A pair of black teenagers in Arlington, Texas, have become the latest victims of hair discrimination at Six Flags Over Texas.
After spending his childhood visiting the amusement park, 16-year-old Brandon Kobe Pierce decided to apply for his first job there with the encouragement of his family.
“We encouraged him to go to Six Flags,” Kobe’s mom Connie Pierce told WFAA.
Eager to continue his grandfather’s legacy—who worked there decades prior—Pierce threw on his Sunday best and knocked out his job interview. But upon its conclusion, he was informed that in order to get the job, he’d have to get rid of the single braid he has worn his entire life prior to being hired.
“They pulled me aside at the end of it and said, ‘You would have to cut your hair or we can’t hire you at Six Flags,’” Pierce said.
Unwilling to part with such a significant piece of his identity, he inquired about other options but was informed that while white female employees can put their long hair in a bun, male employees aren’t afforded that luxury.
“If girls are able to pull their hair back and have it long, then guys shouldn’t have to cut their hair,” Kobe said.
But little did Kobe know, 17-year-old Kerion Washington had a similar experience beforehand—telling NBC DFW that after a similar interview with the popular amusement park he was told that his shoulder-length dreadlocks were a no go.
“They told me that I couldn’t have dreads because it’s more of an extreme hairstyle,” said Washington.
In search for answers, his mother Karis tapped into her repertoire of black mom superpowers and called Six Flags’ Human Resources department for an explanation.
“I spoke with the HR Supervisor and she said they gave him the opportunity to come back when he don’t [sic] have dreads,” Karis shared in a Facebook post. “She said dreads are NOT allowed, but he can have braids. And said they are an extreme hairstyle. She also went on and compared them to tattoos and piercings.”
In what realm of reality is the hair growing out of your scalp comparable to tattoos and piercings? And for those keeping track at home, they told Kobe he couldn’t have braids but told Kerion he could if he got rid of his dreads.
In the immortal words of Beyoncé’s rather successful beau, “Is it ‘Oochie Wally’ or ‘One Mic’?”
Six Flags offered the following statement to WFAA defending its decision:
“We maintain a company-wide grooming code that includes standard uniforms for front-line team members, limitations on tattoos, piercings, beards and no extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks, or partially shaven heads. We do permit braids and we also recognize that some team members may request accommodations to our grooming code due to religious, cultural or medical reasons. We work with those team members on a case-by-case basis to address his or her individual needs and we pride ourselves on a diverse workforce.”
A 2016 ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta stated that a company can refuse to hire someone because of dreadlocks. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for an employee who had a job offer pulled at Catastrophe Management Solutions, in Mobile, Alabama, because she had dreadlocks, according to al.com.
Sharon Parker, a spokeswoman for Six Flags, said the grooming policy is reviewed annually and noted that employees may now have small, visible tattoos. Male employees are now allowed to wear close shaven beards as well.
“We are an equal opportunity employer and pride ourselves on a diverse workforce,” Parker wrote in an email to the Forth-Worth Star Telegram.
Since sharing Kerion’s experience on Facebook, Karis has not only received an outpouring of support but job offers for her son. So it looks like Kerion will be taking his talents elsewhere.
“Not everybody is going to accept you,” Karis offered in response. “But when one door closes another one will open.”