how black hair is repressed and regulated in the usa

How Black Hair Is Repressed and Regulated In The USA

Black Hair on The Rise

Black hair has been a total hair controversy for some time. And it's no secret that African American women have taken the world by storm and begun rejecting the ideal standard of beauty. It's also not a secret that with the growing number of women openly wearing their hair natural, resistance has increased tenfold. Women all over the country are shaving their heads and growing out their natural hair in opposition to the Eurocentric styles that have been impressed upon us. Now, your favorite magazine cover is more likely to have a melanin model with a massive fro versus one with bone straight 24-inch extensions. Even a representation of us on television now is more accurate than it was before. Actresses like Issa Rae wear their natural hair short or long, colored and, of course, naturally kinky. Sadly, with all these social strides to make the African American woman's natural hair a part of the norm, there is still resistance in the real world. No matter where we go there some reminder or initiative to make us think that our hair is less than. The government schools and Workforce have created regulation that represses our ability to wear our hair the way it grows from our head.


School-age children have been the targets of black hair repression for years. Now, schools create policies and directives that restrict the way students are allowed to wear their hair. In the name of protecting other students and portraying a particular image. More often than not, these young students are threatened with suspension and expulsion. Which interfere with their education, and all for the way their hair grows from their heads. Malden Charter School gave out detention slips to two students for wearing box braids, back in May of this last year. The 15-year-old twins, Deanna and Mya Scot, were also pulled from their school sports teams and told they weren't allowed to go to prom. After their detention was over and they refused to remove their braids they were threatened with suspension. In this case, the school had no way to justify the girls' removal from their classes. Schools have policies that prohibit students from wearing extensions like braids. Explaining that, these type of extensions are expensive and create a divide amongst students. Policies like these are wrong because they single out African American students. They are the only ones who grow up in communities where “woven” in extensions are a regular styling option. Also, braids can be expensive, but because it is our cultural norm some of us learn to braid our hair for $1 a pack. The use of policy and racially ignorant language is used as a weapon against students. We all know that any style could be considered “messy” or “unkempt” depending on the upkeep. But there is no reason for locs to be specified as the style to avoid, except race.


Just a few years ago the military prohibited African American service members from wearing dreadlocks and even two strand twists. According to regulation women’s hair had to follow the following guidelines:
  • The hair does not present a ragged, unkempt, or extreme appearance
  • Widely spaced individual hanging locks, and other extreme styles that protrude from the head are prohibited
  • May wear braids and cornrows as long as the braided style is conservative, the braids and cornrows lie snugly on the head
  • Dreadlocks (unkempt, twisted, matted individual parts of hair) are also out of uniform
All of these regulations only affect African American soldiers, because it is normal in our communities to wear box braids, locs, and twists. The most disturbing aspect of these uniform policies is the description of each style. The military branches all use language with a negative connotation like “unkempt” “matted” and “ragged”. Words used to describe the styles that are prohibited whereas the styles that they feel are appropriate are “conservative.” All too often you see women in service with short pixie cuts, relaxed hair, or a permanent bun. But these regulations are why! They are forced to wear styles that are safe as far as regulations. Because who wants to get put out of the Army because of their hair? Luckily, this past July U.S. Navy made a long-overdue change to its policy to allow women to wear their hair in dreadlocks, large buns, braids, and ponytails. A groundbreaking reversal most surprising for the fact that it happened during the reign of President Trump. After hearing from various service members, the government eventually agreed that the racial bias language is unnecessary. It lacked a basic understanding of black hair and the way it grows.


The workplace is somewhat a battlefield for the average African American woman for various reasons. But our appearance is just one more avenue of repression. The worse part; companies can create bias policies and directives under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are allowed to enforce dress-code and appearance policies that include the regulation of hair. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which administers these laws, states employers can impose rules calling for “neutral hairstyles.” Which have to be applied to everyone equally, in spite of race. Of course, some hairstyles are more particular to people of certain races. And what constitutes “neutral” regarding hairstyles is entirely subjective, leaving the employee at the mercy of the employer. All too often employers imply that the only way black hair can be tame and professional is if it is straight, slicked back, and long like other employees. Again, language plays a huge role in policy but regardless of how people dance around the topic its discriminatory. Share your work experiences in regards to your hair down below! Good or bad. Include your industry and job title so that we can see what trades are more accepting.

The End of Our Repression

Black hair grows up and out naturally! It is beautiful, grand, and well put together enough for any arena. Today’s African American woman not only wants the policy to reflect them equally, but they will fight for it as well. Just as the Navy servicewomen were able to create change in the Military, we can too in our schools and workplaces. Create more awareness and share this article with a friend.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Featured product