This year, more states are weighing measures to prohibit hair discrimination in work or school settings, joining 14 other states that have enacted similar laws over the past few years.
For decades, Black Americans have been villainized and discriminated against because of their natural hair, whether they’re showcasing their hair texture or wearing protective styles such as braids, twists or dreadlocks. In many cases, employers have demanded Black people cut or change their hair or fired them for not doing so.
“(Black people are asking), ‘How can we be ourselves at work?’ In 2022, it’s still a struggle, and it has a lot to do with policies,” said Patricia O’Brien-Richardson, an associate professor of teaching at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “Thankfully we are moving towards a situation where this won’t be an issue, but people can still be fired until this becomes a formalized act.”