How Oppression Shows Its Face In The Business Of Hair Braiding

Peaches, before Bo Derek

When I watched the video below, it reminded me of when I was a little girl.  In the summer, people sat on their front porches.  One of the pastimes that girls did was braid hair. It ranged from hanging braided styles to corn rows.

Back then before hair relaxers, I suspect that almost any Black woman or girl will tell us that after their hair was washed, it was braided, in small portions, to allow it to dry and not tangle.   After it dried, it could be combed out into another braided style, or straightened with a “straightening comb.”

In 1979, the movie “10” was released, and suddenly Caucasians who were unfamiliar with African cultur, thought that Bo Derek’s cornrows was an original style.  At least a year before Bo Derek appeared on screen with cornrows, Linda Greene appeared as “Peaches” of the duo, Peaches and Herb, with decorated cornrows.

Bo Derek

Hair braiding has been practiced for centuries in African communities, and by African-Americans. It doesn’t require any chemicals, hair dyes or cutting.

Along with American Blacks, some sisters from Africa came to America and started home businesses cornrowing.  They also braid with extensions.  Depending on the style, (and if the customer brought their own “ponytails” with them to use for extensions), the price could range anywhere from $50 to a $150.00 dollars – at least, in my neck of the woods.  It’s a style that lasts 2 to 3 months, depending on how fast the customer’s hair grows.

Now, there are 13 states that have laws forbidding the braiding of hair for money without a cosmetology license.  There are hefty fines if anyone is caught charging money for braiding hair without a cosmetology license.

The Institute for Justice has been fighting cases brought against hair braiders.  They give a very good reason for why the legal barrier to charge for braiding hair makes no sense whatsoever. Hair braiding predates our U.S. Constitution.  It rests squarely within the Constitution’s fundamental protections of individuals’ right to earn an honest living.

“Braiding laws vary dramatically across the country. In 13 states, natural hair braiders are forced to become licensed as either cosmetologists or hairstylists. Yet few of these states actually teach natural hair braiding styles. Instead, braiders have to learn cosmetology practices they have no intent on using in their career, like giving manicures or bleaching hair. Complying with these regulations is an ordeal, with licenses requiring up to 2,000 hours of training and costing upwards of $20,000 in tuition fees at cosmetology schools.”

Atlanta Black Star reports that since 2009, the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners has levied almost $100,000 in fines against dozens of braiders and 30 natural hair salons across the state.

It’s truly amazing that the moment Blacks find a way to use their culture and talents to legally earn money, that some states find a way to regulate the service that effectively puts them out of business.

Here’s attorney David Allen explaining two cases against hair braiders.


Posted on 05/14/2018, in Cases, politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This is an example of structural racism where the group most affected is African Americans

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angela,

      Back in the 50’s, there were men who came down the alleys in Chicago in trucks or horse drawn wagons. They shouted “Vegetables. Melons. Get your fresh vegetables.” My mom along with a bunch of other housewives seem to know what days the men were coming. They had dollar bills in their apron pockets and went out to buy the produce.

      When the 60’s came, those men were no longer coming around. I was a child and didn’t understand it all, but heard my dad and some other men at the newspaper stand talking about it. The men who sold the vegetables and melons were mostly Black along with a few Jewish immigrants. The city passed an ordinance that they needed a business license. The IRS came down on them for not paying sales taxes, and they even came down on some of the farms selling to them for not having a re-sale tax number.

      Those men weren’t getting rich. They could not afford the fees and filing costs. They were put out of business.

      It’s been generations, and things have not changed.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Wow! What a story! Reminded me of Eric Garner selling loose cigarettes to feed him family when he was choked to death by Daniel Pantaleo of the NYPD.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Angela,
          I can tell you numerous real stories about the system, including states issuing contracts to minority owned companies, and those state agencies who were suppose to use the service suddenly didn’t need them. The most revealing event happened with Chicago Urban League, who was suppose to identify minority and women owned companies in a group of suburbs for those municipalities to do business with them. The Chgo Urban League was paid a hefty fee for that work. They filed a report saying they were unable to identity any minority and women owned businesses. The President of a local Chamber of Commerce appeared at the meeting. Not only was she a Black woman, but the Chicago Urban League had not contacted her for a list of businesses and for her to point out which were women and/or minority owned. That happened in the 90’s. Thankfully, the Committee overseeing that project withheld payment of the fee to the Chgo Urban League until they completed their work and filed a factual report.

          Liked by 1 person

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