Hair braiding and barbering have been very lucrative businesses for some years, servicing and enriching many people of color. To legally profit and run a business as a hair-braider or barber, you must be licensed to do so. With the ever-growing niches within the haircare industry, and the vast pool of money that can be generated, states have begun cracking down on unlicensed practitioners. The process to obtain a license can be very discouraging for many people. States, such as Iowa, require you to possess a high school diploma and 2100 hours or 490-days worth of coursework at an approved school. Many of these schools do not teach natural hair braiding techniques and charge at least $15,000 in tuition. These requirements are more intensive than those required to become an EMT, animal control officer, bus driver, security guard, and child care worker combined.
The consequences of operating without a license can cost you up to $10,000 and a year in jail. A recent article in Forbes magazine highlighted the story of Achin Agit. She is a Sudanese-American, who was forced to shut down her hair shop to avoid prosecution by the state of Iowa. This can carry fines up to $10,000 and one year of jail time. Florida has sent officers in full tactical gear specifically targeting black-owned barber shops to arrest 36 barbers who were working unlicensed. This aggressive enforcement sparked a civil rights lawsuit that the plaintiffs won against the state of Florida.
In Texas, a hair-braider by the name of Isis Brantley was dragged out of her shop by seven undercover and uniformed officers for braiding hair and holding braiding technique classes without a license. The Institute for Justice assisted her in the legal battle, concluding with the judge ruling against the state of Texas.
This line of decision-making has effectively brought an end to the regulation of hair braiding, thus legalizing the instruction and practice of African hairstyling without a license. Arkansas, Colorado, and 11 other states have taken a new approach and reformed laws that have been oppressive to minority entrepreneurs who provide these specific services. This has been accomplished by removing the need for hair-braiders to possess licenses altogether. With pressure from other states, hopefully, Iowa can find a way to restructure their licensing process to make it more affordable, applicable and maybe eliminate it altogether for hair braiders.
With this new information coming to light, has the United States found another way to capitalize off of African-American and immigrant work ethic? For now the answer is, “No,” in 14 of the 50 states.