My picture appears with my column in the Chicago Tribune three times a week. But if most readers happened to pass me in a hallway, they probably wouldn't recognize me.
That's because for me and many other African American women, hair is an accessory. Sometimes I wear an Afro. Sometimes I wear it straight or wavy or twisted. Sometimes I have braids hanging down my back. Sometimes it is in crinkly curls. Sometimes I get sick and tired of messing with my hair and throw on a wig.
That's my prerogative. I have no idea why anyone else should care.
It has been more than a half-century since Afros became a cultural fixture in America, yet mainstream society still insists that natural black hair is inappropriate in certain situations. In its narrow and biased wisdom, white-dominated society tries to force black people to only wear styles it considers aesthetically pleasing.
It makes no sense that in 2020, black hair is still an issue in America. Braids, dreadlocks and Afros should be as acceptable as blond curly perms and man buns.
But across the country, black hair discrimination continues to make its way into the workplace, the school environment, public venues and entertainment events.
Officials in a predominantly white school in Texas suspended DeAndre Arnold and threatened to ban him from his senior prom and high school graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks off. In New Jersey, a white referee forced a 16-year-old athlete to cut his dreadlocks before participating in a wrestling match. A company in Alabama rescinded a job offer to a black woman who showed up to work wearing dreadlocks, saying dreads violated the grooming policy because they "tend to get messy."
This is racial discrimination, plain and simple. It's ridiculous. It's petty. It's insensitive. And it should be illegal.
There's a movement afoot to do just that. It's called the Crown Act, short for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, organized by a coalition of black advocacy and civil rights groups in conjunction with the skin care brand Dove.
Chicago native Matthew Cherry spoke about it when he received his Academy Award on Sunday for the animated short film "Hair Love," prompting a much-needed national discussion about black hair bias.