Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.
“I want straight hair, like my friend” , said my 4 year old, rushing into the room after school.
As of today, 18 states across the US have signed the Crown Act into law to end hair discrimination in the workplace and in public schools. That’s fantastic progress but ending race based hair discrimination across the US will take a bit longer. It’s going to take more support, more awareness and getting more people to sign the petition.
But, why and how does this impact any of us? Here’s why..
Discrimination based on hair texture is a form of social injustice, found across the world. Natural, curly hair is viewed as untamed, wild, unprofessional or unkempt. Western beauty norms convince us that hair needs to be ‘managed’ or ‘tamed’ in order to be accepted. These beauty norms or standards result in biases in the workplace or in schools.
As early as preschool, little ones across the world become aware of the differences in hair texture. Their hair is a natural and integral part of ‘how they look’ and as a result, a part of their identity itself. Based on their culture and ethnicity, our little one’s hair also reflects their cultural background and heritage. It reflects who they are.
But, they also notice differences and perceptions early. They notice and absorb negative messaging about hair texture. “Straight hair is easier to manage. Straight hair looks pretty. Straight hair is normal.”
We all want to feel a sense of belonging. We all want to feel like we fit in. Our little ones are not different. They internalise this feeling of ‘not fitting in’, that their hair does not conform to the norm. This affects their self confidence and self esteem at an early age, which they carry into their adulthood. As teenagers, they yearn to have straight hair, spending exorbitant amounts of money on their hair to chemically straighten it, only to feel like they fit in.
Whether your little one is growing up in Mumbai, Paris, Stockholm, London, Capetown or Beirut, they are/will be influenced by negative perceptions about hair texture. Society, media, product companies and their advertisements pass on these negative perceptions. So, whether your little one’s hair is described as curly, frizzy, coily, wavy, thick, voluminous or sometimes even straight, the messaging conveyed is that “It’s never enough. You are not enough. You need to change your hair. You need to change”
And that’s where the CROWN ACT changes the message for all the little ones in the world. We can show them in our actions and not just our words.. That they are enough. That they are beautiful and accepted, just as they are. A message that will ripple across the world and change the lives of little ones all over the world.
Here are 5 simple tips to get your little one to love their natural hair.
1. ROLE MODEL
Role model wearing natural hair and complimenting it. It is a powerful message that can increase their body confidence. If children only see straight representations of hair, there can be a dissonance for them on what is considered beautiful.
2. CARE FOR HAIR
Teach them to look after and care for their hair. When we educate children about their hair, we empower them to challenge any negativity they receive about it.
It's important to let children experiment with their hair and not force them only to wear one style. By playing around with different looks, children can learn more about their hair and have a healthy relationship with it.
4. TEACH PHRASES
It is not OK when people say things about their hair that makes them uncomfortable. Teach them positive phrases to use when someone says something. "I love my hair just the way it is." "It's beautiful."
5. RETHINK LANGUAGE
Rethink the language we use to discuss our hair. How we talk about our hair, influences our little one's feelings. We tend to make off-hand comments that a child’s hair is difficult or express frustration when styling their hair. Rethink that.
So yes, it impacts all of us and here’s what you can do to help…
Join the movement to shatter racial discrimination based on hairstyles by signing this petition to urge legislators to vote YES on The CROWN Act. Click here.
Not in the United States? Enter '00000' as your zip/postal code.
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