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United Airline v Deborah Renwick: Making black women conform or else in 1969

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hair airline

IN 1969, air hostess Deborah Renwick was sacked for refusing to “shorten her hair”. But her hair wasn’t long. Renwick said her her hair was shorter than many white flight steward’s’ hair. Renwick believed that it wasn’t the length that mattered to her employers, it was the natural curl. After legal wrangling, United paid her $5,000, “endors[ed] the Afro hairstyle” and offered her her job back. She declined.

So. What is ‘good hair’?

Spotter: Daily Mirror

  • penpusher

    I found this page today when I caught an episode of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” where they talked about this case, singling out United Airlines for their “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award – which, of course, was no award at all, it was the only way they could give “the finger” to people and organizations that deserved derision and get it past the NBC censors. But they mentioned Ms. Renwick by name, talked about the circumstances of her termination (Rowan: They wanted her to cut her hair by an inch. Martin: You know what they say, give ’em an inch and they’ll take a style!) and stood up for her, which I thought was pretty good.

    What’s really disturbing is that these episodes of Laugh-In, from nearly a half-century ago, still feature political commentary that relate and comment on social issues that still exist in 2017, including this issue, as we have seen black women suspended from school or fired from their jobs because of their hairstyles. Almost fifty years later and the hate is still as fresh and new as ever. It’s both maddening and saddening that this is our reality.