Tennessee, Natural Hair and the Framing of American Racism


It is difficult to debate the deep-rooted racism in America as being exaggerated and non-existent when there are states like Tennessee handing out fines for braiding hair without a license. The absurdity of this statement leads one to believe it is mere unsubstantiated gossip. Sadly, in the year 2018, it is all too true!
Tennessee requires 300 hours of coursework for hair braiders, and only three schools in the state offer this course that is not financially affordable for the individuals who are required to procure the license. Tuition can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. Those able to braid and making every effort to become economically self-sufficient are then prevented from utilizing this skill that is often taught in African and African-American families as a necessary grooming skill.
Tennessee’s institute for Justice admitted that they have given fines to hair braiders that has approximated $100,000 over the last nine years. More importantly, these fines did not include issues related to sanitation and health. According to the Institute for Justice’s analyst Nick Sibilla, all violations were for “unlicensed braiding”.
Gratefully, there are political representatives in Tennessee who are acknowledging that licensing of natural hair braiders as being unnecessary and are moving forward to help repeal the state license requirement through sponsoring HB 1809 and SB 2233.
Racism in the United States is both overt and covert. It is institutionalized, cultural, systemic and environmental. The fining of natural hair braiders in Tennessee is pronounced example of systemic and institutionalized racism. The behavioral norm of setting up forms of oppression that support racist ideology and foment racism occurs in our social and political institutions in forms of laws, rules and requirements that adversely affect people of color, particularly African Americans.
Working to eradicate all forms of racism in America is necessary to improve the social and political atmosphere, as well as provide justice for all United States citizens. Without these efforts, the social fibers of our nation continue to depreciate from the adverse impact of discrimination and racism. Dialogue and communication pertaining to laws and policies must be openly had, reviewed and changed. It is absolutely necessary to root out and address our societal ills in order for our democracy to thrive.
-IP Editorial Board