In January 2022, a new law called the Jett Hawkins Act will take effect in Illinois, protecting the hairstyles of hundreds of thousands of people in schools and workplaces. This law was named after four-year-old Jett Hawkins, who was told to go home from preschool because of his hairstyle. Hair style bias in schools and workplaces is a deeply rooted issue that affects individuals’ culture and heritage. It is a matter of personal identity and self-expression.
Significance of the Jett Hawkins Act
The Jett Hawkins Act sends a powerful message that Illinois cares about the mental health outcomes for children of color and supports them in embracing their own culture and individuality. By protecting hairstyles, the act ensures that individuals are not discriminated against based on their hair. It encourages acceptance and celebrates diversity.
Hair Discrimination in Schools
Jett’s experience at preschool exposed a systemic issue – the prejudice and bias against natural hairstyles that are common among African-Americans. Despite having a 100% African American student population, the school was not racially sensitive or tolerant. This reflects a message or ideology that black hair is unprofessional and unacceptable. Policies against natural hairstyles like braids, locks, or other ethnic styles are discriminatory and perpetuate the idea that Eurocentric hairstyles are the norm.
Impact on Children
Hair discrimination has a profound impact on children’s well-being and self-esteem. Jett, at only four years old, understood the significance of his hair and the injustice he faced. In his household, creativity and free thinking are encouraged, and he was taught to embrace everything about himself, including his hair. When he was told to take down his braids, it made him sad. The Jett Hawkins Act allows children like Jett to express themselves freely and love their hair as it is.
Hair Discrimination in Workplaces
Hair discrimination is not limited to schools. African-American women have long faced pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards in the workplace. Many felt the need to straighten their hair and change their natural hairstyles to fit in with corporate America. The Dove soap survey in 2019 revealed the extent of this pressure on African-American women. The Jett Hawkins Act not only addresses hair discrimination in schools but also recognizes its impact on society as a whole.
Society’s preconceived notions about black hair contribute to hair discrimination. Certain hairstyles are stigmatized and associated with being “ghetto” or unprofessional. These stereotypes overlook the cultural significance and beauty of ethnic hairstyles. By challenging these stereotypes and celebrating diversity, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society.
Response to the Jett Hawkins Act
The response to the Jett Hawkins Act has largely been positive, with many supporting the protection of hairstyles as a human rights issue. However, there are critics who question the necessity and cost of such legislation. It is essential to educate people about the importance of this act in promoting equality and eliminating discrimination.
Advocating for Nationwide Change
While Illinois has taken a significant step forward with the Jett Hawkins Act, the fight is not over. The goal is to see similar legislation implemented nationwide, ensuring that no one faces hair discrimination in any state. Activists in other states have expressed interest in collaborating and promoting change, and the Kids Like Jett organization aims to spearhead these efforts.
Hair style bias in schools and workplaces is a deeply entrenched issue that deserves attention and remedial measures. The Jett Hawkins Act is a crucial step towards creating a more inclusive society that celebrates individuality and diversity. By protecting hairstyles rooted in heritage and culture, we have the opportunity to dismantle harmful stereotypes and promote equality for all. It is time to embrace and celebrate our unique identities, including the way we wear our hair.