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Breaking News: Post-Crash America Still Racist

crash.jpg I’m confused. After the Academy finally gave an Oscar for Best Picture to a rich, white Scientologist who lectured our country about race relations, I thought we’d finally solved this whole “racism” problem in America. I mean, we’d been given a successful film about bigotry with words short enough and colors bright enough that even Southern hairdressers could understand it, right?

Well, apparently Paul Haggis needs to head back to the drawing board. The subtlety of forced-eye removal is no longer enough. If we expect America’s hair stylists to take their cues from Hollywood films, we’re going to need to shoot for something closer to the blunt force trauma of a three-ton steel pylon to the temple.

Indeed, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today had to reinstate Jean and Seandria Denny’s race discrimination case against an Elizabeth Ardons Salon in Virginia (PDF of the Opinion via How Appealing). It seems that Seandra had purchased a $295 salon package for her mother over the phone. The salon at the time didn’t object, either because they didn’t mind taking $300 from a black person, or were too ignorant to realize that a black person could actually afford to go to the salon. At any rate, Seandra decided to upgrade her package to include a hair coloring for her mother. However, when she appeared at the salon to pay for the dye job, the receptionist did absolutely nothing to hide her displeasure. She (allegedly) just said that there was a “problem.” And what was that problem, pray tell? We don’t “do black people’s hair.”

Come again? I don’t believe this salon had a whites-only sign on the door, did it? There weren’t separate water fountains for “colored” people were there? Are there still poll taxes down in Virginia? Oh, and don’t get the idea that the bigotry was exclusive to the receptionist. No sir. The salon’s manager, allegedly, actually asked the eight or nine stylists on duty about styling Jean, and every damn one of them refused to do Jean’s hair.

Well, I guess the lesson here is: If they ever expect anyone to listen, Hollywood is just going to have to get prettier white people to tell us that it’s not okay to discriminate against black people.

| Comments (20)


Comments

It's not really surprising, actually. And racism doesn't necessarilly have anything to do with it.

See, the cold, hard truth is that there are different skills required to style different hair types. I remember when I was in Japan, I had my hair cut. The stylist had never cut a white person's hair before, and was very eager to try. And when she was done, it looked really nice. Later, though, after I washed out all the straighteners she had used, my hair curled up and looked almost like an afro. All because when she cut it, she didn't know what my hair would do later because Japanese people all have naturally straight hair.

However, if you're a hair stylist in the US and not in an almost completely homogenized country, it's really stupid not to learn how to cut all the different hair types you might encounter.

And why would they not bother to not alienate a potential client-base? Laziness can't account for all of them. So, yeah, it probably is racism. And they probably really do deserve being sued.

I am also thinking it was not racism, although they may be trying to spin it that way. They make different hair products for black women that would torch my own hair. None of the women in that salon wanted to do her hair, most likely, because they didn't know how! My mother is a stylist and does ONLY old ladies- aka the blue haired type. I won't let her touch mine, lest I end up looking that way myself.

I hope that it's not found that this is "racism", because I think it isn't. I wanted my hair done in those teeny-tiny Bo-Derek braids, and although I'm WHITE, I went to the salon that specialized in BLACK HAIR. Duh. It's like, just because you can Barber a poodle doesn't mean you can give a proper military high-and-tight.

As nice as it would be to believe that there was no racism involved, the proof is in the context. Any decent stylist shop (or business, for that matter) that wouldn't want to get sued for racism or discrimination or any transgression therein, would f*king know better than to practically spit in someone's face by saying they "dont do black people's hair." We may as well go back to the fifties when barber and bartender alike simply said "we dont serve yer kind 'round these here parts." Conclusion? If it werent overt racism, the receptionist probably would have said, "I'm really sorry ma'am but our stylists don't have the equipment and supplies necessary to do satisfactory work with your hair type..." It's just good manners, and good ethics, seriously.

