Is This Racism?

Postby mnp13 » November 6th, 2009, 2:01 pm

I was doing a search for something else and came across this blog and got to thinking about it. Is this really racism? I'm honestly not sure. I can see why it could be perceived as such, but at the same time, it could be argued that it isn't.

It's obviously written by a woman who seems to have very strong views on race issues, but I'd like to look past that and just stick to the issue of the commercial / retail statements made in the blog.

http://www.womanist-musings.com/2008/10 ... -hair.html

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
JC Penny's Doesn't Do "Black Hair"
Brenda McElmore went to JC Penny's to get her hair dyed black and was denied service.

According to KTLA, McElmore was told, "We don't do African-American hair." She was then directed to elsewhere for hairstyling needs. For McELmore it triggered a time of growing up under Jim Crow laws, wherein blacks were routinely denied services based on the colour of our skin. She has since filed suit against JC Penny. The company responded by sending the following letter.

"Let me apologize again for the customer service experience you had in our store. As we discussed, our salon receptionist felt that we did not have the technical proficiency... to perform the service you required. She may not however have expressed this to you in a way that was not offensive. For this I again apologize. Because customer service is ... so important to our company, we would rather not attempt the service if we cannot perform it as required."

Isn't that beautiful lawyer speak for your hair is too nappy and untamable to deal with. The woman wasn't asking for a hair treatment, or a hair style that was specifically Afrocentric, she was asking for a damn dye job. If the salon does not have someone there that can colour hair, then they are not a hair salon.

You know on second thought, even if she was asking for a perm, corn rows, or a weave, why should she not have been able to walk into a hair salon and expect them to be able to cater to her needs. Hair care is one of the few industries that continues to be divided by race. One look at the magazines in the waiting area will let you know if you are in the right place or not.

This continues largely because black hair is deemed to difficult to deal with. Somehow the white hairdressers cannot be proficiently trained to deal with the high maintenance needs of a black woman....oh no their delicate hands can only deal with the silky locks of white people. In all of the years I have been going to salons, I have only ever been to one that catered to both white and black women alike. The segregation is so normalized that black hair care even has its own aisle at Walmart and Shoppers Drug mart.

We never stop to ask ourselves what this means because we have become accustomed to the segregation. As a woman that lives in a small town that is mostly inhabited by Italians, I can tell you that this has lead me to develop home solutions to any hair issues that I may have because I cannot find anyone to cut, or style my hair. I have friends that drive 40 minutes to Buffalo from Niagara Falls, On to get their hair done.

Imagine having to cross an international border to get your hair done because no one can be bothered to offer you a service that you clearly want and or need. Think about the idea of a profession that specializes according to race, and what that means. By simply refusing to learn specific skills they can daily exclude blacks from patronizing their business; thus creating an all white environment. The analogy McELmore made to the Jim Crow south is quite correct.

It is my sincere hope that she wins this suit. Discrimination by default is not appropriate. An industry should not be able to legally discriminate by failing to mandate that all who require a license learn how to cater to all potential customers.

It is time to move away from the point where whites think that they can treat us like we are animals in a petting zoo; an exotic other to assuage their curiosity. It is not at all accidental that when the touch is required for the sake of servicing a need, blacks are told to go elsewhere. Historically blacks have served whites, and for a white salon to "lower" itself to accept black clients is threatening to the social hierarchy that whites have worked so hard to preserve.

Failing to insure proper training not only maintains a segregated service area, it insures that serving white needs is what continues to remain valuable. Consider that blacks would have to remit payment for services rendered and still yet we are not deemed worthy of being served. If payment would negate or in anyway challenge the overvaluation of whiteness if at all possible it will be refused. Even though it would clearly be in the best interest to learn to serve blacks as it would clearly add to the profit margins, white hairdressers continue to cater solely to white clientele. This is yet another example wherein racism not only hurts the party that it is being aimed at but the whites that are performing the racist act. Whiteness is only as valuable as we socially create it to be.
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Postby Malli » November 6th, 2009, 2:12 pm

um, no :|

Its someone's own personal choice what they learn, they don't HAVE to offer a service.

Honestly, in any other customer service situation where you cannot provide the service that someone wants the correct behavior is to let them know where they CAN have the service, if possible - I worked in customer service for like 6 years.

Hair is a big thing, if you screw it up, its hard to make it better.
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Postby Pit♥bull » November 6th, 2009, 2:24 pm

I can't reply in this topic as I would be called racist :shock:
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Postby LMM » November 6th, 2009, 2:25 pm

Hmmm it kind of reads to me as reverse racism, as in the blog writer is making a few stereotypical assumptions herself. I mean seriously????

