Durham city leaders pass nondiscrimination ordinance, includes hair

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham passed a new nondiscrimination ordinance Tuesday night that included protections based on hair.

Advocates argue hair and racial discrimination are connected.

“I’ve been doing hair a long time,” said Brittany Venable, a natural hair care specialist.

​While she’s been doing hair her whole life, focusing on natural hair is her passion. 

“You can’t choose what comes out of your own head. So to be discriminated against it is almost like being discriminated against for what skin color I am,” Venable said.

She said her clients are often worried about the message their natural hair will send. Will they be accepted at work or at home? Could they lose their job?

So some use chemicals to straighten it. 

“It’s a wonderful idea that we’re even having a conversation,” Venable said.

Durham City Council is taking it a step further, including hair in an ordinance that expanded protections to the LGBTQ community. It prohibits discrimination based on hair style, texture, and types historically associated with race. 

“When we celebrate Dr. King often we don’t mention those unsaid names of women who supported him through that movement,” said DeDreana Freeman, Durham City Council Ward 1.

“To all the queer kids out there, I hope you know that we love you and we are fighting for you,” said Javiera Caballero, Durham City Council At-Large.

Hillsborough, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill passed similar measures last week. They’re the first of their kind since the repeal of House Bill 2, the so-called Bathroom Bill. 

“This can’t be an ordinance without teeth. We’ve got to be prepared to enforce and we got to prepare to do the work when folks feel that they’ve been aggrieved,” said Mark-Anthony Middleton, Durham City Council Ward 2.

“It’s a step forward in the right direction,” Venable said.

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