by Hanna Ibraheem for the Stylist
The Halo Code champions all Afro hairstyles and aims to get rid of hair discrimination in schools and workplaces. Here’s why it’s such an important step for the Black community.
Founded by 30 young Black activists from The Advocacy Academy (a social justice youth organising movement dedicated to creating a more fair, just and equal society), the Halo Collective is an alliance of organisations coming together to combat hair discrimination.
Employers can adopt the Halo Code and ensure Black employees won’t face barriers or judgments because of their Afro-textured hair.
“Despite hair being a protected racial characteristic under the law, there is a widely held belief that Black hairstyles are inappropriate, unattractive, and unprofessional,” explains Edwina Omokaro, the 21-year-old co-founder of the Halo Collective. “We’ve been suspended from school, held back in our careers, and made to feel inferior by racist policies and attitudes.
“These ideas strike at the freedom and dignity of Black people and serve no purpose other than to instil shame in us about our Blackness. No one should have to change their natural or protective hairstyle in order to thrive. Together, we will ensure that all Black people can learn, work, and live free from hair discrimination.”
While worrying about how your hairstyle will be perceived within a school or work setting is a thought some of us have had the privilege to never deal with, that isn’t the case for many people in the Black community.
Race-based hair discrimination has been illegal in the UK since the Equalities Act became law in 2010, however it is something that still occurs today.
In fact, research from World Afro Day and De Montfort University found that 58% of Black students have experienced name-calling or uncomfortable questions about their hair at school.
Additionally, 46% of parents say their children’s school uniform policy penalises Afro hair, while one in four Black adults say they had negative experiences themselves while at school in relation to their Afro hair.
It doesn’t end when Black people leave school, either. The survey found that one in five Black women feel societal pressure to straighten their hair for work.
As a result, many Black students and employees find themselves having to pick between dress codes and their racial, ethnic, cultural and sometimes religious identities, often putting their hair health at risk, too.
“Hair discrimination is still worryingly common,” says Maurice Mcleod, CEO of Race On The Agenda, another member of the Halo Collective. “People should not be penalised for the hair that naturally grows from their heads.
“Despite equality legislation, some schools and workplaces still have very fixed ideas about what ‘professional’ hair looks like and all too often, this is from a white European lens. People of colour in general – and Black people in particular – have enough challenges to traverse when it comes to education and employment, so it is important that we make sure they are not discriminated against because of their hair. We’re glad to be involved in this important campaign.”
Unilever UK, parent company of Dove, has become the first employer to adopt the Halo Code, with more schools and companies to be announced in the coming weeks.
Here’s hoping the numbers of those signing up increases until hair discrimination ends once and for all.