional spaces. As black women, these are things we have to deal with on the daily basis and most of these facts are well-known in the black community. However, it’s good to see action toward making these issues well-known to the broader public.
By implementing this law, lifestyle influencer Brandi Harrell believes it’s finally our time to truly be who we are.
“No more wearing masks of any kind to be accepted in the world!” Brandi said. “No more altering who we are to make others feel comfortable.”
What’s your thoughts on the new NYC law? Tell us below.