“Natural means just that. My hair grows out this way. Proudly kinky. Proudly nappy. That’s my hair, and it has been a journey to actually say that out loud and be proud of that,” said Councilor Edwards to her colleagues during this week’s Council meeting.
On Wednesday, the Council voted to adopt a resolution supporting Massachusetts bill HD4497, a resolution relative to preventing discrimination against natural hairstyles.
Hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists, and other styles serve both practical needs and as cultural manifestations of black and African-descendant communities. Discrimination against natural hairstyles negatively impacts people of color, particularly women and girls, in school, in the workplace, in businesses where they are seeking services and in places of socialization.
States such as California and New York have banned discrimination against natural hairstyles. In 2017, the Attorney General of Massachusetts took action against the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for policies regarding hairstyle and dress code that appeared to offer differential treatment toward students of color, particularly black girls.
Councilor Edwards explained the importance of HD4497 in light of the amount of overregulation of natural hair that occurs in school dress and hair codes. These policies disproportionately impact black girls, and as a result prevents them from going to school and has increased the amount of times they have been expelled.
Councilor Edwards talked about research that has shown that the majority of the reasons why black girls are disciplined in school is because of dress code violations and hair code violations. She said, “It was shocking to me because my hair is natural. The way the regulations are written for the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School would have prevented me as a young girl from going to school there. I had to come forward, not only to support this legislation, but to give you a face to who this law would be impacting. A younger version of me.”