Race-based hair discrimination begins as early as five, according to the Dove 2021 CROWN Research Study for Girls, and it can manifest in various ways. In some instances, the discrimination is loud, public, and antagonizing. In others, it is inconspicuous, nagging, and oppressive. In all scenarios, it has a far-reaching impact that spans well beyond the moment in which it occurred and has the power to erode the confidence of its intended target. According to the study, “53 percent of Black mothers, whose daughters have experienced hair discrimination, say their daughters have experienced race-based hair discrimination as early as 5 years old.” Additionally, researchers found that “100 percent of Black elementary school girls in majority-white schools who report experiencing hair bias and discrimination state they experienced the discrimination by the age of 10.”
Throughout the month of February, EBONY and Dove have called attention to the detrimental impact of hair discrimination while subsequently celebrating the beauty and versatility of Black crowns by way of the EBONY Black History Month Cover Challenge. Drawing from EBONY's extensive archive of photos, our audience was invited to recreate some of our most iconic magazine covers while showcasing the beauty of Black hair on Instagram using the hashtag, #EBONYBHMCoverChallenge. Out of more than 150 participants, 6 top submissions were selected.
While fun and effective in calling awareness to worthy issues, we recognize that social media-based challenges alone won't end race-based hair discrimination. It is also essential that deeper, more difficult conversations take place. For this reason, we assembled a special editorial address presentation featuring several members of the EBONY team discussing their painful experiences with hair discrimination, which range from traumatic childhood incidents to microaggressions in the workplace.
For EBONY's Assistant Editor Savannah Taylor, hair discrimination manifested at a TSA check-in line as she and a host of classmates prepared to board a plane for a class trip. Singled out by an agent over her Marley twists, Taylor recalls being told that her hair needed to be checked to ensure she wasn't hiding "something suspicious."
"They cracked jokes. They pulled on it. They tried to unravel it," shares Taylor, who recounts being visibly shaken by the encounter. Worse, a chaperone on the trip responded to her distressed state by telling her the situation could have been avoided had she not worn a "ghetto hairstyle" on the trip.
Unfortunately, the experiences of Black women in respect to hair discrimination did not differ much from the classroom to office spaces. EBONY's Marketing Director Kera McCain recounted a series of hair bias incidents in the workplace. "I've been asked, 'Why does Black women's hair stink? Why doesn't our hair move?' I've even been told that I don't want to be known as the Black girl who changes her hair at work all of the time," McCain expresses in the address. "Each time I felt insecurity, extreme vulnerability, and I was unable to process what happened in those moments."
Today, race-based hair discrimination remains legal in 36 states. However, Dove and The CROWN Coalition have set out to change this narrative by way of The CROWN Act legislation, which has already been passed in 14 states. To eradicate race-based hair discrimination and to prevent our experiences from becoming the experiences of future generations, we invite you to keep the conversation going and sign The CROWN Act petition.
Together, we can end racial hair discrimination.