cover photo source: Getty Images
We want to begin this post by addressing something important: we are two white women writing this blog. This is not our history and these are not our stories. We are not here to take space, but rather, to shine light on the discrimination that has relentlessly afflicted and harmed BIPOC communities. While we can – to an extent – relate and empathize with the experience of having curly hair, we will never truly be able to comprehend or feel the oppression that people of color with curly hair have.
With that being said, we would like to cite our sources before sharing our thoughts:
- Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair – The Official Campaign of The CROWN Act Led by the CROWN Coalition
- Hair Politics: How discrimination against Black hair in schools impacts Black lives
- When Natural Hair Wins, Discrimination in School Loses
- Photo sources are noted under each picture.
We are so thankful for every texture of hair we have the honor and pleasure to work with. Perhaps more importantly, we are filled with gratitude to know the beautiful souls attached to these diverse curls. We hear your struggles, triumphs, goals, and so much more, and you allow us the privilege of aligning your inner identity with your outer identity. We will always be grateful to witness a curly in the moment of redefining the relationship with their hair.
Now that we ourselves are on the other side of the “flat iron” phase of many-a-curlie’s life, we often wonder why so many people feel so much shame for their hair – and further, why does it take so much time and emotion to identify with their natural hair? To answer this question, we have to go deep into the [greatly outdated] “roots” of hair discrimination and western beauty standards.
It’s no secret that curly hair discrimination isn’t about the hair; in fact, it is about race. Curly hair has been identified as “bad” in European society since the 17th and 18th centuries, when slaves were transported to America, as it was associated with Black people and African Americans. Labeling curly, coily, and kinky textured hair as being “unkempt” continued and evolved in the 19th century as the beauty industry deemed textured hair a problem that needed to be fixed 😑😑😑. By the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Black beauty industry was booming with billionaires like Madame CJ Walker profiting from inventions like chemical straighteners, the straightening comb, and other chemically altering hair care lines that were “safer” and more accessible for people to conform to western beauty industry standards.
In the 60’s and 70’s natural hair became politicalized and associated with Black power freedom movements. Wearing natural hair became more popular as these new concepts of natural hair were associated with Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court’s Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision upholding affirmative action, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the Black Panther Party, the Combahee River Collective, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
However, this era was short lived and in the 80s, society reverted to its old views and stereotypes associated with the natural hair takeover. Chemical straighteners and jheri curls rose in popularity while natural hair styling was outraged across the country. Administrations deemed textured hair “unprofessional,” and school policies began declaring natural hair “inappropriate” and would even go as far as to say it was a signal of “gang affiliation.”😑😑😑😑😑😑😑.
Thankfully, the 90s and 2000s slowly moved more towards people embracing their hair. It’s. About. Time. Companies have noticed a need for curly hair products that actually work and curly people are realizing that they have more options. Curly gurus, Youtubers, and social media bloggers have begun documenting their natural hair experience and posting “how to’s” on natural styling. People are beginning to gain knowledge on how to confidently style their hair.
Unfortunately Black and African Americans are widely still unable to wear their hair in its natural form due to discriminatory dress codes from companies and schools deeming naturally curly, coily, kinky, hair in any natural style as “unprofessional” and “unkempt.” You may remember in December 2018 when a video went viral of Andrew Johnsons, a black high school wrestler in New Jersey, when he was given an ultimatum by the referee to cut off his natural dreadlocks or forfeit his wrestling match due to his hair being “non compliant with regulations.” Johnsons’ hair had not been a problem in his previous match four days prior, but under immense pressure to perform, he decided to cut his hair.
Johnsons’ was the push that California needed to be the first state to pass the CROWN act. The CROWN act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, founded by senator Holly Mitchell, is a law that bans discrimination of natural hairstyles in schools and work places. Due to Johnson’s case, California was the first state to officially ban hair discrimination with the CROWN act in July 2019. Since then, the CROWN act has been passed in a total of seven states, one city and has been introduced in twenty two other states, although thirteen of those states didn’t pass the law.
If you agree that wearing your natural hair should be considered appropriate and professional, go to www.thecrownact.com to learn more about hair discrimination and sign the petition to end hair discrimination in the workplace and in schools. You can also find resources if you have experienced hair discrimination, resources to introduce the CROWN act to your city or state, or want access to the CROWN research study. You can also view what the CROWN act is currently achieving in the press section of their website.
Your hair is part of your identity and no one should be allowed to tell you that part of your authentic-self is unprofessional. We at the Curl Boutique stand with BIPOC people to say that curly hair is beautiful hair. We love you and your curls ♡