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An Illinois reporter is receiving praise after sharing a powerful message against race and hair discrimination.
Treasure Roberts, a reporter and fill-in anchor with WMBD/WYZZ News in Peoria, Ill. took to Twitter to celebrate her first day wearing braids on-air. According to the 24-year-old, she had been advised by a director to avoid wearing her hair in braids, and advised her to take any footage of herself with braids out of her newsreel.
“Years ago I was told to take a clip out of my newsreel because I was wearing braids,” Roberts wrote. “The news director told me I wouldn’t get a job with braids. I left the clip in and landed a job in the industry. Now, I’m wearing them on-air for the first time. Braids are professional.”
Years ago I was told to take a clip out of my newsreel because I was wearing braids. The news director told me I wouldn’t get a job with braids. I left the clip in and landed a job in the industry. Now, I’m wearing them on-air for the first time. Braids are professional. pic.twitter.com/pqjhpEYI4z— Treasure Roberts (@TRobertsTV) August 4, 2020
The tweet quickly went viral, with more than 15,000 retweets and more than 147,000 likes from people applauding Roberts for her conviction.
“BRAIDS. LOCS. SHORT CROP. ‘FRO It’s what’s IN your head that matters, not what’s ON it ( and you look great ) And yes, professional,” tweeted NPR Host Michel Martin. “So proud.”
“You're an inspiration, and excellent roles model to women, especially women of colour,” another follower wrote. “I love [that] you didn't bend your principles.”
Roberts’s post also prompted comments from women sharing similar instances of discrimination in the workplace over their protective styling.
“Definitely can relate,” one woman wrote. “ I had my TV News professor point out my hair in a news package I did. My hair is (was) huge and natural and I wore it down and it just goes to show you that I’m wearing my hair the same way as my non-black counterparts would, but my hair is suddenly a problem.”
Many women in Hollywood have been using their public platform to give visibility to natural hair both on and off-screen. Actresses such as Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington have all spoken publicly about normalizing Black hair and reframing the narrative of natural hair and protective styling as “unprofessional.”
However, many BIPOC, particularly Black women, continue to face discrimination due to their hair’s natural texture or protective styles such as braids, locs and twists. In 2019, California became the first state to pass the CROWN Act, a law which aims to “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” by extending protections in housing, education and employment codes to include hair as a form of race-based discrimination.
A study conducted by Dove revealed that Black women are 80 per cent more likely to change their hair to conform to social norms and expectations at work. In addition, Black women are also 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work due to their hair.
So far, only seven states have passed the CROWN Act, making moments like Roberts first on-air appearance wearing braids a moment worth celebrating to help raise awareness for hair discrimination as a form of race-based discrimination.
In an interview with Allure, Roberts said he overwhelming response to her tweet has been overwhelming but encouraging.
“I am so happy that I was able to inspire thousands of people nationwide and even some people outside of the US,” she said. “Representation is important and I hope that other journalists and Black women, in general, are motivated to be unapologetically themselves.”