Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.

Caroline Goldstein
Aug 26, 2020 @ 11:54 am
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gabrielle union, uzo aduba, keke palmer, black hair discrimination
Credit: George Pimentel; Stephane Cardinale – Corbis; Steve Granitz; David Livingston / Stringer, Getty Images

For Black women, hair isn’t just about beauty—it’s deeply political. In the September issue of Glamour, the magazine’s dedicated “Hair Issue,” and an accompanying PSA, actors Keke Palmer, Gabrielle Union, Uzo Aduba, and Marsai Martin open up about the discrimination and microaggressions Black women routinely face over their natural or protective hairstyles. 

At the beginning of the PSA, entitled “I’ve Been Told…,” Union says, “I’ve been told it’s too big.” Aduba says, “I’ve been asked, ‘Is it real?’” “I’ve been told it’s too much,” Martin adds. And Palmer notes, “I’ve been told it blocks people’s view.” 

In the rest of the three-minute video, the actors go on to share stories about hair-based discrimination from six Black women across the country, who all submitted their stories to Glamour anonymously.

“I had someone tell me, ‘Your dreadlocks are so nice and clean,’” Aduba reads. Martin shares the story of one woman who was “mocked and ridiculed for the frizzy coils that escape [her] tightly wound bun,” while Union says that an HR supervisor approached one woman, who wore her hair natural to the office one day, asking if she would be wearing that style “forever.” In another instance of workplace discrimination, Palmer recounts, “HR told me my hair looked more ‘professional’ pulled back and in a bun than it did out and curly.”  

The magazine released its September feature and the PSA partially to raise awareness for The Crown Act (“Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”).

According to the official website, The Crown Act “was created in 2019 to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.” Thus far, only seven states (California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington) have passed the law—which means it’s legal to discriminate against a person in the workplace or school based on their hairstyle in every other state. Glamour is working in tandem with The Crown Coalition to push this legislation across all 50 states.

Obviously, the stories shared in Glamour’s PSA are hardly isolated incidents. According to the magazine, “Black women are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on her looks than other women,” and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.  

And Union herself has been the victim of workplace discrimination based on her hair: In 2019, Union left her position as a judge on America’s Got Talent after receiving “excessive notes on [her] physical appearance,” as Variety reported. (Fellow judge Julianne Hough, who was also subjected to notes about her appearance, exited the show along with Union.) In particular, Variety says, Union received “over half a dozen” notes from the show’s producers that her hairstyles were “too Black” for the show’s audience.

As Glamour guest editor Ashley Alese Edwards notes, “This isn’t just about hair—it’s about racial discrimination disguised as grooming policies.” If you want to help make school and work a safer, more inclusive place for Black women (and we’re sure you do), sign the petition demanding that legislators pass The Crown Act in your state.