Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer do a PSA about Black hair discrimination

Gabrielle Union was joined by Keke Palmer, Uzo Aduba and Marsai Martin in a Glamour PSA to promote the Crown Act. The Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” has been instated in 7 states so far and protects against race-based hair style discrimination in the work place and at school. Glamour’s September cover story delves into the history of hair discrimination and the necessity for this law. It includes personal stories from women who experienced hair discrimination and retaliation on the job.

This is not the first time Gabrielle has spoken out about hair discrimination. She has been advocating for diversity in hair and makeup on sets. She has also stated that one of the reasons she left AGT was due to comments about her hairstyles being ‘too black’.

In the video Union, Palmer, Aduba and Martin give hair stories from 13 black women who sent in their experiences anonymously. Here are some quotes:

I’ve been told it’s too big.
When I first started pageants I was told to never let my hair be natural for competition.
The first time I walked into the office with my natural hair my supervisor asked it if was ‘forever.’

I’ve been asked ‘is it real?’
I’ve had someone tell me, surprised, ‘your dreadlocks are so nice and clean.’
I wear my hair boldly and proudly as it is the crown which makes me unique.

I’ve been told it’s too much.
I’ve been mocked and ridiculed for the frizzy coils that escape my tightly wound bun
I’ve had strangers walk up and pet me.
My coils are beautiful and so are yours.

I’ve been told it blocks people’s view.
HR told me my hair looked more professional pulled back and in a bun than it did out and curly.
My hair has a purpose greater than myself and I will not put it away to comply with white cultural standards of beauty.

Black women are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on their looks than other women at work. Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work simply because of their hair.

[From YouTube via People]

Natural hair discrimination is a real thing and I have had two experiences on the job. One of my managers told me that wearing my hair in an afro makes white people feel uncomfortable and maybe I should relax my hair. Another boss would not allow me to wear my head-wraps in an office job where no one would see me. I was temping for the latter position and that manager wanted to hire me permanently. Instead I called my temp agency and asked them to remove me from the assignment because I don’t have time for that nonsense.

I have seen black men and women being told their hairstyles are not professional. Last year there was a video of high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, having his locs cut off at a competition. Texas high schooler, DeAndre Arnold, was banned from participating in his high school graduation because he wouldn’t cut his locs.

I am glad to see the movement gain steam and I have already signed the petition to have the Crown Act implemented in all 50 states. No one should have to deny their heritage to fit in or be seen as “less professional” because they do not adopt Eurocentric ideas of beauty and hair styles. I hope that the Crown Act will open doors for other POC who wear ethnic hairstyles as a part of their culture like those from the South Pacific. Our old ways of doing business must change and become more inclusive.

Here is the full video:

Gabrielle Union

Marsai Martin with the caption 'Black women are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on their looks than other women at work.'

Uzo Adubo with the caption 'Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work simply because of their hair.'

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24 Responses to “Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer do a PSA about Black hair discrimination”

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  1. ABritGuest says:

    If you do a google search of unprofessional hairstyles men and women it mainly shows black men and women with natural hair styles. Jamaica just had court ruling that essentially says schools can discriminate against kids with locs. When it comes to black hair it is never just hair. It is heavily regulated, stigmatised and politicised

  2. Tealie says:

    I love these two women!! Truly inspirational, Gabrielle is heading to 50 in three years and hasn’t aged since Bring It On! 😍😍

  3. Flamingo says:

    This makes sense for almost every profession. If it doesn’t stop you or your coworkers from doing your jobs or putting yourself or others in danger, then leave people and their hair alone. The only exceptions would be like people working on heavy machinery where their hair could get caught and surgeons who have to have everything tucked away when they’re in the sterile field.

    • liz says:

      This! If your hair isn’t a health/safety hazard (I’d add food service to your list), you should be able to wear it the way you want.

  4. BnLurkN4eva says:

    Yeah! Let hair be free. This will help everyone in time because even people with just curly hair sometimes feel like they must tame their curls in order to fit in. Still, black hair stigma is real, I’ve seen it where I work and it’s ridiculous because it’s almost always because it makes a white person uncomfortable. Why would someone’s hair makes you feel uncomfortable, I will never understand that. I support this.

  5. Mercury says:

    Head wrap is totally different than letting your natural hair out. A head wrap is for home. It’s akin to wearing your PJs at work. If any race of person wore a head wrap to work (that was non religious) it would be unprofessional

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      Head wraps come in countless styles some of which are truly stunning. They can really help a professional look sing by adding visual flair.
      I’m a white girl with curls. I regularly wear hair bands, hair clips, decorative hair combs, ribbons and a variety of hats. None of this is done for religious reasons. Obviously I take my hat off indoors. But if I can adorn my hair in a workplace why can’t a black womxn?

