professional locks, natural hair, Sisterlocks, locks, the knotty truth
Within the social spectrum space, I abide in a community of kinship. A community where brother greets sister with a familiarity that resonates inwardly and outwardly. Unspoken glances whisper of community, commitment, an acknowledgement that transcends words as eyes meet, eyebrow uplifts, corner of mouth parts a head nod signifies an awareness that those within understand best. At the least, there is an acknowledgement of existence within this complex universe. I have an adopted family, a place that I fit, a body of people that get me, without pause nor concern; without bias.
Now, a division has occurred at the federal level, within this community. The U.S. District Court 11 and human resource policies at Catastrophe Management Solutions(CMS) have stepped into our bathrooms and ruled against Dreadlocks as a choice of hair grooming for gainful employment, when a company has a policy against them. This ruling has resulted in a division that not only legalizes discrimination against a class of people, this ruling requires those with different lock formations to distinguish themselves from one another, for the first time, turning 360 degrees away from the familial acceptance that has existed within this subset of those who choose to wear their afro-kinky hair unadulturated.
The judicial body that rules Alabama, Georgia and Florida ruled in September 2016 that Dreadlocks are subject, legally, to discrimination. An employer can legally decide that a person with Dreadlocks can be denied gainful employment without recourse. Biased discriminated has been introduced into the workforce, creating a conscious divide within an already isolated, often ostracized community.
IRIE, I respect - True Dreadlocks.
There are many type of locks, just as there are many types of people. The court ruling that 'Dreadlocks' are subject to legal discrimination is a vague term that does not encompass the true breadth of ethnic and lock diversity. There are Sisterlocks(TM), ISIS locks, bradelocz, braidlocks, palm-rolled locks, lock coils, KnottyLocks(TM), Twist locks, traditional locks, latched locks, many types of locks; and, yes Dreadlocks. Not only are there different types of locks, there are also different grooming techniques. Since the premise of District Court 11's ruling is that locked hair tends to get messy, does the court imply that only organically grown-free formed Dreadlocks represented by Rastafarian are subject to implicit bias? These locks naturally form freely without grooming and manipulation, product and tool-free maintenance? Or does the court mean all forms of locked hair? This is a very tenuous territory to tread upon naively. The very ruling is subject to many interpretations because the ambiguity of the court ruling, is rooted in a limited awareness of locked hair, lumping many different locked formations into one bucket. The very ruling is subject to interpretation because the ambiguity of what the court means by calling the plaintiff, Charity Jones, hair Dreadlocks. From what I have researched, Ms. Jones does not have the true form of Dreadlocks, organically grown, unadulterated. She has hair that is locked and groomed for maintenance, disputing the ruling that justifies CMS's reason for not hiring Mrs. Jones.
In that meeting, the suit claims, Wilson(HR from CMS) told Jones that dreadlocks "tend to get messy, although I'm not saying yours are, but you know what I'm talking about."
The second factor is that Mrs. Jones grooms her locks. If she did not, her hair would not be grow uniformly; loose hair would be growing outside of her locks. That is not the case. Her parts are visible and her hair is maintained and groomed, debunking the biased assertion of unkempt hair, demolishing CMS's claim.
The very fact that I have to write this blog is offensive and destructive to the psyche locked community; but, it must be addressed so we can heal before the damage seeps in deeper. If addressed, a community can be empowered to reject the established ruling and fightback. The ruling is divisive and creates those in defense of their rights to live and work while locked to separate, distinguish and divide themselves from one another and ostracized an already minority subset even further within the natural hair community, creating hierarchies equivalent to Willie Lynches' doctrine that created levels of slaves based upon physical attributes that impact the African American community post-slavery, today.
The bottom line is that all forms of locked hair are beautiful, because the process is an intricate process that creates matted chords hair weaved into a beautiful matrix that is uniquely fashioned and matured by the choice of maintenance that requires consistent grooming, or now. So, what is this ruling really about? It justifies blatant conscious bias against a class of people with features that are ethnic, while validating an arrogant misunderstanding. This is conscious ignorance sanctioned by law, bathed in ignorance granted by biased legislation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit-with federal jurisdiction in Alabama, Florida, and George-sided September 15 with CMS, stating that although hairstyles may be "culturally associated with race," the opinion read, they are not "immutable physical characteristics." In other words, hair can be changed (Wellington, Elizabeth, 2016). Afro-kinky hair is kinky, tangled and knotty, it does not grow straight unless it is adulterated. So, is the court proporting that those with this afro-kinky hair have hair that is less than desirable to work in SC, GA and FL today, forming a dangerous precedent that permits racism and conscious bias in the workplace? Based upon this ruling, absolutely, yes. My hair does not grow straight out of my head, For the health of my hair I must be able to wear styles that compliment the texture and allow me to work in an environment that is not oppressive but accepting of my ethnic birthright, which includes my afro-kinky hair.
Essentially, despite what the court decision implies, my locks are not the same as dying my hair pink. "It's like telling a black person they have to bleach their skin, or their nose is too wide," said Angelo Onwuachi-Willig, an African American lawyer who is the chancellor's professor at U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Wellington, Elizabeth, 2016).
Employers should proceed with care when dealing with these types of issues in the creation of their set of mandatory rules that employees must follow. The employer was victorious in this case, but the EEOC didn't argue that CMS's grooming rules had a disparate impact on African-American employees. It is not clear whether or not this case’s outcome would have been the same if the employer had faced a disparate impact, as opposed to disparate treatment, claim. Employers will have to weigh carefully their choices in deciding whether their preference for banning certain hairstyles is worth the litigation these policies may trigger (Mays & Kerr LLC, 2016).
I absolutely agree. Don't disrespect and minimize the true journey of a Dreadlock. That journey is sacred and rooted in a rich, historical tradition of respect. Locks that are manipulated are a unique journey unto themselves; the two are unique in their own right one and lumping all locks into one pot is dangerous territory for employers and courts to tread. Only people that do not understand a locked journey would dare make such an assumption-and then legalize that assumption. Respecting the differences of all workers supporting the most impactful, diverse workforce should be the goal for any viable organizations that wants to continue to capture a workforce that is reflective of the global economy. A strong workforce requires workersthat can better meet the needs of the increasingly multi-cultural customer that challenges the status quo, encourage new ideas and innovate.
And if for no other reason, it's not the hair that is professional, it is the person. If the person is not professional, than nothing, including the hair is professional. Subjective claims of grooming habits is not a basis to determine court rulings, or perhaps US District Court 11 is short on case loads.
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Case: 14-13482. 2016 http://media.nola.com/crime_impact/other/Deadlocks%20Case.pdf
professional locks, natural hair, Sisterlocks, locks, the knotty truth