After Nearly Two Decades, Texas House Votes To Deregulate Natural Hair Braiders
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Written by Angela Bronner Helm: Apr 25, 2015
Ending what has turned out to be a nearly two decade fight, on late Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a bill that would deregulate natural hair braiding, the latest shot in a culture war that had very real consequences for those who made their living practicing the ancient art of hair braiding.
As it stood before the HB 2717 was passed, braiders had to comply with a variety of regulations including going to barber or cosmetology schools, completing a government-approved 35-hour hair braiding course and obtaining a state license or risk being arrested.
Unfortunately, there was no barber college for hair braiding in the state, and so the Institute for Justice and Isis Brantley posed a constitutional challenge by to Texas’ law in 2013, and a federal court struck down the law in January.
Isis Brantley has been at the fore of this fight for nearly 20 years. In 1997, seven government officials raided Brantley’s business and hauled her off in handcuffs for braiding hair without a special government license. Brantely, owner of the Institute of Ancestral Braiding and founder of the Naturally Isis Natural Hair Parade and Festival helped change that law in 2007, but Texas officials simply wedged hair braiding into the state’s barbering and cosmetology statutes, which made it nearly impossible for her to teach hair braiding for a living, according to The Institute for Justice.
Says The Institute in Their Braiding Freedom Initiative:
Since the advent of hair braiding more than 5,000 years ago, it has been a simple and safe practice that government has no business regulating. African-style hair braiding uses no dyes or chemicals, and it is safe for braiders to perform and safe for the people getting their hair braided. But in most states, if you want to braid hair for a living, you need to get permission from the government first.
Hair braiding is a time-tested, safe practice that is deeply rooted in African cultural heritage and carries with it significant historical importance. But across the country, state governments make it illegal for braiders to make money from their braiding skills unless they first spend thousands of dollars and attend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of government-mandated cosmetology training. To add insult to injury, this training typically does not even teach them to braid hair, but does require them to learn totally irrelevant things.
“I fought for my economic liberty because I believe there is a lot of hope for young people who seek to earn an honest living,” said Brantley. “This vote by the Texas House means aspiring hair braiders from across the state are one step closer to being able to practice an ancestral art that dates back centuries, and do so without a government permission slip.”
A similar bill is expected to pass the Texas Senate in the next few weeks.