California has become the first state to ban discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks.
The new law makes California the first state to explicitly say that hairstyles are associated with race and therefore protected against discrimination in the workplace and in schools.
Holly Mitchell, a Democratic senator and a black woman who wears her hair in locks, brought the new law in and said: “We are changing the course of history, hopefully, across this country by acknowledging that what has been defined as professional hair styles and attire in the work place has historically been based on a eurocentric model – based on straight hair.”
The new law will take effect from 1 January and comes as federal courts have historically held that hair is a characteristic that can be changed, meaning there is no basis for discrimination complaints based on hairstyle.
The US Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of an Alabama woman who said she failed to get a job because she refused to change her hair.
The issue hit the headlines last December when a black high school wrestler in New Jersey was told by a referee that he had to cut off his dreadlocks if he wanted to compete.
California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom said the video was a clear example of the discrimination black Americans face.
He said: “His decision whether or not to lose an athletic competition or lose his identity came into, I think, stark terms for millions of Americans.
“That is played out in workplaces, it’s played out in schools – not just athletic competitions and settings – every single day all across America in ways subtle and overt.”
Though California is the first state with such a law, New York earlier this year issued legal guidance banning discrimination against someone based on their hairstyle.
The bill sates discrimination laws relating to race includes “traits historically associated with race,” including hair texture and protective hairstyles. It further defines protective hairstyles as braids, twists and locks.
People have been sharing their experiences with regards to their hairstyles following the new legislation.
Stephanie Hunter-Ray, who works at a makeup shop, said she normally wears her hair braided or in an afro, but one day arrived at work with it straightened and styled in a bob.
She said her manager told her that her hair had never looked so normal.
Ms Hunter-Ray said: “It bothered me. What do you mean by ‘normal’? Your normal is not my normal. My normal is my ‘fro or my braids.”
Source: SKY NEWS