A Lawyer's Perspective: Men and Hair Discrimination
Written by: J.B. Afoh Manin Esq.
If you have a home does it matter that it's illegal to sleep under a bridge?
That is a question I had to answer as a public defender in NYC. But it was not only questions like these that stretched my intellectual fabric. While practicing I heard about many cases within the NYPD, and other professions, in which professionals were being challenged as to what hairstyles they could wear. This was true especially regarding facial hair and hair that was on ones crown. fBut let me back up a second and let you know why this was personally to me. For the better part of 5 years, including my first year of law school, I wore my hair in locks. I chose locks as an outward expression of my internal consciousness. Regardless, everyone should have the right to choose their hairstyle no matter their profession.
As DuBois said, too often those not considered in the mainstream are forced to wear the veil of double-consciousness. Meaning that we are forced to wear a "mask" when outside our neighborhoods then must take it off upon our way home.
Within the 1st Amendment, specifically the first 10 Amendments, more commonly know as the Bill of Rights, US citizens are protected. One of those protections are the right to free speech. Speech has been broadly defined by case law to include not only verbal but non-verbal expressions as well such as words on a t-shirt, outward expressions of how one dresses and the like and political speech to name a few. Circling back to the case at hand, even though I have not been personally effected by discrimination, re: how i chose/choose to wear my hair in the legal profession, everyone should have the right to decide and that is what the Crown Campaign is all about...giving people the agency to be protected from both legal and social pressure to wear ones hair a certain way or not. For too many years, minority communities have had to capitulate to the standards of main stream beauty. Anything outside those standards was considered ugly at best and illegal at worst. Although men aren't always thought of when grooming standards at the job come up for debate, we, especially people are often scrutinized when it comes to facial hair, length and style of our coiffeurs. For a true melting pot of our society to take effect, this must end.
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