If you haven’t already heard, actress Gabrielle Union was fired from her position as a judge on America’s Got Talent. Since the news broke, damning media reports have revealed that Union – alongside her fellow judge Julianne Hough – was cut for complaining about the show’s “toxic culture” and rampant racism. Reports also allege that both Union and Hough “received excessive notes on their physical appearance,” whilst Union was told that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for the show.
Unsurprisingly the Internet is outraged. Thousands have taken to Twitter to demonstrate their solidarity with Union by taking part in the #BlackHairChallenge; a challenge that sees individuals share pictures of themselves with different hairstyles to highlight and celebrate the versatility of black hair.
“Because Black women are incredible, creative and bold...and if y’all could change your hair this much...you would too. Trust me [sic],” activist, educator and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham tweeted in support.
“I'm here for this collective celebration of being Black, bold, beautiful and versatile,” artist Bree Newsome Bass tweeted.
Sadly, it’s not the first time we’ve had the same conversation surrounding racist treatment of black hair. In 2015, actress Zendaya had to publicly address the racist comments that her deadlocks at the Golden Globes looked like they “smelled of weed” from Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic. Later that year, Hunger Games star and activist Amandla Stenberg made headlines with Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows, a video crash course on black culture and the history of the stigma surrounding black hair.
It’s not only an issue found in showbiz. In 2015, Bournemouth University graduate Lara Odoffin claimed her job offer was withdrawn because she wore her hair in braids and Simone Powderly was offered a job on the condition that she took out her braids. In 2017, it was reported that a black woman was told to chemically straighten her hair after applying for a job at Harrods. Earlier this year, research has also found that nearly a third of employed adults in the UK, US, France and Germany have experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace.
Since the news broke, Gabrielle Union has taken to Twitter to express her gratitude for fans’ and colleague’s support. “So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU!,” she tweeted on November 28. “Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever [sic]”.
If anything, despite the outpouring of support she’s received, Union’s experience goes to show that we have a long journey ahead to fight discrimination in the workplace – whether that be on a Hollywood show or in an office job.