Race-based hair discrimination became illegal in 2010 under the Equalities Act, and yet, it's still a major issue in the UK. Under current law, discrimination against hair texture or style is incredibly difficult to enforce because hair isn't explicitly mentioned in the Equality Act; rather, it is described as a "protected characteristic", which leaves a lot of legal grey area. "The absence of hair as a protected characteristic reveals the cultural bias at play in the law, and demonstrates a blind spot that ignores one of the defining features of Blackness," Emma Dabiri wrote in a change.org petition to amend the UK Equality Act earlier in 2021.
In light of this, a new campaign spearheaded by MP Kim Johnson and co-signed by L'myah Sherae, founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education, and Stephanie Cohen, cofounder and legal and political organiser of the Halo Collective, has been released urging the equality watchdog — whose job it is to enforce nondiscrimination laws and equality — to publish guidance on making discrimination toward people with Afro hair a form of racism. The campaign letter is also backed by the British Beauty Council, Dove, Glamour, and the Halo Collective — to name a few. MPs and campaigners are hoping to highlight awareness and education of hair discrimination and provide greater recognition to the issue.
Statistics reported by the Halo Collective only reinforces how important this campaign is. The collective reported that one in four Black adults had a negative experience at school in relation to their hair texture, and one in five Black women feel societal pressure to straighten their hair for work.
To support, you can add your name to Sherae's list urging the Equality and Human Rights Commission to take further measures. In addition to that, you can sign Emma Dabiri and Zina Alfa's petition aiming to explicitly name hair discrimination as illegal under the UK Equalities Act — to sign the petition, click here.