Six Flags Discriminates Against Employees With Ethnic Hairstyles; ACLU Is Investigating | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Six Flags Discriminates Against Employees With Ethnic Hairstyles; ACLU Is Investigating

If I can't work there because of my dreads, then I won't give them any of my money either. At this rate, they may not let me into their precious little park anyway. Pshaw!

It's right there, under "Extreme Hairstyles," in the 2006 seasonal handbook for Six Flags America employees: no dreadlocks, tails, partially shaved heads "or any hairstyle that detracts or takes away from Six Flags theming."

Braids "must be in neat, even rows and without beads or other ornaments," the amusement park handbook advises...

Shannon Boyd, 17, bought a wig to cover the locks she sports under her Tweety Bird costume. Not appropriate, she was told, because the wig wasn't her natural hair color. [emphasis added]...

The complaint is the latest in recent years alleging that private companies or government agencies are violating civil rights with restrictions on ethnic and Africa-inspired hairstyles and beards.

"This is culturally very, very insensitive and possibly discrimination," said King Downing, coordinator of the ACLU's national campaign against racial profiling. "The question is, how long do we have to keep going around and around with this when it comes to people of African descent and the natural style of the hair that they wear?"

In the 1980s, a Marriott reservations clerk in downtown Washington sued successfully to keep her cornrows. Five years ago, District firefighters sought to wear longer hair or beards for religious reasons. Now, the fight has come to Prince George's, a predominantly black, middle-class county where many people consider such hairstyles a point of ethnic pride and few consider them "extreme."

"Many of the people who go to Six Flags have locks and twists and Afros," said Demetrius Hall, 16, of Suitland, a Muslim who said he will not cut his hair, for religious reasons. "Black people are not offended by those hairstyles."

Wendy Goldberg, national spokeswoman for Six Flags, said the policy has been in place for years. "I understand they don't want to conform, that this is a matter of heritage and pride," she said. "But you can apply the question of heritage and culture and not conforming to piercing, shaved heads and tattoos."

I can't believe that an employee who has to walk around in a hot Tweety costume all day is told her hair is inappropriate when no one else can see it anyway. She tries to appease them by wearing a wig, which is still under a costume that no one can see, and they tell her it's not her color. What is this - Nazi Germany? Who died and made them Hitler?

Boyd said she learned of her supervisor's concerns one day after her mother dropped her off. "They said I couldn't come into the park until my hair was braided down or cut," said Boyd, of Waldorf, who had worn locks the previous year. "My mom ended up braiding it for me in the parking lot."

Supervisors called her style "unprofessional and inappropriate," she said. So for the next two weeks she wore a wig. "Then they told me I couldn't wear the wig, which was kind of sandy-colored, because it wasn't my natural hair color."

Now she simply wears her locks, which she said is a reflection of her heritage and pride.

"It's a cultural offense," Boyd said of the park's policy. "They say dreadlocks are an extreme hairstyle, and that's not true. That is the biggest misconceptions of African Americans now -- with our hair. Whenever they talk about our hair, the styles and texture, it's always something negative.

"They are telling me I have to change something about me. They are telling me I have to change what I am. I won't do that."

Shannon Boyd, I'm routin' for ya.

Full article here.

Previous Comments

ID
106585
Comment

There's also a nice little blog about this issue at http://brunsli.blogspot.com/2006/06/back-to-political-hair.html

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-06-30T09:01:01-06:00
ID
106586
Comment

It is a touchy issue with private business to tell them that they can't control their employees appearance. If we gave them the benefit of the doubt and said that the business owner has no problem with any appearance but unfortunately has a customer base with many prejudices, should they be able to require a conformity? I personally have dreadlocks...this would not be a problem at many places in Mississippi, except that i am white. I was working at Fenian's as the kitchen manager preparing all the food and directing a large portion of their employees. As a person with a history of successful customer service positions and managing experience, i told them that i would like to begin waiting tables instead. The owner would not allow me to wait tables because i had dreadlocks. When i told them i was going to go elsewhere to wait tables, they offered me the position of floor manager....they would let me manage waiters but not actually wait. i went on to wait tables at Kiefers (in the same neighborhood with the same clientele) and was very successful. I think this article is a great illustration to use in fighting this problem, after all, this is a traditionally African hairstyle and it is in fact a form of racial discrimination to ask for a more "appropriate" hairstyle, therefore casting judgement on the traditional style of the culture...but this issue is larger. Should people be allowed to discriminate for piercings? Should we pander to the lowest common customer with prejudice? I have 1/2 inch holes in my ears and have had them for 7 years through many successful positions. I have worked at businesses who would not allow earrings. For some reason it would appease them for me to remove my plugs and just sport puckered up half-inch holes (trust me, it looks far more "offensive"). I don't favor making a business change their rules...i'd rather be an amazing employee and then take away my services and let them pout about it. Trust me, i have had many an employer pout because i would rather quit than conform. For me, it has been way more satisfying then making them let me stay there. of course, i too am for ya Shannon!

