Hairstyles that suit black women are often considered inappropriate for workplace, but hailed as classy and professional when white women wear them.
Cree Ballah, 20, an employee at a Zara store in Toronto’s East End, was asked to change her hairstyle by one of the managers at Zara’s Scarborough Town Centre location when she showed up for work with her hair in box braids gathered in the back, reports CBC News Toronto.
“They took me outside of the store and they said: ‘We’re not trying to offend you, but we’re going for a clean professional look with Zara and the hairstyle you have now is not the look for Zara,'” Ballah told the CBC.
Ballah was asked to take the braids out of the bunch by a manager, who with the help of another tried to “fix” her hair in the mall filled with shoppers and co-workers.
As a black woman Ballah did her best to keep her hair decent and under control, and therefore, she has filed an official discrimination complaint with Zara’s human resources department and intends to file one with the Ontario Human Rights Commission for the humiliating and unprofessional treatment she received from her bosses.
“It was very humiliating… it was unprofessional,” she said. “My hair type is also linked to my race, so to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity …”
There seems to be a double standard across race-lines, about which hairstyles are considered professional and which ones are not. Most workplace standards single out black women and prevent them from putting on their best and most elegant hairstyles, while their white counterparts go to work with almost anything on their head.
For example a quick Google search for “professional hairstyles” shows you pictures of white women who in fact didn’t even style their hair, whereas a search for “unprofessional hairstyles” gives you pictures of black women in some of the best styles suitable for the kind of hair they have.
This is the kind of cultural insensitivity that stems from racial discrimination, given that employees have had centuries to understand that black women cannot do their hair like white women do.
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