While Supporting Hair Discrimination Ban, Latinos Reveal ‘Bad Hair’ Issues

Latinas express their opinions about discriminatory comments on hair. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Asking New York City employees, students or school staff to change their hairstyle to fit certain looks is an act of discrimination prosecuted by law. The same policy applies to sports and nightclubs.

On Tuesday, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued specific guidance on New Yorkers’ right to have their hair appear as they please, in what is considered an act of defending communities of color. (…)

Ramona Torres, a nurse with 30 years of experience, was pleased by the Commission’s announcement, and said that nobody has the right to discriminate anyone for their hairstyle in the workplace.

“This is the hair that I have and this is how I’m wearing it. And if in my office they tell me that I need to change it I won’t do it because I have the right to wear it as I please,” said the Dominican immigrant, adding that there should be stronger laws to punish those who “damage” hair. “My hair looks bad because of a hairdresser. There should be fines also for people who do this kind of damage.”

Ivet Bilia, who wears hair extensions, said she has been often the victim of malicious comments from people referring to her so-called “bad hair,” and said that the law should also punish cruel comments. “I get asked things all the time and people talk about my hair as if it was who knows what,” she said.

On the other hand Hillary Infante, who says she tries to straighten her hair all the time “to look better,” said that the city law does not make sense.

“I think they are exaggerating. If somebody has ‘bad hair’ it’s just normal that they want to fix it, and if at my job they tell me to always straighten my hair, I’ll do it if I really like that job. I don’t see the problem,” said the Dominican woman.

Juan González, a Puerto Rican student in his last year of high school, was pleased with the Commission’s announcement, and although he noted he is not African American, he has always liked to wear thick braided hairstyles and is happy that now the law protects him.

“I am Latino but I can identify with that extravagant hairstyle. However, in class and at my weekend job I always get criticized when I wear braids and designs, and they make me change my hairstyle. Now they will have to respect our style, and I also believe that the law should mention the need to respect the free development of one’s personality,” he said.

Eva Cueto, who works at an Upper Manhattan beauty salon, said that she supports the law to prevent employers from deciding about anyone’s looks, although she noted that most of her clients change their hairstyle without anyone telling them to do so.

“Many women come here and they have bad hair and they know it; that’s precisely why they are always doing things to look better. It’s an exaggeration to be upset when they tell you that you have bad hair if it’s true. Here, nobody cares about that,” she said.

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