Getting sent to detention for wearing braids at school. Facing military discharge for wearing locs. Institutional discrimination based on natural hairstyles has long been an issue in need of address — and it’s something that Thandie Newton has experienced firsthand.
The actress first shared her story in an interview with friend and longtime makeup artist Kay Montano that appeared on NBC News back in 2012. “I remember when I was seven at my convent school, it was school photo day so all the kids came looking their best. Mum did my hair in 20 or so cornrows with green wooden beads on each end to match my school uniform. The nuns were appalled, they wouldn’t let me have my picture taken,” she said. “I felt embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed. Can you imagine how my mum must have felt?"
So when the City of New York recently stepped up as a leader in banning such discrimination, (no matter how overdue), it prompted a celebratory tweet from Newton yesterday. “Woohoo!!!!!!! Take THAT the nuns at my primary school !! I wasn’t permitted to have my photo taken on School Photo Day because Mum had given me beautiful rows of braids the night before – specifically to make me look my best. Now hair discrimination is illegal in NYC. Bliss x,” she wrote.
Woohoo!!!!!!! Take THAT the nuns at my primary school !! I wasn’t permitted to have my photo taken on School Photo Day because Mum had given me beautiful rows of braids the night before – specifically to make me look my best. Now hair descrimination is illegal in NYC. Bliss x https://t.co/xtTrhspkr7
— Thandie Newton OBE (@thandienewton) February 26, 2019
The tweet garnered overwhelming support of both Newton and the policy change, which classifies bias based on hair texture or style as racially discriminatory and offers protection to Black New Yorkers who have faced disciplinary action at work and in schools for simply wearing natural hair styles.
Thought the vindication may be too little, too late for Newton herself, it’s primed to prompt a much-needed sea change for systemic discrimination that will help younger generations — a win certainly not lost on the actress. As NBC News reported, a forward-thinking Newton transitioned to natural hair nearly a decade ago because she "didn’t want [her] daughters to judge their beautiful curls." Years later, the world is finally starting to catch up.
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Source: Refinery29 – Erika Stalder