When going to a job interview, you would like to think that if the hiring manager were to choose to not offer you the position, they would have a good reason to do so. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many black people with braids and dreads.
Brandon Kobe Pierce, a black 16-year-old from Texas, was recently denied a job at Six Flags because of his hair. He had been looking forward to the interview because his grandfather had worked at the amusement park 30 years ago. The excitement quickly wore off because, at the end of the interview, Pierce was told that in order to be hired, he would have to cut off his braid that goes down past his shoulders.
He had worn his hair in this style for his entire life and did not want to get rid of the braid because he saw it as part of his identity. Pierce should have never even been put in a situation where he would have to choose between losing his braid or losing a job, especially since he was told that female employees are allowed to tie their long hair into a bun.
Pierce told WFAA,
"If girls are able to pull their hair back and have it long, then guys shouldn't have to cut their hair."
His experience is not the first instance of Six Flags denying a black person a job because of their hair. Kerion Washington, a black 17-year-old, was told after an interview with Six Flags that he would have to cut off his shoulder-length dreads in order to work at the park.
Washington's mother explained in a Facebook post that she spoke to Six Flags' Human Resources supervisor and she told her that employees are not allowed to have dreads, but that they can have braids. She said that dreads are seen as an "extreme hairstyle" and then compared them to tattoos and piercings.
Jay Connor, a writer for The Root, best explained how ridiculous the entire situation was. He stated in an article,
"In what realm of reality is the hair growing out of your scalp comparable to tattoos and piercings? And for those keeping track at home, they told Kobe he couldn't have braids but told Kerion he could if he got rid of his dreads."
Clearly, Six Flags seemed unable to keep their stance straight. They tried to clarify the situation by giving WFAA this statement:
"We maintain a company-wide grooming code that includes standard uniforms for front-line team members, limitations on tattoos, piercings, beards and no extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks, or partially shaven heads. We do permit braids and we also recognize that some team members may request accommodations to our grooming code due to religious, cultural or medical reasons. We work with those team members on a case-by-case basis to address his or her individual needs and we pride ourselves on a diverse workforce."
If Six Flags really pride themselves on a diverse workforce, there would not be a rule against black employees styling their hair in dreads. Braids and dreads are culturally significant for black people and there is nothing "extreme" about that. Pierce and Washington's hairstyles would not have prevented them from being excellent employees. They were simply being discriminated against for being black and having a black hairstyle.
These stories are exactly why cultural appropriation should not be accepted.
Non-black people with dreads and braids are praised for looking trendy and cool, but when Black people wear these hairstyles that were meant for them, they are told it looks "too extreme." The excuse that non-black people have for appropriating these hairstyles is that it is "just hair" but clearly it is more than that since there are black people losing jobs over it. Non-black people have given dreads and braids a negative connotation when worn by black people, but then in the same breath have made it fashionable for a non-black person to wear them.
I wish Pierce and Washington the best and I hope Six Flags is ashamed of how they treated them.