Please be aware that most of us live in an at will state, meaning if said person wears yellow on Tuesday and someone hates yellow on Tuesday, said person can be fired. So, the dreadlock ruling is significant. What it actually does is allow others to deny rights to those with dreadlocks without recourse. What makes it significant is the racially charged atmosphere that exists in these United States. Ushured in with the first (phenotypically) African American President in 2008, African Americans have been under attack in these United States as the rule of law continues to undermine the voting rights, civil rights and human rights, employment protections of people of color at an alarmingly high rate, escalating year of year, in an attempt to secure a superior position and undermine the position and advancements of African Americans in these United States. After a near decade of a government shut down, obstructionist agendas cast by the GOP and concrete slaying in the streets of America in the 21st Century, and now a Presidential candidate backed by the KKK and a campaign built upon racist overtones, actions and deeds; quietly District Court 11 ruled 3-0 that individuals with dreadlocks in the work place are devoid of protective rights, discounting the protective rights of those who choose to wear locked hair in the workplace. Rights that other workers in America have, the choice to work and wear their hair by preference, shocking the very foundation of diversity & inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Are those with dreadlocks not worthy of protections and liberties expressed by others is the question.
After 10 yrs with locks, my world was shaken when I awoke in September to learn that a 3-0 decision against my hairstyle. There was not even the consideration that there is an inherent connection between locked hair and the biological nature of Afro Kinky hair, which naturally tangles and mats and locks without rhyme or reason. Nor the consideration that 'locking' hair that tangles, mats and locs, locs it into a pattern that 'controls' it in ringlet chords that are tightly packed-locked. A ruling decided by judges of a different ethnicity and an HR representative of caucasion ancestry was further insulting. They dont know my struggle, they don't know my pain. How can people who wake up, sliding a comb through their straight hair deem how my hair should be fashioned, I wondered. Further more, I wondered how could their subjective opinion impact a court decision? Surely, no one explained to them that locks are locked strands of hair. Surely, no one explained to them that anyone can have messy hair and creating laws based on a subjective term such as 'messy' was a can of worms never to be resolved. Surely, they have got to be kidding? Why all the sudden is this an issue anywhere? And why once again are the majority of blackwoman forced to evaluate her level of worth based on someone else's cultural, subjective standards? They don't have my hair. They don't know this struggle. The very premise was weak, and surely conflicts with my inalieable rights to be who I was created to be, further protected by Title 7, right? Resources such as 'The Knotty Truth™' series were definitely could not have been researched. In this instance, the human resource representative denied Chasity Jones employment with Catastrophic Insurance a job simply because her opinion is that dreadlocks 'tend to get messy.'
The EEOC attorney in Birmingham said the litigation didn't seek to attach policies requiring employees to maintain hair in a professional, neat or conservative matter but rather focused "on the racial bias that may occur when specific hair constructs and styles are singled out for different treatment because they do not conform to normative standards for other races." According to the EEOC district director: "The EEOC's district director pointed out that 'generally, there are racial distinctions in natural texture of black and non-black hair and that those who choose to wear natural textured hair, styles and management should be permitted as needed for daily maintenance that may not be in accordance with non-blacks (EEOC, 2016). I obviously agree. The basic premise that Afro textured hair can be legislated to behave contrary to genetic expectations is preposterous and ridiculous. Not only do I question what in the world are my tax dollars being used for over some non-sensical deliberations such as my hair grooming habits! But, I question the intent.
The Obama administration's representation sought to overturn the lower court's initial ruling. This is a ruling that is highly contradictory to the Hijab ruling. Muslim women are protected and able to wear a Hijab in the workplace (2013). That case ruled that not only do they have the right to wear a Hijab for religious observation; but, they have the right to do so even when the company policy states they cannot wear head coverings for any reason! In the case of those of us with locked hair, you are not only not protected by law; but often are not even faced with policies that restrict dreadlocks. Yet, the irony in the case of locked hair is Ms. Jones and others in FL, GA and ALA now face a precedent that allows those with dreadlocks to be disparately treated, legally. In 2014, Judge Charles R.Butler first ruled on the Catastrophic case and wrote that Title VII does not apply to mutable hair preferences. According to Butler, hair is only protected for religious reasons, in the case of dreadlocks, totally subject to interpretation. In the case of Ms.Jones, who represents many of us who chose to lock our hair as a lifestyle choice, attorneys are reviewing the case for appeal. In 2016, US District Court II sided with Butler and Catastrophic.
It seems we now live in a world that is heavily ruled by feelings, not facts nor reality. If someone feels someone is 'messy' now, a court may rule in favor. So, what can we do? Stay woke, follow these cases, support these individuals, sign petitions, hold our human resource departments accountable, share your experiences as an individual with locked hair and your feelings of once again being treated unfairly via the passing of legislation that strips those with dreadlocks of rights, contrary to Title Acts on the books for decades. Be empowered, stay woke and continue to check back in. This is just the beginning. I'll be back to share more proactive steps we can take.
Helpful Resources Mutable-Characteristics, features that can be changed Immutable-Characteristics, features that can NOT be changed Title VII-It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer - (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affecs an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
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