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New York City bans hair policies that target black people

PICTURED: Teenager Andrew Johnson having his dreadlocks cut prior to his wrestling match (Image: Screengrab/SNJ Today)

NEW YORK City has announced a ban on hair policies that enable organisations and employers to discriminate against black people.

The regulations issued by the New York City Commission on Human Rights are understood to be the first of their kind in the US.

A document outlining the new regulations states that grooming policies implemented by organisations unfairly target black people.

For years anti-racism campaigners have ruled such practices, which can prevent black people from being eligible for certain jobs, as racist. Now the New York City Commission on Human Rights is bolstering their cause with its ruling.

“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 said in a statement.

It made specific reference to the impact such regulations can have in daily life such as in work environments, at school and in sports.

In December, footage of a teenage wrestler in the US having his locs hacked off before competing went viral. Andrew Johnson was told by the referee of the high school competition that he would have to forfeit or cut his hair to play.

As a result of the commission’s ruling, people like Andrew would be protected from having to choose between their hair and going about their everyday activities.

“The New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities. For black people, this includes the right to maintain 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 commission stated.

In 2014, the US department of defence, the country’s largest employer, introduced a ban on black hairstyles including afros, twists, cornrows and braids. Following outrage from serving personnel, the public and media, the ban was overturned. And in 2017, the US army lifted a ban on female soldiers wearing locs.

“These changes reflect a shift in American society in re-evaluating the basis for longstanding appearance norms, in light of their discriminatory nature, and the harm and burden placed on Black people who maintain prohibited hairstyles,” the commission stated.

Those who violate the commission’s guidelines could face fines of up to $250,000.

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