As nice as it would be to believe that there was no racism involved, the proof is in the context. Any decent stylist shop (or business, for that matter) that wouldn't want to get sued for racism or discrimination or any transgression therein, would f*king know better than to practically spit in someone's face by saying they "dont do black people's hair." We may as well go back to the fifties when barber and bartender alike simply said "we dont serve yer kind 'round these here parts." Conclusion? If it werent overt racism, the receptionist probably would have said, "I'm really sorry ma'am but our stylists don't have the equipment and supplies necessary to do satisfactory work with your hair type..." It's just good manners, and good ethics, seriously.

I suspect it was the result of panic over having to either a) refuse service (and get sued), or b) perform a $300 "experiment" (and get sued).
As someone whose hair type never seems to work with a stylist (I'm white, and sort of a human wirehair, I think), I'd rather find out in advance that someone isn't up to the challenge. In this case, however, their diplomacy needs serious work.

"Japanese people all have naturally straight hair"
Posted by: Jen | August 10, 2006 05:53 PM

Way to stereotype. Not ALL Japanese people have straight hair, actually a large percentage have extremely curly hair thus the Japanese straightening treatments that are so popular.

Will I know that black and white people do generally have really different hair (I remember one time in my grade school when a black girl was doing a white girls hair, and she messed it up by putting lotion in it, not knowing that it has a totally different effect on white people's hair), I have to say that this seems like indirect racism. I don't think it's as bad as having separate bathrooms, but the fact that no one in the salon bothered to learn how to do black people's hair is just ignorant and has a discriminatory effect. The problem with a lot of racism is that, unlike in 'Crash,' it's not overtly yelling racial slurs at someone or making fun of them for saying 'blakes' instead of brakes (although I know these things do happen). Usually things are more subtle, and there's some excuse to hide behind and cover your butt and say it's not racism. This makes it harder to actually do anything about racism, because people can't, or don't want to, see it.

Will I know that black and white people do generally have really different hair (I remember one time in my grade school when a black girl was doing a white girls hair, and she messed it up by putting lotion in it, not knowing that it has a totally different effect on white people's hair), I have to say that this seems like indirect racism. I don't think it's as bad as having separate bathrooms, but the fact that no one in the salon bothered to learn how to do black people's hair is just ignorant and has a discriminatory effect. The problem with a lot of racism is that, unlike in 'Crash,' it's not overtly yelling racial slurs at someone or making fun of them for saying 'blakes' instead of brakes (although I know these things do happen). Usually things are more subtle, and there's some excuse to hide behind and cover your butt and say it's not racism. This makes it harder to actually do anything about racism, because people can't, or don't want to, see it.

All your posts are racism in a way! White hair or black hair?? Any person that calls themself a stylist should be able to work on any type of hair.

I'm white and I wanted a 30's style fingerwave for my wedding. My stupid hairstylist at the time forgot to show up for my early morning appointment so I was left scrambling and having to attend a salon I'd never been to. The stylist there did a valiant job with my naturally stick-straight, fine hair, but at one point during the styling process, she expressed frustration at the products she had to work with, saying, "you should have gone to a black salon, they'd have the stuff you'd need to make this style hold in your hair."

While I think that the way the receptionist behaved was despicable, my wedding stylist had a point. The products are formulated differently.

And the fingerwave fell out of my hair about 3/4 of the way through the day.

The mind reels. This is friggin' Virginia, where, I believe, there are several black people?
I could sort of see it in a place like where I live, British Columbia, where there are few black people. We have specialty salons. Even here, my beauty school friends tell me, they are trained on black hair. And they aren't trained in Virginia? Unbelievable.
Assuming the problem wasn't racism, the salon should have explained the situation to the client and let her choose. A friend once worked on the long, curly, black hair of a Spanish woman, who wanted it changed to white blond and stick straight, all in one day. Yes, her hair turned to Silly Putty under all the chemicals, but it was her choice.

Thats ridiculous to say that its not a case of racism when it obviously is. Why would a salon offer such packages if they werent capable of doing different types of hair or if such a silly reason as "we arent able to do black peoples hair" comes about then why wouldnt they ask if they were black or not to get rid of such discrepancies? Even though its dumb enough to have to actually ask a person what race they are just to do hair. Its clearly a case of racism. According to the story not one of the workers were at all polite or courtious.

