As a black woman who has had natural hair for over 20 years, I understand how hard it is to find a salon that actually has stylists who know what they’re doing. When I went natural in 1994, there were hardly any salons that specialized in natural hair, and I couldn’t walk into a Target to find natural-hair products the way I can today. So I sympathize with Bianca Dawkins of Minneapolis, who’s been growing out her hair for over a year.
Dawkins recently attempted to have her natural hair done at the Denny Kemp Salon and Spa in Minneapolis, but let’s just say things didn’t go as planned.
According to City Pages, before her appointment, Dawkins had informed the salon of her hair type. But on the day of the appointment, she received a rude and racist awakening from stylist Justin Dennis Waltenberg.
Dawkins said that Waltenberg grabbed her hair and informed her that her hair was “an animal that can’t be tamed.”
After other stylists refused to do Dawkins’ hair, she asked, “So, what? Black girls can’t come in here and get their hair done?”
Dawkins said the stylist then replied, “Well, it isn’t the 1950s or ’60s, where we can just put up a sign in the window.”
Dawson took her story to Facebook, and it soon went viral and caught the attention of the salon. The salon posted an “apology” that, of course, wasn’t taken at face value by the public.
One commenter observed that the apology wasn’t really an apology:
This post should have read:
"Today one of our racist, formerly employed stylists made racist comments to a client who we so desperately hope does not justifiably sue our salon on the basis of racial discrimination. We cannot apologize enough that this occurred. We further apologize that other stylists and employees witnessed this vile attack yet remained silent, thereby tacitly endorsing this repugnant behavior on behalf of our salon. We are committed to vehimently [sic] demonstrating support to clients of all persuasions. Rest assured, this isolated and ugly incident has been dealt with swiftly and decisively. This former stylist is free to pursue his Thurmond/Wallace agenda at another place of employment. We have zero tolerance for this behavior."
Based on my understanding of the situation, this would have been much more appropriate than victim-shaming, which is what I perceive the salon's statement to be.
Denny Kemp, the salon’s owner, took up for the stylist and said Dawson didn’t want him fired.
“Justin is highly talented in many, many aspects,” Kemp said. “If he can’t do something, he’s not happy about it … he’s a little emotional, and he’s very, very proud.”
“I mean we’re all probably guilty of being racist about something,” Kemp said. “We all have blind spots, you know, because we don’t know.”
Dawkins has now created a #BlackHairMatters event to educate people in the Minneapolis area about natural hair.