Discrimination: the woman fighting to root it out when it comes to hair

INVESTIGATION

Hair discrimination is a perfect example of seemingly innocuous discriminatory policy that targets black women in socio-economic spheres.
Alethea Farline investigates how this policy impacts education, mental health, and societal perceptions of race.

Zina Alfa, presenter, founder of UB Hair and of the hair anti-discrimination petition.

 

A PETITION has started in the UK to add hair discrimination to the Equality Act 2010.

The Act currently covers “protected characteristics” like skin colour, nationality and ethnic origins or nationality. But not hair

Zina Alfa, presenter and founder of UB Hair has started a petition to ban hair discrimination in the UK, which already has over 92,000 signatures.

Zina said: “It’s a symptom of some of the racial injustices we have, and it only covers the tipping point.

“You can’t discriminate by the colour of their skin but you can say other things ‘don’t look tidy’ or ‘messy’. Those or code words for black.

“I would never call my hair nappy, or kinky, those connotations are words that are associated as derogatory. They’re always seen as negative, they’re never seen as beautiful. I will only describe my hair in positive ways now.

My hair’s delicate, it requires more care, it’s tender. If you want something that is of value it is going to take longer to get there, but it’s valuable … that is how I flipped the narrative and how I talk about my hair.”

study by Dove found 80% of black women felt they had to change their hair for work, while a study by Duke University, North Carolina, in 2019 found that a black candidate with straight hair was rated as more professional, refined and respectable.

She added: “We have become so accustomed to one particular type of hair, and that being the ‘right type’ of hair, but actually me having this afro has so many great qualities and there’s a reason why it’s the way it is and it’s shaped the way it is, because it’s meant to protect me from the sun.”

Hair discrimination is becoming a prevalent topic in the media.

Alongside Zina’s petition, Chanel 4 released a documentary about hair discrimination, Hair Power: Me & My Afro and Zina has launched UB Hair, an app that links people to hairdressers for their hair type. The brand also uses its platform to educate others about the history of black hair.

Zina said: “Education, education, education. Sign the petition – let’s get it to 100,000 so we can take it to Parliament.

“Research what hair discrimination is, read books, educate yourself on the issues. That way, you will be able to understand.

“Have those conversations with your friends. You have to make sure they’re comfortable with it. I know for a lot of people, it’s traumatic. My business has come from my trauma. I am turning my pain into pleasure. It’s taken me years to get to a point where I can do this, so be hyper-sensitive with your friends.

“Talk to your family, talk to your friends, read, share, donate.”

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