    • Gingerbee says:

      WTF…who are you to tell black women that headwraps are unprofessional. SMFH!

    • detritus says:

      Well this is just straight wrong. Google tignon, my friend.
      Head wraps are not just for home, so ridiculous.

    • SheaButterBaby says:

      Educate yourself. You sound ridiculous. There’s a huge difference in wearing a beautiful headwrap, which is part of our culture, and a headSCARF or bonnet, which is what you wear to bed.

  6. SheaButterBaby says:

    THANK YOU OYA!! Everything you write is so relatable… so encouraging to see here. Your contributions to this site are amazing.

    I’m extremely disappointed at the lack of comments here though. This story would be at the top if you all cared about black women as much as you claim to.

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      ITA It’s been really disappointing to see interesting posts like these get way fewer comments.
      Oya is a fantastic writer and I love reading her perspective on things! I’m so happy this blog gives me access to her writing.

      • SheaButterBaby says:

        YES MarcelMarcel! I don’t always comment but I come here each day specifically to see what Oya will write about. These are the articles that deserve more interest and support!

      • MarcelMarcel says:

        @Sheabutterbaby same!
        I’m white. Oya to strikes a brilliant balance for me. Because she’s an engaging writer so I find her perspective very relatable! But she also tends to bring facts or context outside of my experience. Her articles feel like they’ve been written by an incredible new friend whose had a fascinating life that I’m excited to learn more about. ie. it’s fun reading commentary on cosmetics by a legit MUA.
        I’m also getting pretty desperately as an extrovert whose staying at home. So reading writers like Oya helps me feel a little less lonely.

      • SheaButterBaby says:

        Outgoing introvert here! I’m going back and forth between being in a state of bliss and then out the blue feeling like I’m losing my mind. I’ve become a crazy plant lady! Learning about all the different varieties has been fun and intriguing 😝

        I’m so SO happy you’re enjoying Oya’s writing! She speaks about things that are every day concerns for me and I feel so at home and heard and understood while reading her posts. The Crown Act in particular is of special concern to me. Truly agree that Oya is an excellent addition to the team! Wishing you much joy and comfort during these crazy times ❤️

  7. herhighness says:

    being black in America is a tough existence, constantly having to be so aware of how I’m perceived..

  8. Pabena6 says:

    As a white woman, I LOVE natural hair. It’s so beautiful, and the intricate stylings are fascinating. And sometimes “relaxed” hair looks so stiff — and often damaged. I hope this gets passed w/o too much resistance and that “natural” can become “normal.” Afros and locs rock!

  9. Alarmjaguar says:

    Oh my gosh, I barely recognized Marsai Martin (Diane from Blackish). I love her on that show – she looks adorable and is growing up. Powerful PSA, thanks for the write up about it.

  10. Geeena says:

    I think the non-consensual touching of black women, especially their hair, is an extension of white supremacy people don’t even realize they have. If you feel entitled to touch someone without permission, tbh it’s not that different from men who casually grope. Either case you don’t respect others autonomy as taking precedent over your own whims.

    This video is good work and it sucks that we still need educating in this country when it’s been said for YEARS that black women and men and black hair are treated this way.

    • Anna says:

      This! And it happens all the time. I remember once waiting tables years ago at a fancy event, carrying a tray of full champagne glasses and this guy kept trying to touch my ‘fro and laughing with his friends about it. But as a server, unless you have a progressive boss, you have to just grin and bear it. I was dependent on that job so just dealt with it the best I could.

  11. StephB says:

    I don’t know how I missed this post!!! The pandemic really made me re-evaluate how I wear my natural hair. I’ve gotten braids and stopped straightening my hair for the first time. Not having to worry about people touching my hair or being asked questions about my hairstyle has been a relief. The burden of trying to adapt our hair for white spaces is a burden and I’m so glad this is a mainstream conversation.

  12. matkinson says:

    I love Oya’s writing! I check everyday for her articles.

  13. Hotsauceinmybag says:

    Thank you for sharing this Oya! I have 3B/3C hair and I recognize that my hair type doesn’t always experience the same discrimination as 4 hair types but it still sucks. I have been told by my current bosses no less that I look “prettier, sleeker, more professional” when my hair is straight. Not to mention when dating either – I’d go on a date with a guy with a blow out one evening then the next week show up my natural hair and whew chile they would not know what to do with themselves. It’s true, natural black and textured hair makes white people uncomfortable which is no longer my problem… I went natural about 4 years ago but I do like the feel of a blow out every once in a while.

    The pain and struggle many of us go through to meet these so called beauty “standards” smdh… I still remember picking the scabs off my scalp after getting a relaxer…