We live in a society where racial discrimination occurs routinely, but often subliminally. The discreet element of racism allows it to maintain its grip on society without people being able to fully appreciate its impact on the lives of many. Racism is not only demonstrated through hate crimes and openly racist remarks. However, it is possible to downplay the racism that takes place in other scenarios due to the laws that are supposed to safeguard people from discrimination. In the professional sphere, there appears, at face-value, to be sufficient legislation to successfully prevent any regular instances of racial discrimination. However, it is not enough to simply have anti-discrimination laws - it is also necessary to find a way to effectively implement them.
Nicola Thorp has recently drawn attention to the barrier that many black women face due to the fact that their hair is considered to be unprofessional in its natural state. She has raised awareness of yet another unnecessary rule incorporated into society that allows other people to maintain a control over women's bodies. I indirectly encountered an example of this superficial sexism recently when my sister worked a shift at the Shangri-La Hotel in The Shard in London, and was asked to wear red lipstick. I was baffled by this, wondering how this silly requirement was necessary to make her look more professional. This sexist element to the professional sphere, however, should not undermine the racial undertone of the separate problem that Thorp addressed. There is a notable difference between appearing smart and professional for a job and having to go through a painful, lengthy and costly process so that black women will acquire 'white woman' hair. This not only serves as a barrier against black women, making it harder for them to find employment, but it additionally contributes to the idea of white women being more beautiful. It is such an immature concept that it is bewildering that this form of routine discrimination is actually still happening in British society, though beneath the surface.
This idea, that black women should be expected to imitate the natural hair of white women to be considered more professional-looking is bizarre and completely nonsensical. What is the logical reasoning behind this? Dress requirements make sense, unless of course women are expected to forcibly wear skirts and heels in a job that does not require them - a notable example of this would be stewardesses in numerous prestigious airlines. However, one might have great difficulty in trying to form a rational explanation for why black women apparently don't look professional unless they drastically alter their appearance.
By making the effort to address her observations of a black woman being declined for a job on the grounds of her hair, Nicola Thorp highlighted the need for all women to stand up for each other when they indirectly come across oppression. This factor was brought up at the Women's March, the day after the US Presidential inauguration, in which women and some men came together to protest against the threat that Trump's new position poses against women's rights, as well as his casual and consistent demeaning of women. The biggest criticism of this march was that while white women were willing to come together for their own cause, as of yet a 'Black Lives Matter' march and a march supporting Muslim people's rights has yet to be planned on such a scale. One of the highlights of the live feed of the march in Washington, broadcast on Buzzfeed, was being able to hear black women speaking on behalf of multiple oppressed identities, and Muslim women who typically have a distinct lack of a platform to speak from.
There is a need for everyone to be willing to listen to and stand up for the rights of people who experience discrimination, regardless of their own identities. We all have a responsibility to create a platform for each other so that we can hear and come to understand how people experience oppression. Once we come to understand the ways in which people are routinely discriminated against, and actively stand up for each other's rights, employers will begin to lose the platform that currently allows them to actively discriminate against people on the grounds of race; sex, sexual orientation, or multiple factors. Power comes in size and solidarity, and if the public unites against discriminatory practices carried out by employers, these employers will have great difficulty in continuing to implement routinely discrimination. No matter how many laws the government passes, it cannot serve as the eyes and ears that are required to ensure that discrimination is not taking place in practice. This can only be done on a grass-route level, as the public is the eyes and ears on the ground.