Fierce

After A Black High School Wrestling Student Had His Hair Sheared Off, New Jersey Passes Law About Hair Discrimination

Get ready New Jersey! Your workplaces just got a whole lot more inclusive and curly.

Natural hair discrimination or discrimination based on hair texture has been one of the greatest forms of social injustice against Black people for much too long. Found worldwide, hair discrimination targets Black people with afro-texture hair. The issue strikes at afro-textured hair early in school and unfortunately follows us into the professional world where Black curls have often been deemed unprofessional, ugly, and unclean. 

New Jersey is throwing out hair discrimination with the trash this month.

The state is the latest in the United States to join the ranks of other states working to banning natural hair discrimination. The new bill makes the state of New Jersey the third in our country to enforce a law that requires workplaces to allow hair of all types in the workplace. In the past two years both California and New York have instituted the changes.

The measure, legally known as S3945, alters the state’s Law Against Discrimination, which protects people from discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race or other categories.  In its changes, the measure works to prevent discrimination of people on the basis of  “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” You can bet your bottom dollar this protection includes like twists or braids which means say hello to more locs at your local Starbucks, chicas!

New Jersey is a state that has dealt with issues related to Black hair discrimination frequently.

Last December in 2018,  Black high school wrestler Andrew Johnson in New Jersey was forced to cut his locks by a referee just before a match. The news made national headlines and prompted outcries of discrimination throughout social media. This month, the state legislature introduced a bill that would similarly update New Jersey’s discrimination law to include protection for “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.”

Democratic State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight said she felt compelled to push for the change when she saw the humiliation and discrimination that Johnson endured during a meet. 

Speaking to NJ.com, McKnight said she cried when she first saw the images of Johnson’s hair being cut off.  “He had to choose between, do I move forward with something that I love to do versus with my hair that I love. He had to choose which one. That should not have been a choice,” she said. “This is a movement to protect Black citizens from systematic discrimination because of a hairstyle. We’re more than that. This is a civil rights issue.”

Black men and women are too often forced to change their looks and behaviors to account of the Eurocentric standards that we have enforced to forcefully in our country. As more Black people embrace their natural hair and beauty, it’s important to allow space for this. Particularly in education- associated institutions related to after school activities. Mostly because doing otherwise will only prompt more kids to try to conform to impossible to achieve standards.

To keep up with the movement Check out these curly chicas and their spot-on tips!

“Find a natural hair salon.” – Vilma Peguero

When you need your wisdom teeth removed, you don’t go to a philosopher, do you? Same logic applies to hair. Black Latina Negra Bella co-founder Dania Peguero would had never begun her natural hair care journey if it hadn’t been for the salon experts who taught her how!

“Give your hair some loving.” – Alba Ramos

Having beautiful, healthy, shiny-looking curls takes time and love. But it is totally worth it. Sun Kiss Alba was the first person to share with me the basics of curly hair care, and I’m pretty sure you’ll love her videos, too! She covers everything from maintenance and cleansing to cute hairstyles, just for curly hair.

“YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” – Carolina Contreras

Miss Rizos isn’t just a beauty blogger, she’s an activist who works day and night to educate women from all over the globe on how to care for their pajones (she heads up a natural hair salon in Santo Domingo), as well as how to embrace who they are, culturally and racially, with absolute pride. Not always an easy task, but definitely a rewarding one.

“Clap your hair.” – Ona Diaz-Santin

Wait, what? Yeah, clapping your hands with your hair between you palms after styling and when your hair is fully dry is Ona’s, a.k.a. The Hair Saint’s, secret for bouncier, fuller, lovelier curls. This woman is a true curly hair magician!

“Use your fingers.” – Bianca Alexa

Ditch your comb! It’ll only mess with your natural hair structure. Your very own fingers are actually your best friends for detangling and styling your curls.

“Forget shampoo.” – Rocio Mora

If you must shampoo your hair, go for a paraben-and-silicon-alcohol-free option. Better yet, stick with natural hair products and ditch your shampoo altogether. Let conditioners and deep scalp managers take care of your cleansing and moisturizing needs without stripping your beautiful hair of its natural, protective oils.

“Chop it.” – Mel Burgos

We curly chicas can sometimes feel like our hair just isn’t growing fast enough, which makes us super afraid of cutting it. The thing is, the only way to keeping curls healthy, in shape–and YES, longer–is by trimming it every every eight weeks or so.

“Mix and match.” – Ada Rojas

Lose your fear of natural products; your hair will forever be grateful! Also, because each chica’s curls are created differently, it’s best to experiment with different hair product cocktails until you find the ones that work the best for you.

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