Avoiding Claims of Discrimination based on Personal Appearance, Grooming, and Hygiene
Marc, A.K. (1999). Avoiding claims of discrimination based on personal appearance, grooming and hygiene. The Labor Lawyer, 15(1), 19-45.
This article is my first stepping stone into looking at legal cases related to black hair and discrimination. In "Avoiding claims of discrimination based on personal appearance, grooming and hygiene," Marc takes a very broad look at different discrimination issues
such as religion, obesity, and provocative dress codes. In the section of the article called, "National Origin and Cultural Affiliation," Marc focuses on employees being prohibited to wear cornrows in the workplace. This requirement is, in fact, allowed. The author states that because cornrows are "easily changeable," this does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts and cannot be protected. Marc then goes on to later subjects not relative to my research, so I will use only certain aspects of this information for my investigation.
I heard, prior to my research proposal, that Six Flags banned employers from wearing dreadlocks. This is another form of natural hair that the African American Community takes great pride in. This example compelled to read Marc's work to understand the laws, reasoning, and precedent related to black hair being “easily changeable.” This culture of dreadlocks, however, has been going on for years and will only increase as the African American Community grows more in touch with their roots. Legal issues will certainly continue.
Although this article was not of great use to me, it did mention that there are
multiple legal cases where natural hair has been questioned in the workplace. This
makes me confident in the fact that my investigation will go smoothly.
Hey Girl, Am I More than My Hair? African American Women and Their Struggles with Beauty, Body Image, and Hair
Patterson, T.O. (2006). Hey girl, am I more than my hair? African American women and their struggles with beauty, body image, and hair. NWSA Journal, 18(2), 24-51.
In "Hey girl, am I more than my hair? African American women and their struggles with beauty, body image, and hair," Patterson discusses upward mobility, style, and status. She argues that beauty is often corrrelated with white features such as straight hair and lighter complextions. What I found interesting about Patterson's argument is that she introduced a term called "the lily complex." The"lily complex" is described as "altering, disguising, and covering up your physical self in order to assimilate, to be accepted as attractive." The author, thus, brings awareness to the involvement of the African American community in this "Lily complex." She supports my claim that black is often Not considered beautiful, for if it is, there would be no desire to assimilate.
Patterson's most interesting move is that she brings back a platform for discussing where the importance of staright hair first began. According to Patterson, during the centuries of slavery, hair was a symbol of class. If a woman of color had hair closest to caucasian features, such as soft and straight hair, they were assigned to work as maids. If their hair was coarse and tightly coiled, then they would more often than none, work in the field. She states that "adopting many white European traits was essential to survival, e.g., free vs. slave, employed vs. unemployed, educated vs. uneducated."
This association of education with hair type is the reason why the hair debate is still prevalent today. Associating characteristics to hair styles creates stereotypes that ultimately confine a person. Stereotypes like those who wear locs must sell weed, or styling your hair as an afro puff is for "political reasons," like what Melissa Harris Perry introduces in her crash course of natural hair, bars African American Woman on their journey to upward mobility
Pursuing Upward Mobility: African American Professional Women Reflect on Their Journey
Robinson, G. and Nelson, B. (2010). Pursuing upward mobility: African American professsional women reflect on their journey. Journal of Black Studies, 40(6), 1168-1188.
In "Pursuing upward mobility: African american professsional women reflect on their journey," Robinson and Nelson investigate how race, gender, and class have effected the lives of African American women as they pursue success, which these authors refer to as "upward mobility." For this study, six professional African American women between the ages 30 to 60 were selected to discuss their experiences. The author focuses on the commonalities of these 6 women and the discrimination they had to overcome to continue onward for upward mobility. For the purpose of my research, I will take note of a few specific sections where what is considered physically desirable is brought to awareness.
Robinson and Nelson insist that "in a world that assigns status and power based on skin color, hair type, and facial features, white women possess these desirable traits, resulting in privileges and power not extended to African American Women" (quoted from Russel, Wilson, & Hall, 1992). Not only does this claim equate power to beauty, but it also specifies exactly what that beauty must consist of (white features). This desirability criteria is essential to my research, because appearance of professionalism is what all employers seek, where power lies apparently. Robinson and Nelson make a compelling case that white women are defined as the ideal beauty. They contend that African American women are forced to compromise in order to operate "outside of the role" that has been given to them, in this context, the role of being considered undesirable. The authors give specific examples of Women of Color adding chemicals to their hair in order to obtain whiter features as well as examples of interracial discrimination between women of color with light complexions and dark complexions. Light skin and straight hair are features that are considered a requirement to be considered desirable and "powerful," implicitly supporting a system where whiteness is superior. The more "white-washed" a women of color is, the more powerful she will become.
Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women
Walker, S. (2008). Style and status: Selling beauty to African American women. Journal of Social History, 42(1), 1920-1975.
In "Selling beauty to African American women," Walker raises awareness about the beauty products we use alongside the hidden objectives behind these products. The author discusses the history of Madame C.J. Walker, the first African American Women's Beauty Entrepeneur. The author closely examines the strategic wording behind Madam C.J. Walker's products: straighteners were sold as "hair treatments" and African American "beauty essentials." These wordplays imply that beauty is equated to features associated predominantly with white women such as straight hair.
In the mid-20th century when hair straightening became popular, many white companies took advantage of Madam C.J. Walker's profitable tactics by selling their products with codes of Racial Pride. Relaxers, like the picture I included above, illuminate this 20th century trend. Thus, "beautiful" African American hairstyles were deeply entangled with "tensions about whether a style signified conformity to white standards of beauty" (Walker, 2008, p. 196). Along with what is considered beautiful, the author also argues that straightening African American hair has become such a custom that African American women have even bonded from this shared experience of pain and beauty related to hair relaxers.