Twists, locs, braids, fades, blowouts, even the standard Quo Vadis will no longer be questioned in New York thanks to new legal guidance of its human rights policy.
The city is taking a stand against discrimination based on hairstyle and released a new set of guidelines on Monday.
The guidelines are expected to affect Black people in particular.
“In New York City, we want to make the bold statement that these prohibitions on hairstyles that are closely associated with Black people are a form of race discrimination,” Carmalyn Malalis, chair of the city’s Human Rights Commission, told BuzzFeed News. “They really fail to consider the toll these bans take on Black identity.”
The city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, who herself wears a natural style, applauded the move. McCray wears natural hair.
“Bias against the curly textured hair of people of African descent is as old as this country and a form of race-based discrimination,” McCray, the wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement.
Hair discrimination can affect employment, school, sports and other parts of life, the commission wrote in its announcement.
“The New York City Human Rights Law protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities,” the commission said in its statement. “For Black people, this includes the right to maintain natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”
The commission in its statement also gave examples of such discrimination, including public school barring a student from playing sports because his locs reach past his shoulders, a children’s dance company requiring students wear their hair only in a tight bun or a nightclub refusing entry to a patron because her hair does not meet its dress code.
Right now, the commission is reviewing seven cases of potential hair discrimination that have taken place in New York City. In some cases, Black residents said employers have forced them to wear their braided hair up while other employees faced no such rule. In other cases, Black people were forced to alter their hair if they wanted to continue to work, BuzzFeed reported.
The commission also was motivated by the case of a New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut his dreadlocks before competing, Malalis told Buzzfeed.