Column: Other companies should follow UPS, lift hairstyle bans

Destiny Blanchard

This week UPS did something all companies should take notice of – they lifted their ban on natural Black hairstyles for their employees. Previously the shipping company had many strict rules on the appearance of their employees including rules that didn’t allow beards, men with hair longer than their collar, and Afros or braids.

These rules were put in place as a way to keep employees ‘business appropriate’ and to not pose a safety concern.

A limit on Afros and Braids at all is concerning and is likely a rule that was rooted in racism and stereotypes about Black people. Bans or restrictions on hairstyles associated with Black people are rooted in white standards of appearance and are accompanied by the notion that Black hairstyles are unprofessional.

There’s a history of anti-Black hair sentiment in the U.S. that has lasted for centuries. Afros to Black people were at once (and still are) a signifier of Black power and unity. And braided Black hairstyles like cornrows and box braids are a staple of Black heritage and culture.

Even still being told to ‘tame’ or change a hairstyle to become more professional is something many Black people have experienced (myself included).

It’s a shame that in 2020 we have to uplift restrictions like the one UPS had, but it is a trend in the right direction, as many states, schools, and businesses have created systems where this type of discrimination can no longer be permitted.

In 2019 New York became the second state to ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles, after California. This was done with the Crown Act, an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”. The good thing about this act is that it’s now creating a standard by which other states and businesses need to hold themselves, and hopefully more companies adopt policies that better support their Black employees.

The work, of course, is far from done. Many businesses still hold policies that limit Black hairstyles and even the ones that don’t can perpetuate environments where Black people feel like they are treated unfairly due to the appearance of their hair. Right now in the U.S.

I think more people are taking notice of the issues Black people face and how integrated those issues are into American culture. The decision UPS made is a notable one, and more businesses should follow suit.


Destiny Blanchard is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]