Way to stereotype. Not ALL Japanese people have straight hair, actually a large percentage have extremely curly hair thus the Japanese straightening treatments that are so popular.

Posted by: io | August 11, 2006 01:25 AM

Stereotype? Rightttttttt.
Okay, so I could be wrong, but my impression from living in Japan for half a year was, while lots of people had curly or wavy hair, that they all got it that way from salons or curling irons.

Now, I may have made a factual error, though I still contend that I was right. However, I don't appreciate implying that my comment was racist. I was merely reciting (what I believed to be) fact.

What strikes me is that there was a $300 "salon treatment" involved, and then the daughter decided to ADD the hair coloring. What that tells me is that the original purchase did NOT necessarily involve hair at all - that kind of stick for a salon day probably means it included massage / manicure / facial treatments, or the like - very few stylists would cost $300 for just the cut & style, so there were almost certainly other services involved. So the question is, did the salon simply refuse to do the color, on the basis that their stylists are ignorant, don't have the products, and don't want to fuck up the hair (which would be dumb, but forgivable), or did they refuse ALL service? Because that would be pretty clear racism, right there.

Ah, having taken a moment to start reading the opinion, it's clear that the salon provided the mother with a massage and other treatments, and only balked at coloring her hair. In addition, the salon claims the problem was actually that the daughter was trying to add the coloring on the day her mother was getting her other services, and that the problem was that they couldn't work the color treatment in on that same day. Even if the problem wasn't time, but willingness to do the coloring at all, it's not an obvious case of racism. They seemed to have no problem providing the non-hair services - and in fact, they DID provide them, before the daughter showed up.

In Connecticut in order to be *licenced* as a hairdresser you *must* have learned to deal with all kinds of hair. The "kinky" hair thought to be "black" hair is simply one human variant; I have known more than a few people of purely European descent who had that same kind of hair.

I'd be very surprised if Virginia's licensure was much different from Connecticut's.

This was racism compounded by ignorance, IMO.

Regardless of reasons and hair textures, the main reason this smacks of racism hinges on the idea of whether or not Ms. Denny was told "we don't do black people's hair". As razh stated above, there are a million more diplomatic ways to say that you can't provide a service than the way the receptionist allegedly did.

The original package purchased for the mother INCLUDED hair styling. Yes the coloring was to be added, but it's not as though it would be the only hair service done. According to the opinion the receptionist on the phone originally said the coloring would also be done. It was only when Ms. Denny came to pay for the service that there was "a problem".

It is interesting to note, however, that this took place in Tyson's Corner in Northern Virginia

Regardless of reasons and hair textures, the main reason this smacks of racism hinges on the idea of whether or not Ms. Denny was told "we don't do black people's hair". As razh stated above, there are a million more diplomatic ways to say that you can't provide a service than the way the receptionist allegedly did.

The original package purchased for the mother INCLUDED hair styling. Yes the coloring was to be added, but it's not as though it would be the only hair service done. According to the opinion the receptionist on the phone originally said the coloring would also be done. It was only when Ms. Denny came to pay for the service that there was "a problem".

It is interesting to note, however, that this took place in Tyson's Corner in Northern Virginia

When I moved to a new area of town, I was trying to find a new salon - I called 2 or 3 just by pulling them out of the yellow pages, and all of them said they don't do white people's hair, or that they only do black people's hair. I didn't take it as racist, I simply assumed they didn't have anyone on hand who had experience with hair like mine.

I know from experience that when I go to a salon, if I have my choice of several stylists, I'll shy away from the black ladies. I prefer to have my hair done by someone who has similar hair to mine, because they'll know how to treat it.

I have had my poor scalp abused by harsh brushing, yanking, and overly hot blow drying too many times! My hair is fine and straight, and does not require such aggressive methods.

It is not racism, it is reality: different hair types require different practices and training. Not every stylist can do every hair type!