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Untangling the roots of hair racism in the nursing profession

14 October 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 18

What is it about a nurse's hair that can provoke the most irrational and febrile disciplinary outrage from some nurse managers and health service executives? There seems no limit to the ways in which organisations try to exclude and persecute nurses for their chosen hairstyles. Many people ‘wonder what the fuss is all about’ as they believe that ‘it is only hair’, but for others, their hair is of important spiritual significance and deeply linked to culture and identity (Erasmus, 1997).

Black hairstyles are not some transient fashion fad. Many of these styles can trace their roots back as far as early African civilizations (Horne, 2019). They do not exist to be policed or prohibited by health services or managers. Nurses of white and Asian backgrounds come to work with their hair as part of their authentic selves without experiencing targeted harassment from managers or colleagues. Nurses of African Caribbean hair heritage should be afforded the same consideration (Jongman-Sereno and Leary, 2019).

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