It is time to move away from the point where whites think that they can treat us like we are animals in a petting zoo; an exotic other to assuage their curiosity. It is not at all accidental that when the touch is required for the sake of servicing a need, blacks are told to go elsewhere. Historically blacks have served whites, and for a white salon to "lower" itself to accept black clients is threatening to the social hierarchy that whites have worked so hard to preserve.


I have friends of many colors. I have many black friends who will only go to a "black salon" to get their hair done, whether it's a dye job, braids, perm whatever. It's what they are comfortable with. The receptionist definitely do the salon any favors with the way she expressed it but if they salon can't do what she asked, for whatever reason, what are they supposed to do? If anything, it should have been a wake up call to the salon to either GET trained in doing black hair or hire some people who can do it. Many ethnicities have a different grade of hair and no, not everyone can do it.

For instance, I don't see many Asian women sitting in a "black" beauty salon. And vice versa. And yes, maybe she has a point on the whole hair segregation issue but her whole power to the people tone left a bad taste in my mouth towards her plight.
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Postby BigDogBuford » November 6th, 2009, 2:27 pm

Depending on how the situation was handled by the customer service person I think it could be *perceived* as racism. I know when I was doing hair, styling excesivley curly hair was NOT my specialty. Most of my clients knew that and were ok with going to a stylist after their color appointment to get it styled.
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Postby Marinepits » November 6th, 2009, 2:59 pm

LMM wrote:Hmmm it kind of reads to me as reverse racism, as in the blog writer is making a few stereotypical assumptions herself. I mean seriously????

It is time to move away from the point where whites think that they can treat us like we are animals in a petting zoo; an exotic other to assuage their curiosity. It is not at all accidental that when the touch is required for the sake of servicing a need, blacks are told to go elsewhere. Historically blacks have served whites, and for a white salon to "lower" itself to accept black clients is threatening to the social hierarchy that whites have worked so hard to preserve.



I completely agree with Jenn and Malli.

As for "white" salons "lowering" themselves, I go to a pretty exclusive hair salon because I rarely get my hair cut -- I save up for a whole spa experience and really enjoy the day, so I figure I'll go to the best salon in the area. This salon has some wonderful master stylists who exclusively do "black hair". Should I feel offended that they won't do my hair? No. I have poker-straight heavy long hair that is very thick and not everyone can cut it well, without leaving scissor marks all through it. It took me many years to find someone who CAN cut my hair well and I'm sticking with her.

Twenty-plus years ago, when I was wearing my hair in funky styles with funky colours and living in a progressive city, I went to a "black" salon specifically because the stylists gave great graphic FUN hair cuts with lots of different levels and didn't want to just give me a pageboy cut. They LIKED that I wanted unusual hair styles. However, finding a "black" salon that would give me service was not easy. Most stylists didn't do "white" hair.

Personally, I just want someone who cuts my hair well. I'm not about to force a salon or stylist to cut my hair on principle only -- what if they royally screw it up and I look like Rod Stewart? Who would be at fault then?
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Postby BullyLady » November 6th, 2009, 3:01 pm

The receptionist didn't express herself well, but beyond that, no it isn't racism. Not anymore racist than the 10 hair dressers were that I tried before I found my current one. Hair is a big deal, it shapes how people see you, it's one of the first things people notice, the fact is that different stylists specialize in different types of hair. I wouldn't want someone who didn't know how to style my particular type of hair to even try! It's not any different than the lady who used to do my acrylics referring me to another nail tech in the salon when I started wanting backfills, because she was no good at them. :|
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Postby mnp13 » November 6th, 2009, 3:05 pm

When I was looking for places to get my hair cut when I moved, the first thing I used to ask was "do you have someone who has experience with very curly hair?" I had had bad haircuts by people who didn't know the first thing about curly hair, and it wasn't worth it to me to have someone "do their best" on my head.

I ask the same thing when I go in to have my hair done - especially if I'm having pin curls put in. I actually only go to the beauty school now because students have just learned pin curls and finger waves, unlike most stylists who haven't done them since school!

Hair types are very different across ethnic lines, I'm not quite sure why this woman is in denial of that fact.

