Bournemouth University graduate Lara Odoffin posted on Facebook about the incident in which she claims to have had a job offer revoked because a company didn’t approve of her braids.
In her post, which has been shared almost 2,000 times, she wrote: “So after being accepted for a position within this company, they have TAKEN BACK the offer of a position on the grounds that if I do not take my braids out.
“Naturally I simply cannot work for the company. This type of discrimination should not still be happening in this day and age and any establishment still condoning such practices deserve to be shamed and criticised.
“Being a black woman means that to have a long term hairstyle that stays neat is always going to be a problem. Having braids that last for 2-4 months and can be packed neatly and styled to however a workplace requires is the solution to this problem. No workplace has any right to forbid you from this. This is discrimination and I am disgusted that I had to be subject to such behaviour in this 21st century.”
She also posted a screen shot of the message she received from the business, which read:
Unfortunately we cannot accept braids – it is simply part of the uniform and grooming requirements we get from our clients. If you are unable to take them out I unfortunately won’t be able to offer you any work.
While Odoffin is choosing not to name-and-shame the business involved, over here at gal-dem we would just like to take some time to point out the stupidity that the company’s comments reveal.
Firstly, in the UK where in many parts of the country there are so few black hairdressers, it can be very difficult to manage afro hair and tame it into the western conception of “neatness”. Odoffin is right to say that braids are a solution to this problem, and they act as a lifeline to many black women.
Clearly the person who wrote this message to her has never sat through the chemical burn of a cream relaxer on their head, or put up with the harsh pull of cornrows after a weave is sewn onto their scalp. Neither do they understand the cultural significance that braids have to some people in the black African diaspora.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that black people have been discriminated against because of their hairstyles. In 2011 a boy was excluded from St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in north London for having his hair in cornrows; in 2013 a 12-year-old girl in Florida was almost excluded from her school due to her afro, and in 2014 hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks were briefly banned by the US army.
There is a small but distinct pattern of behaviour here which mainly serves to highlight the reason why some people always think it’s okay to stick their fingers in an afro: a general unfamiliarity and ignorance surrounding black hair that exists within the white community and desperately needs to be rectified.
Odoffin followed up her post about the incident with a new post today which further explained her reasons behind not naming the company, saying that she did not want to “destroy someones livelihood and business”, or “want a lawsuit” on her hands.
She added that despite this, she would be speaking to a lawyer and had “chanced upon an opportunity to correct blatant ignorance and discrimination… I certainly will keep going until it is put to rest.”
“This policy needs to be eradicated completely, there is no room for such rules in this day and age- across any sector. More than anything it just made me upset. I had the right experience, they were happy to have me. It was just about my hair.”
Gal-dem has reached out to Odoffin for for comment and certainly hopes she chooses to expose the company in future.