TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES — It seems like the State is always attempting to find some way to capitalize on Blacks. Now, as we see, braiding hair is no exception.
According to Forbes, Fatou Diouf has been braiding hair since she was a little girl. Pretty much, it’s all she knows. Diouf mentions as follows.
“I never did any other job but hair braiding my whole life. I cannot recall a time when I did not know how.”
Well, fast forward to the present and the state of Tennessee has forced Fatou to pay a cumulative $16,000 in fines. According to the source, this is because she employed workers who didn’t have licenses to braid hair.
Likewise, Forbes writer Nick Sibilla notes that Fatou isn’t alone in this battle against the State. Sibilla reports as follows.
“After examining meeting minutes and disciplinary actions for the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, the Institute for Justice has identified nearly $100,000 in fines levied against dozens of braiders and more than 30 different natural hair shops and salons since 2009. All of those violations were for unlicensed braiding; none were triggered by any health or sanitation violation.”
The source mentions that, in general, those in offense are fined a $1,000 civil penalty for every instance of “performing natural hair care services for clients without a license.”
This regulation applies to braiders who work out of their homes, in unlicensed salons, and as well as licensed shops.
Forbes reports that Fatou is having a “very stressful” time with those fines. She even entered a payment plan just to handle them.
Her most recent violations has her dishing out over $830 a month to the State. On top of struggling to cover those fines, she has to provide for her two children. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s dealing with a divorce, and sending monetary support back to her family in Senegal.
SO, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
After going through the aforementioned situations, Fatou has become an outspoken voice for reform. Working with the Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center, she has testified in favor of a bill that would eliminate the State’s license for natural hair stylists.
This also includes the state board’s basis for fining braiders. With this in mind, as Forbes reports, Fatou believes they’ll create more employment opportunities if the bill passes.
The source mentions that braiders are free to work without a license in almost half the country.
Yet, in Tennessee, only licensed “natural hair stylists” can earn money from “braiding, twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending or locking hair,” according to the source.
However, the source points out that it’s not so easy to obtain a license.
“Obtaining that license can be quite the ordeal. Braiders must complete at least 300 hours of coursework, which often means sacrificing the equivalent of working almost two months full-time. Across the entire state, only 3 schools offer those courses, charging anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 for tuition.”
Given her years of experience, Fatou says completing those required classes was “mostly a waste of…time.”
“We don’t need 300 hours to know how to wash a clip or a comb,” Fatou elaborates. Likewise, her employees feel the same about it.
“They’re not going to learn something they already knew,” the stylist continues. “Why would we pay thousands of dollars just to take a test?”
Forbes reports that the State’s license requirements and fines have it made extremely hard for entrepreneurs to find workers who have the proper paperwork to braid hair.
The source states as follows.
“According to a fiscal note published in February, Tennessee only has 156 licensed natural hair stylists. Compare that to Mississippi, which has roughly the same-sized black population, but over 16 times as many braiders legally working in the state. Unlike its neighbor, Mississippi does not license natural hair care. Instead, prompted by a lawsuit from the Institute for Justice, the state merely requires braiders to register with the Department of Health and pay a $25 fee. Thanks to this streamlined system, in 2016, more than 2,600 braiders had registered in Mississippi.”
So with that in mind, braiders have migrated to Mississippi in search of opportunity.
According to Fatou, it’s even more difficult for her to find braiders since they can easily cross state lines and work without fear.
Braiding is a safe practice. And with this notion, states are gradually eliminating licensing requirements for natural hair care.
Forbes notes that braiders are free to work without a license in 23 states. Along with Tennessee, lawmakers have filed bills to repeal specialty braiding licenses in Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
Also, the source says lawmakers are also seeking legislation to exempt natural hair care from cosmetology licensure in New Jersey, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
All in all, it’s all so very crazy — just a method of capitalization by the government. Like Fatou mentioned, who needs 300 hours to learn how to braid?
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