Protect Afro textured hair! Amend the UK Equality Act to include hair.
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The exclusion of black and mixed children from British schools is reaching epidemic proportions. Recent high profile cases have seen pupils excluded from school for their hair being too short, too long, too big and too full. Students have been excluded for fades, locks, braids, natural afros and more - effectively every style and necessary protective method for the maintenance and upkeep of afro hair has been banned.
According to Justice.org, being excluded has a significant impact on the pupils’ lives; pupils who have been excluded are far less likely to reach the same levels of academic achievement and far more likely to end up in prison than their peers.
Children are being subjected to this treatment merely for the crime of being black.
To combat this institutional discrimination, the 2010 Equality Act needs to include explicit protection for afro hair.
Currently, "Protected Characteristics" covered by the Act's provisions for race include
(c)ethnic or national origins.
Hair is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the 251 page document. This has created a grey area; whilst afro hair technically falls under the definition of a 'protected characteristic', without being explicitly named, in practice, it is all to easily discriminated against (as the frequency of exclusions for black hair styles demonstrates). The absence of hair as a protected characteristic reveals the cultural bias at play in the law, and demonstrates a blind spot that ignores one of the defining features of blackness.
Hair texture - like complexion - is one of the markers of African ancestry. In many African cultures hair traditionally held great spiritual significance, making it a cornerstone of identity and cultural expression. It would not be permissible to insist that children lighten their skin to attend school, yet policies that forbid black hair in its natural state or ban the use of the protective hairstyles required for black people to maintain their hair are effectively demanding the same type of assimilation.
This issue has sinister historical antecedents; enslaved black people were denied the opportunity to adequately care for their hair, and subject to regulatory practices that prevented them from undertaking proper hair maintenance and grooming. The regulatory nature of the school policies, and the harsh punishments meted out by the school authorities continues this racist tradition, and needs to stop.
Sign the petition to amend the equality act to explicitly protect afro hair!
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