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controversy as biracial zara worker told her braids are ‘unprofessional’

Following offensive comments in the media about Zendaya’s Oscars locks, the politics of black hairstyles hits the shop floor.

by Tish Weinstock
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11 April 2016, 11:38pm

From Amandla Stenberg calling out Kylie Jenner for wearing cornrows to Giuliana Rancic describing Zendaya's Oscars locks as probably smelling like "patchouli oil and weed", there's been a lot of discussion about the politics of black hair in recent media. Treading the fine line between appropriation and appreciation when it comes to borrowing the tropes of black culture is something we're all still trying to figure out, but blatant racism is something we should all be able to identify from a mile off.

According to reports, when Zara staff member Cree Ballah turned up to work at a store in Toronto recently, with her hair in braids and tied back into a ponytail, she became the subject of racial discrimination. After seeing her hair, two of the store managers reportedly asked for Ballah to take her pony tail down, claiming it did not conform to the "clean professional look" the brand strived for. As CBC News report, Ballah was humiliated and filed a complaint with HR. "My hair type is also linked to my race," said Ballah, who identifies as bi-racial. "So to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity in the sense of what comes along with it. My hair type is out of my control and I try to control it to the best of my ability, which wasn't up to standard for Zara."

Responding to her comments, Zara issued a written statement saying that it had "engaged directly the employee on this matter and respect the privacy of those discussions" while adding that it was a diverse and multicultural brand that does not tolerate any form of discrimination.