That said, it sounds like the receptionist needs a refresher in customer relations.
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 6th, 2009, 3:12 pm

Yup, I'm agreeing with everyone...the receptionist was way rude...but I'm not thinking "racist". :| Not everyone can be good at all things... :|
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Postby HappyChick » November 6th, 2009, 3:21 pm

I do not believe it is racist to say you can't do a particular type of hair. It's common sense and realistic. I don't see a problem with having to go to a particular salon that can do whatever type of hair you have.

I have very curly hair and not every stylist can cut it correctly. When going to a new stylist I make sure I ask if they can do curly hair before I make the appointment. It's a matter of experience. When I find someone who can cut it right, I stick with that person. Personally, I would not want somebody touching my hair if they don't know how to do it right!

I do agree that the article seems to read like reverse racism.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » November 6th, 2009, 3:24 pm

LMM wrote:Hmmm it kind of reads to me as reverse racism, as in the blog writer is making a few stereotypical assumptions herself.


I agree 100%.
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Postby Malli » November 6th, 2009, 3:38 pm

Marinepits wrote: what if they royally screw it up and I look like Rod Stewart? Who would be at fault then?


:giggle:
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Postby amazincc » November 6th, 2009, 3:46 pm

For cryin' out loud... :rolleyes2:

I'm tired of everyone screaming "racism" at the drop of a hat.

We had this HUGE hype on TV yesterday, all damned afternoon long - constant commercials to watch "breaking news" at six o' clock about racism at a local elementary school. Parents upset as all hell... law suits pending...blah... blah... blah.
Anyway... a bunch of little kids went on a field trip to a local plantation, and some of them were chosen to re-enact "life in the 1860s" or some such crap. The tour guide picked three black kids to be cotton-picking slaves. HUGE upheaval all around once the kids got home and told their parents.
They interviewed the tour guide later on, and he explained that he wanted to be historically correct, thus he picked black kids. Kinda made sense to me when he put it that way, but everyone and their grandmothers want to hang him from the nearest tree for "emotionally damaging the poor children". WTF???? :crazy2: :bs:

The REALLY funny thing is that the tour guide is black himself. Go figure. :|
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Postby Malli » November 6th, 2009, 4:04 pm

emotionally damaged my ass.

like playing a part is in any way damaging.



I find stuff like this really frustrating. I have no connection to what people who looked like me did or acted like, in some cases, 100s of years ago :|

I treat all people how I would like to be treated, or, in reaction to how they treat me.
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Postby Marinepits » November 6th, 2009, 7:26 pm

So to take this a step further.....

A few weeks ago, the hubby and I watched a History Channel marathon about all different types of gangs. One of the more interesting episodes was about how the skinhead movement in England evolved into the more violent racist gangs that they are today. A somewhat condensed history is here: http://libcom.org/history/articles/skinheads/

That night, we were watching some UFC fights and saw Cain Velasquez with "Brown Pride" tattooed across his chest in HUGE letters. Imagine if that were a white fighter with "White Pride" tattooed the same way. :shock:

We got to talking about how what basically is a good thing -- pride in your self and your race -- can become so twisted that it's now representative of something horrible. I'm proud of my heritage (mostly Irish, English, and Swedish), but cannot express that as "white pride" without being condemned as a racist. Why, then, is it okay for every other ethnicity to express THEIR pride in their culture, ethnicity, etc? Every walk of life contains violent racist subcultures -- the Black Panthers, the Mexican Mafia, etc. Yet, they are allowed to proclaim their "Black Pride", "Brown Pride", or whatever with virtually no backlash. If it's wrong for one culture or race, why isn't it wrong for all? :|
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Postby Malli » November 6th, 2009, 7:41 pm

Marinepits wrote:So to take this a step further...
That night, we were watching some UFC fights and saw Cain Velasquez with "Brown Pride" tattooed across his chest in HUGE letters. Imagine if that were a white fighter with "White Pride" tattooed the same way. :shock:


:swoon: :eek1:

Thats rough.

I guess I don't really understand Racism.
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Postby cheekymunkee » November 6th, 2009, 8:32 pm

Twenty-plus years ago, when I was wearing my hair in funky styles with funky colours and living in a progressive city, I went to a "black" salon specifically because the stylists gave great graphic FUN hair cuts with lots of different levels and didn't want to just give me a pageboy cut. They LIKED that I wanted unusual hair styles. However, finding a "black" salon that would give me service was not easy. Most stylists didn't do "white" hair.


I have had that same experience. I didnt think it racist at ALL, I was glad they were honest with me about their ability to do m hair the way I wanted it done.
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