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2006-07-04T11:10:38-06:00
ID
106587
Comment

Hey, Daniel! I was in Rainbow just yesterday signing up for a family membership. Were you wearing a tie-dye shirt and headscarf?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-07-04T12:16:48-06:00
ID
106588
Comment

Oh yeah, your story reminds me of another story. An unnamed relative and I went to Stamps Superburgers for the first time a couple of months ago for take-out. I enjoyed my turkey burger immensely, but the other party said it wasn't all that great. A few weeks later, she admitted to me that if she knew that the cook, Mr. Stamps himself, had dreadlocks, she wouldn't have eaten there. I couldn't believe what I just heard. First of all, he owns the place. Second, he was wearing a tam, and I'm sure that was more for protecting his hair than worrying about folks who think people with dreads have roaches crawling out of their locks or something stupid like that. She always says that dreads look "nasty" to her. Yes, there are some folks who give dreads a bad name by never washing their hair, but we should not let a few misinformed people represent the majority. This person was surprised to learn that I wash my hair at least once a week. What did she think I do? Rub potting soil on it? The saddest part of thw whole incident is that this person is African American. I think that at times, we blacks can be harder on ourselves more than any other ethnic group could be to us. I know it's not completely our fault since assimilation has wrecked our sense of self, but dang!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-07-04T12:29:10-06:00
ID
106589
Comment

I have to confess that I have never once, in my adult life, thought of dreadlocks as dirty--and I'm a white boy. I have wondered once or twice how one washes dreadlocks, and I satisfied my curiosity by simply asking. I guess the individual hair strands are a little more insulated, but the scalp (a more serious bacterial haven) gets more soap attention, so it's a fair trade-off in terms of sanitation from where I'm standing. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-07-04T15:14:30-06:00
ID
106590
Comment

i actually was not wearing a tye dye t-shirt...i think i'm breaking a hippie code somewhere, but i don't even own any tyedye. Washing my hair is a weekly exercise for the record....well...sometimes every 9 days. : ) i can't believe that about Stamps. blah. Those Stamps are amazing people. Alot of people don't know this, but their family is vegan.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2006-07-08T18:08:28-06:00
ID
106591
Comment

I don't really care about the hairstyle a waiter has as long as it is clean. However, when it comes to piercings, I prefer not to have someone who has their nose, tongue, eyebrows all pierced (and yes, I have had waiters/waitresses that have had ALL of that and more pierced) handling my food. I don't have a problem per se with a person being pierced but when it comes to my food, I don't want someone like that handling my food since they are at a higher risk for infection, especially for hepatitis.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-07-08T19:17:38-06:00
ID
106592
Comment

Jimmy, hepatitis B and C are not transferred via food unless someone's piercing happened to be oozing... Chances are no waiter or manager would allow such a scene to take place in their establishment. Still, I guess you don't like pierced ears waiting your tables either? FWIW, hepatitis A is transferred via food and water and must come into direct contact with someone with Hep A. Well, that is unless you're eating needles or drinking body fluids... I guess you could get B or C under these bizarre scenarios. ;-) Anecdote: most people I know that are pierced are generally very clean people. It's rather difficult to have an open wound and not take care of your largest organ -- the skin. Regardless, you're far more likely (exponentially) to get hair in your food than any variant of hepatitis from a pierced waiter.

Author
kaust
Date
2006-07-08T21:46:35-06:00
ID
106593
Comment

Also, your less likely to get hair in your food from someone with dreadlocks due to the fact that the hair that falls out of their head is actually "locked" around its adjacent hair.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2006-07-09T10:20:48-06:00
ID
106594
Comment

I have wondered once or twice how one washes dreadlocks, and I satisfied my curiosity by simply asking. I guess the individual hair strands are a little more insulated, but the scalp (a more serious bacterial haven) gets more soap attention, so it's a fair trade-off in terms of sanitation from where I'm standing. Tom, there doesn't have to be a trade-off if you use the right products. When wearing dreadlocks, it is best to avoid products containing a high concentration of ingredients that can cause buildup or suffocate the scalp. These ingredients include anything made from petroleum, such as petrolatum (Vaseline) and mineral oil. I look for products that have natural ingredients such as olive oil and fruit extracts like avocado and mango. Jojoba oil is one of the best because of its similarity to the oils our hair follicles produce. I am experimenting with using coconut oil as a hot oil treatment. Also, using a clarifier on dreadlocks is recommended from time to time. There are clarifying shampoos, but natural alternatives include apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Tom, if you really want to understand all the different methods "dreadheads" use to take care of their hair, go to http://www.naani.com It's not the only Web site, but it's one of the most popular.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-07-09T18:59:37-06:00
ID
106595
Comment

Oh yeah, another thing... The same person who made a comment about Mr. Stamps asked me why my hair looked dry and didn't shine like other people she saw with natural hair or dreads. A person she pointed out on TV had jet black hair, and I tried to explain that my hair will not do that since it is dark brown. I told her that her hair could be synthetic, and I also tried to explain the refraction of light on different hair textures. Long story short, I wasted my breath.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-07-09T19:11:43-06:00
ID
106596
Comment

Thanks for this, L.W.! I'll check out the site. I have to confess, though, that I have had no real apprehensions about dreadlocked hair being dirty in the first place. I guess most of the reason for that is that the first folks I knew with dreadlocks were all very clean, and frankly beautiful young women--much like yourself--and so I tag it in the same mental category as, say, French braids. Just not anything I've ever worried about. The stuff about hair cleanliness versus scalp cleanliness is mainly an afterthought on my part. I know dreadlocks can be clean; once or twice I've wondered about the specifics of how. Personally, I have been blessed with the oily scalp gene, so I have to wash my hair twice a day during the summer (and once a day during the winter) or feel like I've just fried bacon on my head. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-07-09T19:15:05-06:00

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