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Why My Hairstylist Is My Main Quarantine Ting

Our check-ins are saving my hair and uplifting my spirit, at the same damn time.

Her Voice

Upon learning that New York's governor issued a stay-at-home order, one of my first concerns was what I saw many Black women fretting about on Twitter and in the last-minute lines at the hair store: Wtf will I do with my hair with no access to my hairstylist for an indefinite amount of time? I wasn't worried about having a style per se. I was more concerned about having access to the professional eyes, hands, and treatments that keep my hair healthy. You see, I have 4C natural hair and while I do adore it, baby girl is very high-maintenance. I also had a bad breakage experience about a year ago due to stress, stress, and mo' stress. I've dealt with anxiety almost my entire life and when things get really thick for me, it has historically shown up and shown out in my hair thinning in certain areas.

COVID-19 shaking up the whole country's employment status certainly files itself in that category of stress — partially because I've been laid off three times before the age of 28, so job security is a soft spot for me that I tend to unhealthily fixate on. Since I could smell the anxiety and stress burning a smoke cloud up the road toward me, I pressed the gas lickety-split on different therapy techniques and self-care regimens I've learned. First things first?

So many candles from Target, the attendants probably thought I was hosting a seance — and virtual appointments scheduled with my hairstylist.

That's right. While I do miss visits with my nail tech and masseuse, there's no service entrepreneur I have a closer relationship with than my hairstylist, Astariea "Star" Martin. She helped me transition into natural hair almost a decade ago, encouraged me to love my 4C curl pattern (a hair type she shares btw, which def helps), and one of the things I love most about her is how easily she can explain the science of hair to a mostly clueless person like me.

Astareia Martin / @starstylze

Just when I started to panic about potentially reversing all the hard work she's put into my hair, Star texted me just to see how I was holding up. Not to inquire about my hair. She hit me up just to ask about me and honestly, she was that way long before New York made headlines as the epicenter of this pandemic. Finding a stylist who actually views me as more than just one more head and cha-ching on the CashApp has been a godsend in many ways. Her kind text reminded me that we've built up a strong enough rapport over the years for me to trust her to simply view my hair on a video chat and glean exactly what I need to be doing or not doing with it. It's also not lost on me that with hair care services being shut down completely all over the country, her business has undoubtedly been affected.

Thus, my bright idea for a paid video consultation was born.

The consultation, of course, began with Star encouraging me to calm down with all the worrying I was doing about my hair and a few ki-kis about this and that. Then, I showed her the different parts of my head that have been trouble areas in the past. Hearing her confirm that my thick lil' 'fro is indeed in a healthy spot was the relief I needed but that isn't even what made our video conference peak beneficial. She reviewed every single product that I've been using or thinking about using (which included me reading the most prominent ingredients on the label), and helped me create an entire monthly regimen for my normal-to-medium porosity hair.

Marquaysa Battle

Star also gave me a few cute cocktail recipes I could use to strengthen my hair until she and my mane are reunited. I especially appreciated the moisturizing mix which is basically my favorite spray-on leave-in conditioner, rosewater, and lavender oil — all of which I already owned, except for the rosewater which I needed to re-up on. I simply told her what I had in my cabinets and she recommended the mix based on that. Easy peasy.

Marquaysa Battle

When I say I VALUE this woman?! Sometimes, I feel so lost with styling and caring for my natural hair, particularly since I'm at the 'awkward length' stage where it's too long for some things and too short for others. This leads me to worry about it constantly. Sis calmed me down (which is honestly half the battle) and empowered me to manage my hair on my own with a step-by-step plan. I've been writing about beauty and Black women for years but I still unabashedly prefer a lil' more hand-holding on my hair journey. There are enough Black beauty salon horror stories in my past (and maybe yours) to justify me stanning a stylist who doesn't mind communicating with me about every little thing concerning my hair. If I need to cut, you're not just taking a pair of scissors to my head. Imma need to know how much we're talking and why. If my hair is breaking off, just break it to me plainly and help nurse it back to health, not style around it. If all that sounds like a given, let me assure you that it's not always.

Some stylists prefer to withhold key information, often out of fear that you may become so knowledgeable that you won't need them anymore.

Thankfully, Star and other stylists like her — because more do exist — understand that when it comes to the client and the professional, it has to be a team effort. The client is the person who spends the most time with their hair, so it's really important to equip them with all the knowledge of their unique hair needs plus the products and practices that work for it. This way, on the blessed day when we pop back into their chair, we've not undone all their glorious work. A very dope piece of advice I noted from her was the reminder to not look at doing my hair as a chore (which I often do) but to reframe it in my mind as another self-care process. Hair shouldn't be a source of stress for me or any of us but it often can be because of societal pressures and whatever our personal circumstances are at the time.

Marquaysa Battle

If you've been feeling lost without your professional stylist during these times or if you're just concerned about how they're sustaining their business, try scheduling paid video hair check-ins. You could do it weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month until the stay-at-home order is lifted. If you don't have a go-to professional right now, it's still not a bad time to look for one. This'll help you stay on top of your hair even when you feel like you're in a slump and it'll keep a few coins coming to their pockets during these trying business times.

Hopefully, I'll be back in Star's chair sooner than later but in the meantime, I'm riding this stay-at-home situation out with her as my main Quarantine Ting. Doing so has helped me sort out my hair woes and uplifted my spirits because she cares about me as a person and it shows in how she approaches her services. Despite all that's going on, I'm doing everything I can to not let Ms. Rona take away my inner peace or this hair I'm trying to grow out. May we (and every hair on our heads) all stay safe throughout all of this.

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Featured image by Marquaysa Battle

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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