Lawmakers urged to prohibit discrimination based on natural hairstyles

Gerard Ortiz

Members of the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee listen to testimony Friday about the proposed measure to bar hairstyle discrimination. Screenshot from video

AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are weighing a proposal to ban discrimination based mostly on hairstyles or texture, an challenge of distinct issue to persons with African ancestry.

“We often see the impact of race-primarily based hair discrimination in the communities we serve,” Tobin Williamson, advocacy supervisor for the Lewiston-centered Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, told legislators at a current hearing.

“Black and Brown college students from our communities have been shamed by their instructors mainly because of their hairstyles,” Williamson claimed, and some others in foster care “have been questioned about why their haircuts are so pricey.”

“For many years, hair discrimination has been commonplace in classrooms and workplaces across the nation, even in this article in Maine,” Williamson said.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mattie Daughtry, a Brunswick Democrat, explained the measure would amend Maine’s Human Legal rights Act based on language that’s presently law in Maryland.

“Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism by preventing pupils and employees from carrying styles these types of as locks, braids, Bantu knots and afros,” Daughtry stated.

Tasha Judson, a hairstylist in Portland, urges Maine lawmakers to go the proposal measure to bar discrimination centered on hairstyles. Screenshot from video

Tasha Judson, a hairstylist in Portland, instructed the Judiciary Committee that “people have earned to wear their hair the way it grows.”

“By encouraging people to straighten or chemically take care of their hair to in shape a individual standard, individuals exact folks deny their society and problems their hair for the lengthy operate,” Daughtry mentioned. “Discriminating from visual appeal is another resource to aggress Black Us residents by policing and surveying their choices, eroding believe in between authority figures like lecturers and students.”

A ban on discrimination based mostly on hairstyle is now regulation in 14 states, supporters reported, including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

The Maine Affiliation for the Training of Young Youngsters mentioned the lawful revision is needed to “ensure that small children are not penalized for embracing their society as a result of their hairstyles.”

Gina Forbes, a guide in Brunswick, told legislators in the course of Friday’s committee hearing that “each kid is distinctive within and out” and “no youngster, or man or woman of any age, need to be discriminated towards due to the fact of their hair or hairstyle.”

“Children with all hues, textures and kinds of hair are beautiful and important,” Forbes stated in created testimony.

“When youngsters go to a put of mastering, they really should not have to concern whether their hair is ‘presentable’ based mostly on specifications that advertise Eurocentric magnificence benchmarks,” Forbes stated. “This is harmful to their sense of safety, relationship and belonging which is foundational to staying ready and prepared to learn, no make any difference what the age.”

Whitney Parrish of Augusta, the performing executive director of the Long-lasting Fee on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations, explained that “race-dependent hair discrimination is not a new issue.”

“Research and knowledge present that bias from all-natural hair restrictions occupation options for Black and African American ladies and Black gals with organic hair are normally viewed as considerably less specialist and a lot less proficient and are fewer very likely to be referred for job interviews,” Parrish stated.

Parrish stated that Black hair “is an expression of identity and lifestyle and has deep link to culture, religion and historical past. No one particular must ever be specific for becoming who they are, and no a single really should require to change their hair making use of chemical compounds and heat to be taken additional severely, have more obtain to possibility, or even be permitted in sure areas.”

Kholiswa Mendes Pepani of Portland urged legislators to back the measure.

“For most Black people, the intimate romantic relationship shared with our hair is marred by systemic racism,” Pepani explained.

In prepared testimony, Pepani mentioned, “Black people have for hundreds of years been advised that our purely natural hair is much too difficult, unmanageable or unprofessional due to white supremacist criteria of beauty and acceptability.”

“Black hair is a lifelong expression of identity — handed down between generations as an oration about our history, tradition and resilience,” Pepani claimed. “Passing this bill would assistance Black people’s right to type their hair obviously and protect them from discrimination as it might crop up. It is a desired step in dismantling racism.”

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