Copyright 2008 by William A. Mays, Proprietor
     The Police Gazette has long been a proponent of the tonsorial arts and the important social role that the barber shop and beauty salon have played in American culture. For years the Gazette itself was an indispensable part of the social beehive that was the traditional American barber shop. Which is why we feel it apropos—in this age when social and racial barriers are falling, seemingly, on a weekly basis—to highlight the one area where institutionalized racism remains as firmly entrenched as ever. Yes, it is in our beloved barber shops and salons.
     Freedom of choice is among the loftiest of American ideals and one that this publication would defend with every ounce of our vigor. If one chooses to go to a particular salon and that establishment just happens to have an all-black or all-white clientele, then so be it. But it is when the woman of African descent strolls into a salon staffed by whites and is told by them "sorry, we don't do ethnic hair," that is when we have a problem. It turns out the staff of that salon, though having attended and graduated styling school, have never been trained in the wooly ways of the African head. The well-rounded education they should have received in that school was not so well rounded after all and categorically excluded a full 13% of the American population. The rejection the black woman faces at the white-staffed salon is akin to the rejection black home buyers faced when told as recently as the 1960s that New York City law prohibited them from living in certain neighborhoods. If the chancellor of our styling schools and academies were George Wallace, we could understand. George Wallace was not shy about speaking his truth and proclaiming his belief in segregation, but what we have now is a much stealthier and more insidious form of institutionalized segregation. This malevolent malady is a present-day peek at what it must have been like for those choosing to sit in the front of a bus only to be told they couldn't because of their race.
     Today's coiffeur and coiffeuse owe it to themselves to correct this tonsorial injustice. And styling schools and academies must begin to require ALL students to learn how to style ALL heads before they may receive their degree or certification.
The Last Bastion of
Institutionalized Racism
Return to Tantrums mainpage.
July 18, 2008