New York Bans Discriminatory Policies Against Black Hairstyles

Company and school policies that ban dreadlocks and other styles are no longer legal.

black hairstyle discrimination
Wrestler Andrew Johnson had his dreadlocks cut in order to continue competing. (Mike Frankel/Twitter)
By Ariel Scotti / February 19, 2019 11:20 am

New York City is banning discrimination based on hairstyles — a new law meant to stop policies that unfairly penalize black people.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued the new regulations — believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. — on Monday. The rule stipulates that African American New Yorkers have the legal right to wear their hair in afros, cornrows, locks, twists, braids, Bantu knots and other styles, The Guardian reported.

The guidelines target grooming policies maintained by some employers and schools that prohibit hairstyles such as dreadlocks and are believed to be influenced by an incident in New Jersey this past December that led to a high school wrestler’s hair being hacked off before a match.

The student was forced to cut his hair before competing, sparking outrage.

“Bans or restrictions on natural hair or hairstyles associated with black people are often rooted in white standards of appearance and perpetuate racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional,” the commission guidelines state. “There is a widespread and fundamentally racist belief that black hairstyles are not suited for formal settings, and may be unhygienic, messy, disruptive, or unkempt.”

The latest regulation protects all hairstyles closely associated with a person’s racial, ethnic or cultural identity. But it explicitly spells out that it protects black people’s right to maintain natural hair. Infringements will be considered illegal racial discrimination and businesses will face fines of up to $250,000 for violations found to be malicious.

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