Getty ImagesEdward Berthelot
Last August, an 11-year-old Louisiana student was the subject of discrimination for wearing a braided extension hairstyle to school, a hairstyle that apparently went against the school’s “natural hair only” policy. Before that, another teen from Florida was told her afro was “extreme and faddish and out of control,” and a high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreads off before a match or forfeit. For far too long, black people have been ostracized, humiliated and reprimanded for wearing their hair in its natural state, but with new guidelines set by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the policing of black hair is coming to an end—at least in New York—according to the New York Times.
On Monday, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced the new standard. It’s primarily targeted at people of color, as the guidelines protect New Yorkers’ right to wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” The new change grants those who have experienced harassment or discrimination because of their natural hair the opportunity to take legal action against individuals in violation of the new guidelines for up to $250,000, and the commission can step in and change internal policies and rehirings if necessary.
“There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commissioner and chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, told the New York Times. “They are based on racist standards of appearance,” and “racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”
The new policy will protect individuals in public accommodations, including restaurants and other businesses, as well as in workplaces and at private and public schools, where discrimination is frequent.