Opinion: Hair discrimination isn't cool

Juliette Fairley

Dear Co-Workers:

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As you are aware, we live in a very multicultural America where people have dreadlocks, afros, frizzlets, waves, swirls, ringlets and all kinds of hair variations. These hairstyles contribute to the wonderful diversity in our society. There is even a proposed law called the Crown Act that would outlaw discrimination against people who wear natural hairstyles in the workplace. There are also children's books that have been written to minimize the negative view people have of curly, natural hair.

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Of course, many women of color would love to have been born with naturally straight hair but it wasn't their choice. Given the progress that our society has made around hair differences, I thought you should be aware of some comments made today at the water cooler. A Caucasian woman talked about how when she permed her hair, it got very curly and she didn't like it because the curls were so tight against her head that she felt unattractive.
On the surface, the comments were funny because of her facial expressions but the negative view of curly hair could have been misinterpreted by workers of color as insensitive at best and racist at worst. Some people could have had their feelings hurt by the comments and felt they were 'bad' because of the kinky or curly hair they were born with.

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I am undeterred by these types of comments but for others in the office who are born with curly or kinky hair, the comments could have made them feel unwelcome and even ashamed of themselves. Can we do better?

Sincerely,

Your curly-haired co-worker

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Juliette Fairley is a legal and financial investigative reporter who writes about politics, law, corruption, and many other topics. She is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Chicago City Wire, Legal Newsline, Southern California Record, St. Louis Record, New York Daily News, Dallas Express, Dallas City Wire, the Lone Star Standard, The Epoch Times, Newsmax, and many other publications.

New York, NY
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