Natural Hair Is Protected In California, But the Bias Is Far From Gone

For as long as she can remember, Hanna Wagari, a longtime resident of San Diego and the Director of Marketing for a multinational cosmetics company, has straightened her hair every time she’s had a job interview.

“I feel that white people find me less intimidating and more likable when my hair is straight,” said Wagari, who is Black and has a short afro. “People hire people they like, and I am more liked with straight hair. Once I get in the door and get the job, then I don’t care—I’ll wear my hair curly because my work speaks for itself.”

Wagari is only one among scores of Black people across the country who feel the need to change aspects of their physical appearance to avoid anti-Black bias at work or school. For many, this means going to expensive, taxing, and sometimes dangerous lengths to change their natural hair.