Why Montgomery County’s protection of natural hairstyles matters

Seniors+Leah+Niles%2C+Amelia+Burton%2C+Briana+Bittings%2C+Yesenia+Pineda%2C+and+Arthur+Siqueira%2C+and+junior+Kayla+Holt+show+off+their+natural+hair+in+various+styles.+
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Why Montgomery County’s protection of natural hairstyles matters

Seniors Leah Niles, Amelia Burton, Briana Bittings, Yesenia Pineda, and Arthur Siqueira, and junior Kayla Holt show off their natural hair in various styles.

Seniors Leah Niles, Amelia Burton, Briana Bittings, Yesenia Pineda, and Arthur Siqueira, and junior Kayla Holt show off their natural hair in various styles.

Amelia Burton

Seniors Leah Niles, Amelia Burton, Briana Bittings, Yesenia Pineda, and Arthur Siqueira, and junior Kayla Holt show off their natural hair in various styles.

Amelia Burton

Amelia Burton

Seniors Leah Niles, Amelia Burton, Briana Bittings, Yesenia Pineda, and Arthur Siqueira, and junior Kayla Holt show off their natural hair in various styles.

By Amelia Burton, Watkins Mill High School

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My hair is my crown. I cherish my curls, and my strength lies within the naps that are so often referred to in a negative connotation. For years, black women’s hair was seen as unprofessional, un-kept, distracting, and ugly.

It’s hard to believe that a person’s hair could keep them from getting jobs, get them kicked out of school, or prevent them from housing. The discrimination of black people’s hair runs deep, all the way back to the 1700s, but history always continues on to the present if we don’t truly learn from it.

In 1786, New Orleans Governor Don Estevan Miro passed a law banning black women from showing their natural hair in public. Black women had to wear scarves, handkerchiefs, or what they called a Tignon.

The Tignon symbolized a lower class. It was a way to let the men know that the black women were either slaves or of slave descent. All of this just to devalue the black woman, but the reaction of the black women was the complete opposite. Black women embellished their Tignons with jewels and used fancy fabric. They fought to show there’s no stopping their beauty.

But years later, the texture of a person’s hair is still a prominent problem. Regardless of the shade of the person’s skin, curly hair wasn’t acceptable. And with the many laws banning discrimination in the workplace based on skin color, gender, sexuality, and religion, a ban on natural hairstyles is overdue.

Montgomery County is the first county in the nation to ban discrimination on natural hairstyles in the workplace, housing, taxi services, and public accommodations. Anyone caught discriminating can be charged a penalty up to $5,000. Some natural hairstyles include box braids, locks, an afro, and so many more.

This isn’t just a problem for black women; so many Hispanic women, white women, and Asian women with naturally curly hair have altered their hair at some point just to feel accepted.

Hair is not just hair when a group of people in society is being shamed into altering it. Why should one group be shamed while another group gets praised? A person’s hair can hold as much of their identity as a person’s name. There’s history in every curl — each bounce is unapologetically graceful and unique.

This story was originally published on The Current on December 2, 2019.