Racism: are hair salons guilty?


‘RACISM/THERE IS MORE TO LEARN’ Dominic Jacques (Photo credit: jacquesy_m)

In searching for hair salons, “hidden racism” can be as visibly lethal as the water fountains with the signs “whites only” and “coloreds only”.

Salons clearly defining what race it serves, even at times opting out of servicing clients based on race, and I say “opting out” because in every cosmetology school all hair types are covered thoroughly. In every race there exist an array of textures defined by cosmetology terms as fine, medium and course, and not ethnicity. So if it is hair styling that  salons are specializing in, then every client, despite race, should be able to walk into any hair salon across America and be serviced.

It is my goal in writing this article to shed some light on the vermin like behavior of racism in my industry. Exposing such behavior will present my colleagues with an opportunity of observation of what could be conditioned behavior if not premeditated.

I have encountered racism personally, as a hairstylist, even tho I specialize in all hair types, even tho I possess a clientele as diverse as the country we live in. No matter how skilled I am, I am often met with the surprise look from a referral, job opportunity, etc. with statement of “oh, your Mario, didn’t know you were black”.  Actually these very words were spoken to me by a salon owner in Beverly Hills.

I wanted to keep silent, but it would allow this dreadful disease to continue to lay silently in the foundation of my industry. Silence is the hindrance of change, and I was never the person who believed that in the thought process of “that’s the way things are”.

Before, During, and After this election I would succumb to racism as I watched silently as clients of coworkers would consciously make racist comments about Obama, with eyes focused on me. I would say “good morning” to clients of others and would get no reply but a glare. I would watch as clients walked into the salon and noticed me and ask if there were any other stylist and then specify “race”. I would be denied employment with underlying pigments of racism.

I would enter salons and be met with an immediate per-requisite for employment, “are you a colorist?”. This questions would imply that salons were hiring for positions or hair colorist to fill their obviously empty chairs, right! But when I would answer “yes” it would be to their dismay. Stereotypically black stylist aren’t perceived nor do hold any representational positions as hair colorist in the hair industry, so it is a silent killer for employment in affluent salons or salons not wanting to hire black hairdressers or service black clients. .

Yes, in such a diverse place as Beverly Hills or the affluent areas of LA, I would see the hidden racism come to an outright cry of ugliness.

Artistic Design Teams of major hair companies do not encompass blacks in position of lead colorist or hair cutting, not because they do not exist. There are a few blacks who have “broken down doors” where there should never have been doors. Irene Mikel, Ted Gibson are two that I can think of.

Maybe there are some being entertained now, but the lack of presence echos a mindset of what companies perceive as “beauty” in the hair industry.

Let me state adamantly, my experiences with some salons in the area does not reflect the views of all. There are several hair salons in the area where 1 or 2 black people on staff, however I refuse to believe the measure of presence is due to a lack of “black hair colorist” or skill set.

It became clear that opportunity in my industry despite skills, professionalism and ethics can be outweighed by skin color and stereotyping.

Polar opposite in the racial spectrum being all black and they created their own opportunity by establishing a haven for black hairstylist and creating opportunities for others.  Elgin Charles Salon being the anchor for opportunity for black hairstylist in Beverly Hills.

I am sure when I post this it will start a mass inclusion of blacks in these companies to reflect a more diverse team for public observation, and if so then I would have done my part in the fight for equality.

Why are there salons that are “coincidentally” all “black” or all “white” or all “?” ?

The silent signs of “white only” and “black only” etc. are all but coincidental. Social injustice, Segregation, Discrimination, community conditioning are just some of “weeds” that grow in peoples mind that may justify their behavior. But like so many I am still baffled, although I understand it, it stills alarms me.

I would love to believe like every other American who voted for equality, we are moving in the right direction as a country to eradicate any discrimination. “Equality for all” was echoed ever so clear in the re-election of President Obama, a black president that the majority of Americans no longer want to continue in this path of exclusion as most of America will become the minority.

Wherever I am in life, personal, professional or recreational, the thought never crosses my mind that “I am Black” until someone holding a position of “unfair advantage” makes it very clear. I am okay with being black, poor, not the norm, gay, or whatever other label society might use to label me. What I am not okay with is not doing my part to create awareness, thought, and helping to end the segregation, in hair salons.  That is why I personal choose to never work for a company that does not embrace diversity in staff or clientele.  I presently work in a hair salon that is small but huge in diversity. Russian, Black, Asian etc. and amazing hair artist, gratefully.

We are all beautiful, and I will continue to diversify my chair and join with any company that reflects this journey.



3 thoughts on “Racism: are hair salons guilty?

  1. I came across an ad by one of these “celebrity salons” for their Academy class, held on Feb. 10th and 11th, which is coincidentally the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Right off the bat, I sensed the hidden racism you mention in your article. The Chinese don’t have their hair cut during the New Year, and i am almost certain that this articular salon know this. It’s their way of excluding a whole group of people from their “Academy” class (free haircut).

    • While i cannot speak for or against this particular event or experience, I can sincerely offer an apology for your experience. Only you know what that felt like but I am sure there are many minority women who will echo the sentiment.

      Since the class is happening in February try giving them a call to see if they will honor their deal for a day other than the Chinese New Year.

      I am sorry for your experience and glad you spoke up and out about your experience. Hell give me the number and I will gladly call for you!

      But I will share with you that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the cowardly behavior of hidden racism and unless you get really real and call them out by their plastic noses then they will continue to create salons and atmospheres that are non inclusive of minorities

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