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Banning afro textured hair can have long term effects on students

By Leah Kellman Nov 23, 2022
black girl with topknot bun looking for a book on a bookshelfOne in four black adults have faced disciplinary action for their natural hair. Credit: Suad Kamardeen/ Unsplash

Britain’s leading equality watchdog recently released guidance that schools should not penalise students for wearing natural afro hair styles, including braids, cornrows and plaits.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that uniform policies banning certain hairstyles are likely to be unlawful and under the 2010 Equality Act. They said: “A person must not be discriminated against because of their hair or hairstyle if it is associated with their race or ethnicity.”

Ruby Williams, 20, a natural hair discrimination activist & makeup artist said she was called a stroppy teenager for calling out discriminatory uniform policy after repeatedly being sent home from school aged 14 and told her natural afro was “too big”.

Hair discrimination in schools can have long term effects on black children as they get older.

Research commissioned by Dove found that almost half of black and mixed-race women have experienced hair discrimination at school.

They also found that one in four black adults have faced disciplinary action or been sent home for their natural hair.

Kate and Lenny Williams share their daughter’s (Ruby) experience with hair discrimination at school.

Student Johami Mbombo Mutuale said when she was growing up: “White 2c or 3c hair was seen as the norm and any hate or comments towards your [black girls’] hair was disregarded therefore making me envious of white girl’s hair.

“I know they [schools] are inclusive now but things like going to parties I feel more comfortable in a wig sadly because having my hair out made me insecure.”

She also added: “If school incorporated mixed variety and not just skin colour, but hair textures, weights and heights, we would’ve learned to love our hair from the start.”

Jackie Killeen, chief regulator at the EHRC, told the Guardian; “Every child deserves to be celebrated for who they are and to thrive in school without having to worry about changing their appearance to suit a potentially discriminatory policy.”

The Equality Advisory and Support Service assists individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights and can be contacted on 0808 800 0082.

By Leah Kellman

Role: Features editor

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