A young black woman is accusing her managers at Banana Republic of “blatant racism,” saying that they targeted her over her hair, which was protected by box braids.
According to a Facebook post shared earlier this week by Destiny Tompkins, her manager—a white man—labeled her hair “too urban” and “unkempt,” cited her for a dress code violation and said that he would not schedule her for more shifts until she removed her braids.
Another day, another black woman targeted for the way she chooses to wear her hair.
According to Tompkins, the incident occurred at the Banana Republic inside the Westchester mall in White Plains, N.Y., outside New York City. She tried to reason with her manager, identified only as Michael, explaining that her hair needed to be protected because it tends to become very brittle as the seasons change and the the weather gets cold. Ol’ Mike must have thought he was down with the culture because he apparently fixed his mouth to tell this woman to just use shea butter instead.
“When I tried to explain to him that it was a protective style for my hair bc it tends to become really brittle in the cold, he recommended that I use shea butter for it instead,” she wrote in her post. “I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person. In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving.”
Tompkins’ story ended up going viral—it was shared more than 51,000 times on Facebook, no doubt because too many other black women (and men) could probably relate to the scrutiny they face over their hair.
“Black women have been criticized and discriminated against because of the way we choose to protect and maintain our natural hair for generations,” Tompkins told Glamour magazine. “A majority of black people tend to have much kinkier, curlier texture ... the sun helps our curls flourish in the summer and keeps our hair moisturized, which is necessary to keep it healthy. The cold weather tends to make our hair brittle and cause breakage and loss of hair, which is why we style our hair with braids.”
Banana Republic eventually got wind of the issue, with spokesperson Shekina Liverpool telling Glamour: “As a company, we have zero tolerance for discrimination. We take this matter very seriously and we are actively conducting an investigation. We are committed to upholding an inclusive environment where our customers and our employees feel respected.”
By Sunday, another spokesperson had told the magazine that its team had conducted an investigation and removed the manager from the store.
“This week, one of our store managers questioned an African-American employee’s braided hair style. Our team began an immediate investigation and the manager involved was promptly removed from the store,” the statement read. “We concluded the investigation and can confirm that the manager has been terminated from the company. Banana Republic has zero tolerance for discrimination. This situation was completely unacceptable, counter to our policies, and in no way reflects our company’s beliefs and values.”