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New York City Is Making It Illegal To Discriminate Based On Hair

Black Woman With Box Braids
If you have naturally textured or curly hair, chances are good you’ve had to make some emotionally charged decisions about your mane. Whether deciding if your natural hair is appropriate for a job interview or attempting to tame your mane before a first date, women with textured hair—particularly those of color—have been told for years that their natural hair is not good enough. While the way you style your ash blonde or dark brown hair may seem like a simple decision, it’s can mean many distressing life-changing consequences for women of color. Now, New York City is beginning to right the wrongs many women and men of color have faced by making it illegal to discriminate based on hair.

According to the New York Times, the New York City Commission on Human Rights plans to release new guidelines that will now consider it racial discrimination to target people because of their hair or hairstyle, whether at work, school or in public spaces. While the guidelines will apply to anyone in New York City no matter your hair type or texture, the Commission on Human Rights specifically mentions protections for “natural hair” and “hairstyles” such as locs, bantu knots, braids, twists, and afros.

Once the guidelines are put into effect, anyone can take legal action if they feel as though they’ve faced unnecessary or unlawful consequences because of the texture or style of their hair. Perpetrators can face penalties of up to $250,000 if they are found in violation of the guidelines. The commission can also make internal changes including dismissals and rehiring at any company that violates the guidelines.

While protections for hair may not seem life changing for most, this is an absolutely landmark decision. According to the New York Times, there are no current protections for hair anywhere else in the country—meaning if a potential employer is within their rights to dismiss your if they don’t find your hairstyle to their liking. Think of all of the passed over promotions, countless jobs lost, and children sent home from school solely because of the texture or style of their hair.

These guidelines are a great first step, but there needs to be a cultural shift to create true texture equality. That starts with everyone uplifting each other and their chosen hairstyles—no matter the texture, type, color, or length.

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