Black Hair Gets Stamp Of Approval

Black Hair Gets Stamp Of Approval
Natasha Bone of Brooklyn locked her hair in 2006. (Photo: Natasha Bony)
Natasha Bone of Brooklyn locked her hair in 2006. (Photo: Natasha Bony)

BROOKLYN — New Yorkers who loc their hair are now protected under the city’s racial discrimination laws.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights announced new guidance to protect the rights of New Yorkers with hairstyles related to their racial, cultural or ethnic identities. The 10-page document outlines the city’s Human Right’s Law expansion to include any bias against people who wear locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots fades and afros and the right to “keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

“Bias against the curly textured hair of people of African descent is as old as this country and a form of race-based discrimination,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “I have not used chemical relaxers to straighten my hair since I was in high school, and I have experienced disapproval for not straightening it. There are too many places, from schools to workplaces and beyond, where the idea that the hair that grows on the heads of people of African descent is not acceptable.”

The expansion comes amid seven city cases against discrimination on the basis of natural hairstyles. Violators can be fined up to $250,000 as per violation, according to the Commission’s spokesperson, Alicia McCauley.

Employees can no longer require staff to get approval to change hairstyles under the new law, as long as you’re a company with four or fewer employees. Nor can employers force staff to relax or straighten their hair.

Gym and dance clubs owners must also adhere to the new regulation, along with housing providers and schools—both private and public.

Last year, a high school wrestler in neighboring New Jersey was forced to cut his hair during a match, inciting a public outcry.

The U.S. Department of Defense has experienced a bit of a quandary over which hairstyles they’ll permit. The department initiated a ban on Black hairstyles in April 2014 then rolled the ruling back months later following intense backlash.

The U.S. Navy changed its policy to allow culturally styled hairstyles July 2018, a year after the U.S. Army made revisions to their hairstyle guidelines.

The new measure impacts black-owned businesses as well. Brooklyn’s natural hair salons, some who say they’ve lost clients because of businesses or agencies who frown upon cultural hairstyles.

Loctician Lisa Mulzac of Styled by Lisa Mulzac in Prospect Lefferts Gardens said she’s had to cut the locks of long-time clients joining the Army and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

“Too many people have had to compromise their own beauty for that European look,” said Mulzac, whose salon prices start at $75.

“I welcome this new law,” she added.

Anyone that feels they’ve been the victim of discrimination on the basis of their hair can contact Commission at 311 or at 718-722-3131 to file a complaint. Victims can file a complaint within a year of the discriminatory act.