Hair discrimination should be named a form of racism, say activists and MPs | UK News
A group of lawmakers and activists urged the equality watchdog to issue guidelines that would designate hair discrimination as a form of racism.
A letter signed by Kim Johnson MP and endorsed by The Halo Collective and Glamor Magazine calls for textured hair to become a protected feature.
He hopes the guidelines will raise awareness of cases of hair discrimination in the UK and highlight them as a serious legal issue.
A person’s hair can be a big part of their identity, but activists fear that too often the hair on the heads of members of the African diaspora is being scrutinized.
Hair discrimination can include using offensive words to describe a person’s afro or asking to touch textured hair without their consent.
In some of the worst examples, children have been disciplined at school and professionals have lost jobs.
Myah Sharae, who founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Equality in Education, said: “Can you imagine being a child and being told that your hair is not suitable for an educational environment, that is? simply unacceptable.
“People think they have to conform to Eurocentric mirror hairstyles in order to advance in the workplace or in education and that is completely and utterly problematic.”
Christine Emolome faced this first hand.
“My manager stopped me and he said ‘I don’t think your hairstyle is suitable for work today. It doesn’t look professional, I’m going to have to send you home‘,” recalls Ms. Emolome, who was fired from work without paying because she decided to wear her natural locks.
“I was shocked. It wasn’t something I felt the need to question, it was something I thought I should be able to do,” she added.
But others question their styles.
Whether it’s braids, dreadlocks or a simple fro, many people believe that the way they express themselves through their hair can be used against them and fear that they will not be seen as “professional.” .
Anastasia Chikezie has been a natural hairdresser for 30 years.
She remembers a time when she cut the dreadlocks of a newly qualified lawyer because he “feared he would not be accepted”.
“It bothered me deeply,” she said.
“When they take on corporate jobs, people are really concerned about the way they wear their hair.”
Ms. Chikezie now runs The Good Roots, a textured hair academy that offers education and styling techniques.
She created the project when she realized that European stylists needed to educate themselves about textured hair, which comes after new rules were introduced earlier in the year, requiring all UK hairdressers will be trained in afro-textured hair.
The organizers of the letter hope that advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission will take education a step further, making afro-textured hair a protected feature, so that reports of cases of racial discrimination are taken seriously.
The letter reads: “The repeated inability to understand the issues affecting Afro hair is a typical occurrence when dealing with a variety of institutions.
“The guidance will encourage educational and work institutions to rethink their concepts of ‘professionalism’ and work towards more inclusive policies, which encourage and celebrate racial diversity.”
He also hopes the UK government will adopt the directions and work with other institutions to implement the changes.
“We hope the government thinks about this and follows suit and then also issues official guidelines through the Education Department through the Work and Pensions Department and through the government equality office,” Ms. Sharae.