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Protecting the Black Crowning Glory: Why Legislation Is Needed To Make Up for Federal Discrimination Statutes' Failure To Protect Black Hair


The employment process is stressful, requiring applications with multiple essays and interviews where applicants work hard to impress the employers. However, this process is even more stressful for Black people who have to worry about whether their hair will be a barrier to opportunities. This Note analyzes avenues to protect Black people from racial discrimination based on their hair in the workplace. Although Title VII and Section 1981 are meant to provide this protection, courts have become more restrictive as to what constitutes race, ultimately creating a standard that race is akin to biology or only those traits that cannot be changed or altered. This immutability standard is based on America’s racist past and directly contradicts case law that says Title VII is meant to protect characteristics based on stereotypes that are commonly associated with certain protected classes. Since pre-enslavement times, European colonizers have singled out Black people based on their hair, making hair a clear indication of race, and therefore a hardened barrier when racism is allowed to persist. This Note suggests that courts adopt a definition of race that includes mutable characteristics like hair. This Note also advocates for state and federal legislation to make up for the lack of protection afforded by the courts.