New York City to Ban Discrimination Against Natural Hair

The city of New York has unveiled new guidelines aiming at banning the discrimination on the basis of hair.

On Monday (February 18) officials at the New York City Commission on Human Rights states the guidelines will protect people of all races but will predominantly protect black people, who have been subjected to discrimination based of the texture and style of their hair.

“In New York City, we want to make the bold statement that these prohibitions on hairstyles that are closely associated with Black people are a form of race discrimination,” Carmelyn Malalis, Human Rights commissioner and chair, told BuzzFeed News. “They really fail to consider the toll these bans take on Black identity.”

According to the guidelines, the New York City Human Rights Law protects the rights of New Yorkers, with emphasis on Black people, to maintain their natural hair or hairstyles such as “locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

When enacted, the guideline will give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, punished, fired, demoted or threatened because of the style of their hair. The new policy will protect all New Yorkers in the city’s public accommodations like restaurants and clubs, and in city places such as parks and libraries. It will also prohibit discrimination from employers, schools, and housing providers. The city’s commission can issue a penalty up to $250,000, with no cap on damages.

The news of the new guidelines comes after just months after a New Jersey teen was forced to cut locs in order to participate in a wrestling match. The situation sparked outrage and was called an act of discrimination. This was also seen last year when an 11-year-old girl in Louisiana was sent home from school over braided hair extensions.

“Far too often, Black people are shamed and excluded from jobs or school because of objections to natural hairstyles, but courts have been slow to recognize that bias against natural Black hair is a form of race discrimination,” ACLU senior staff attorney Ria Tabacco Mar said in a statement. “Today, New York City has taken an important step toward ensuring that all of us have the freedom to work and learn regardless of how we wear our hair.”

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