Recently the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was not discriminatory to refuse to hire a black woman because she would not cut her dreadlocks.
The lawsuit was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Chasity Jones. Chasity was hired to work at Catastrophe management Solutions as a customer service rep but she could only begin work upon cutting her dreadlocks to comply with the office grooming policy. When she refused, she was informed that her offer of employment had been revoked, and as a result a racial discrimination suit was filed.
Now some people would believe that dreads are not “suitable” for the workplace. However, when and why did this principle arise? People of color have worn dreadlocks for years some for religious purposes, some for style. There is an unfortunate stigma that dreadlocks are unkept, unclean, smell or are just intimidating to some, as society has portrayed those who have dreadlocks to be “weird” “potheads” violent, dangerous, goths, skaters or what have you.
I can recall many personal instances where individuals in my family were told that wearing dreads were not professional and would have others judge you. As many Rastafarians would explain, their beliefs in not cutting their hair stem back to even before the days of Jesus of Nazareth, where many people would grow their hair as a part of a vow or covenant of purity that they would enter into with God. One of them being from the Old Testament, the Story of Samson
who was given Supernatural Strength by God in order to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats such as killing a lion, slaying an entire army with only the jawbone of an ass, and destroying a pagan temple. Samson [however] had two vulnerabilities—his attraction to untrustworthy women and his hair, without which he was powerless.
Another example, Native Americans who believe according to some that “ the Native American tradition has long-held that hair is an outward projection of the nervous system, acting much in the way of ‘human antennae.’”
It would be great to know the point in time when the manner in which someone’s hair grew naturally from their head was considered inappropriate. Could it have been Bob Marley, who spoke of the world’s injustices against people through his “controversial” lyrics? There is a reason why dreads are deemed inappropriate and the common nucleus that I found is that it began with people of color and for those who did not understand it, it was considered appalling and/or savage like.
This opinion however does not only rest with dreadlocks. I know many women of color who were raised or who still believe that wearing the natural curls which grow from their heads is inappropriate or not formal enough for certain events or situations. I know because I was one of those women. I recall after graduating from law school and working as a law clerk, I was told that it was not appropriate to wear my natural curls to work.
Today, young ladies in South Africa are protesting for their right to wear their hair naturally to school in lieu of straightening it and to look “appropriate.” According to the Washington Post:
[S}taff members at the prestigious Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa’s administrative capital had taken to telling black students to “fix” their hair, according to some current and former pupils. Exactly what “fix” meant depended on who was issuing the order, the young women said: Some were told to use chemical straighteners, while others got a reminder about the school rule limiting cornrows, dreadlocks and braids to a centimeter or less in diameter.
The ladies attending Pretoria High School have made it a point to stand up and point out that wearing their hair naturally is not a threat and nor should it be viewed as such.
On the other hand, there are also instances where my girlfriends are deemed more “self-aware” or conscious because they choose to wear faux locks or their hair in its natural state. What does our hair and the way in which we wear or style it have to do with who we are. Why are dreads or certain hairstyles worn by people of color considered a threat?
Boxer Braids or as and many of my friends better know them now as cornrows, Poetic Justice Braids are currently trending. Marc Jacobs even had the models in his fashion show during fashion week wear colored dreads down the cat walk…we can talk about that another day. Let’s not talk about how certain hairstyles that originated with people of color are only appropriate after it has been deemed “appropriate” by another…
We use different hair styles to express ourselves but what is so wrong about expressing who I am because the natural curl of my hair is ME.
- Comay, Joan; Brownrigg, Ronald (1993). Who’s Who in the Bible: The Old Testament and the Apocrypha, The New Testament. New York: Wing Books. pp. Old Testament, 316–317.