This letter is in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals’s decision to ban dreadlocks in the work place, allowing employers to discriminate against those who have the hairstyle. Click here for a rundown of the case.
Dear Judge Adalbertro Jordan and the U.S. Court of Appeals,
How do you see it fair that because someone has their hair in a particular style, their potential or even existing employer can discriminate against them? Do dreadlocks get in the way of their productivity? Your decision to allow employers to discriminate against employees because of their hair is a detrimental choice that has a greater scale impact on society. It is a reflection of the years of institutional racism people of color have endured and continue to endure in this country. You state that hair and race are not interrelated but the predominate race of individuals who wear their hair in the very style you’ve banned are African Americans. There is an entire culture associated with the hairstyle that you are deeming inappropriate for the workplace. Will this new ruling apply to those white Americans who have their hair in locs? They will probably get to keep their jobs, as the hair on their head is not a correlation to their race. As for the black Americans with locs, they will now have to struggle with the choice to shave off the hair they’ve grown for the better half of their lives in exchange for employment or stick by their beliefs that their hair should not be discriminated against. Since when does a hairstyle equate to professionalism? Dreadlocks aren’t a style that can qualify as “unkempt”. It’s a matter of perception and for centuries society has viewed black hair, whether in its natural state or pulled into a style, is deemed unprofessional and unacceptable. This decision just perpetuates another facet of discrimination African Americans face in this country and is yet another example of the institutional racism seen in this country. I hope you take the time to rethink your decision and how it impacts so many people of color in this country.