On Decriminalizing Black Hair

The kids and I are just getting back from Miami, and as a new law was passed and blasted across headlines, I took my kerchief and tied it around my fro. It pushed the blonde pieces back and laid my baby hair forward. Finally, I muttered. Later that evening, I took conditioner and the denman brush to River and Oak’s curls and rinsed it cold so that their curls would form in their own unique splendor.

Conditioning and rinsing post-beach curls is a home-care standard. River complained about it not being Sunday (aka hair day). And so I stopped when my hands could sort of ring my fingers through, and I let her shake it out. Two nights later, I put two braids in on each side, and  placed clips in the front to hold her bangs down. That night in bed, we talked about Oak wearing braids again when it gets warmer in a few weeks. He questioned if people would still mistake him for a girl. Internally, I questioned if it somehow to others, the style hardened him. Though I know, he always looks like a sweet and gentle person with his warm-weather hair. Hair and the many ways we not only live with it, but celebrate it, is part of our minute by minute walk in life.

The new law states,

“Anti-Black bias also includes discrimination based on characteristics and cultural practices associated with being Black, including prohibitions on natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with Black people.1 Bans or restrictions on natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people are often rooted in white standards of appearance and perpetuate racist stereotypes that Black hairstyles are unprofessional. Such policies exacerbate anti-Black bias in employment, at school, while playing sports, and in other areas of daily living.

The New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.2 For Black people, this includes the right to maintain natural hair,3 treated or untreated hairstyles4 such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed5 state.”

Over the last few years, I’ve carved a  space on here for natural hair. Not just because its been fun to show my hair or talk through styles I am learning, but because exposure and access often leads to a heightened awareness of discrimination and biasses. In my book, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to it. It includes my story, a how-to, a lifestyle take away, and that of someone I admire.

In reality, my hair has always been for me. And that has been in part due to my own privilege. The lack of an office to go to from 9-5 that may see my wild and curly fro as offensive or unkempt. I have been able to curl it up, pull it out, shift it, color it, and wear it as I wish. All the while, showcasing it in this space.

While New York’s new law may seem small to others, to many of us who are very well aware of the unspoken racism and biases that can be enacted in any social space or work space, this law is necessary. It’s necessary for our children. It’s necessary for us. It’s about time.

More on hair right here

You can read a full article from New York Times right here

(Photo c/o Atelier Doré)



4 thoughts on “On Decriminalizing Black Hair

  • Reply Jennifer February 23, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Love. Love. Love.

    • Reply latonya February 24, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you for reading, Jennifer.

  • Reply Paula July 30, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Your hair, your style, so beautiful. P.S.: I must know: what lipstick are you wearing? It looks so beautiful with your skin, which is about the same color as mine. I’d love to copy you if you don’t mind.

  • Reply blackwell September 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

    Very nice article, just what I wanted t᧐ find.

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