Going natural, ‘fro frisking and the politics of hair

Originally published in 2015, this story is updated.

The Transportation Security Administration announced in April 2015 that it no longer will pat down all people with ‘natural’ hair.

A year later, they were still touching. Hmm, that was fast.

And in 2018.

In 2019, a TSA agent with locs of her own patted down the head of a woman with braids.

Other examples of hair discrimination:

  • In East Texas this month, Gladewater school officials told Kienjanae “K.J.” Hooper that she couldn’t walk in graduation until she removed her braided extensions.
  • In Texas earlier this year, Houston-area Barbers Hill Independent School District, told DeAndre Hill he could not go to his prom in his dreadlocks, which extended below the shoulder.
  • In 2019, Michigan school officials at Paragon Charter Academy in Jackson County denied Marian a school photo because of her bright red hair extensions.
  • In 2017, twins Mya and Deanna Cook were barred from extracurricular school activities, including prom, until they removed their hair extensions.

When I say ‘natural hair,’ I mean black women’s hair that is not chemically relaxed, as that appears to be where most of the ire has centered.

I’m talking, afros, dreadlocks, curly twists, “sister locks” and big, frizzy curls. I include natural-inspired hair extension and braids in this definition.

Four states have passed hair discrimination laws: California, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Certainly not in red-state Oklahoma, where I live.

And the news is filled with examples like the one above, on hair discrimination, particularly with children. Maybe it’s because people in power believe children can be picked on?

I wear my hair both curly or straight, depending on my mood. My straight hair (achieved through blow-drying, not chemicals) is TSA-acceptable. My curly hair, not so much. I have flown since I’ve gone natural, and I find that I am more likely to be searched when I wear my hair natural, then not.

My hair in its natural state: curly and free.



Yvette Walker of the Positively Joy podcast

Walker is the host of Positively Joy, a multicultural podcast that takes a mostly Christian look at the search for light in all seasons. www.positivelyjoy.com