I’d hoped 2014 would end without another case of discrimination against loose or loc’ed natural hair in America’s schools and workplaces. Sadly, there’s one more and this time, it’s a fella.
Tamon George, an MBA student and President of the Graduate Student Government Association at the University of the District of Columbia, was recently informed that his dreadlocks were not a permissible hairstyle for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Leadership Institute. The conference organizers informed Tamon that he could not attend due to his dreadlocks, in a ban that prevented male attendees from wearing the hairstyle. Damon’s decision to wear dreadlocks represents a commitment to his heritage, as several members of his Caribbean family sport the style and the former Canadian football player has had them for a number of years.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a non-profit that supports students attending HBCUs — not a white private institution that we’d assume would hold the archaic notion that dreadlocks are unprofessional. They’re not the first black institution to do so, as Hampton University previously came under scrutiny for similar dreadlocks and cornrow bans in their MBA program. Ironically, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court, was a staunch advocate of equality in education and was the lawyer behind the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case — so my guess is he’d be disappointed in the Fund’s decision to limit the pursuit of educational advancement to those with certain hairstyles. If you agree, you can sign the Change.org petition against Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s discriminatory ban on dreadlocks for males.
I’m in graduate school myself and just came back from presenting at a conference in Washington, DC on Minority Health. Many attendees and presenters were people of color and a number of the ladies in attendance had their hair in twist outs, updos and curled locs that nicely complimented their business attire. I don’t recall seeing any guys at the conference with dreadlocks, but I can’t imagine why wearing dreadlocks would make their research, knowledge or ability to network any different than the rest of the attendees. I know I’d start a petition real quick if I applied and was accepted to a conference only to later receive an email stating they changed their mind because they didn’t like my hair… #lordgivemestrength
Should black professional organizations have restrictions on hairstyles appropriate for conferences for either gender? What can realistically be done to lift such bans in spaces of higher education?